Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three More Leaves

Here are the latest three leaves in my Leaf Art project.

The most interesting - not surprising - thing I have learned doing these leaves is how the tastes of the kids differ. It is easy to see which of these paintings was for a boy and which were for girls.

The leaf on the right was for Adam, a Year 5 student who spent most of his math lessons drawing super cool guitars in his note book. His request for me to paint the coolest guitar ever was no surprise at all.

The only real choice was Gene Simmons Axe guitar, although the model playing it is not Gene. It is the girl they used in the Guitar Hero promotional ads.

Sh...Don't tell Adam.

The leaf below was painted for Lilly. She is the first Stage 1 student (Year 1) I have done a leaf for. Her request was for a dolphin swimming under the water. To make the painting more interesting, I decided to do a split picture showing both above and below the waterline.

Lilly loved the painting.

Sky is a Year 4 student who was desperate for a painting of a puppy. Her only stipulation was that it had a blue bow.
I'm sure her choice was made from her even more desperate desire for a real puppy.
On a very positive note. I have had a commission from a visitor to my blog for a leaf painting of a seascape with a lighthouse, for her mother's birthday.
If there is anyone else interested in a unique gift for someone. Just drop me a line.
I am only too happy to oblige.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Life On Mars

Only joking!

Although after seeing this scene of the Sydney Harbour Bridge this morning you couldn't be blamed for thinking this was a scene from some science fiction movie. As I watched the morning news, about the bigest dust storm to ever hit the country, I could hear the sound track from War of the Worlds playing in my mind. I pictured everything covered in the Martian red weed. It was a very spooky feeling.

When I went to bed last night, my car was white. When I woke up it had become a powdery rust-red. When I picked my son up from work tonight, there was still a line up at the car wash. I think they are the only ones who appreciated the dust storm.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Andy Griffiths - Robot Riot Tour

Author Visit.
Any children's authors who want to do author visits of schools would be well served by following along with Australia's #1 children's author, Andy Griffiths and taking notes.

Andy is an amazingly funny writer who takes mundane situations and twists them to levels of absurdity that kids can’t help laughing at. With book titles like; ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ from the BUM series, ‘Just Disgusting’ from the JUST series and ‘The Pencil Of Doom’ from the SCHOOLING AROUND series, you can imagine how popular Andy’s books are with those reluctant boy readers.

Children can be hard critics at the best of times. And if they are not interested in what you have to say, they will let you know. From the moment he took the stage, Andy had a large audience of somewhat unruly upper primary kids eating out of his hands. His stories and extremely bad jokes left them in hysterics.

Andy talked about where he found his ideas. A lot of them involved exploring own fears, like his dread of escalators. He had the kids revealing their own secrets and fears with him. One boy’s fear of having his head peed on by possums ended up being a whole story on its own. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see that in one of Andy’s books some day.)

One of the main reasons for Andy’s visit to Bathurst was to promote his latest book in the SCHOOLING AROUND series, ‘Robot Riot’ in which - Henry discovers that the new student at the school, Roberta Flywheel is actually a robot bent on destroying everyone in the school. All he has to do now is convince his friends of the truth.
By the number of copies of the book I saw being carried out of the hall, I think the talk was very successful.

I haven’t read ‘Robot Riot’ yet but it is definitely next on my to read list.

Thanks Andy for a very entertaining visit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Don't Get John Marsden

Today, I found myself in the position of reading John Marsden's picture book 'Home and Away' to a small group of Year 5 students. I have to admit, before I go any further with this post that I have never been a huge fan of Mr. Marsden's writing. I applaud him because he tackles difficult subjects in his writing, and looking at his sales figures and multitude of loyal fans, he must be doing something right. But I honestly just don't get him.

Home and Away deals with the issue of refugees by placing the reader in the position of thinking, 'What if there was a war in Australia and we had to flee and leave ourselves to the mercy of authorities in a neighbouring country.'

I can see where he was going with the premise but to me, it seemed overdone. More importantly, the kids didn't get it! And I had to explain to them what the story was about. The book didn't spark questions from the kids about how we treat the refugees coming to Australia and it didn't leave me feeling outraged at our treatment of refugees. It just left me feeling dark. Sure, the kids said how bad it would be if we had a war and had to flee from Australia but they didn't connect with the issue.

If the aim of the books is to enlighten children to the plight of refugees, I think the shock value of the story actually detracted from those issues.

Last year, I read Gabiann Marin's picture book, 'A True Person' which also deals with the plight of refugees fleeing a war torn country to find a new life somewhere safe. Like 'Home and Away' it is written from the perspective of a child refugee and deals with hardships, fear and questions why Zallah and her family were forced into a detention centre. But that is where the similarities end.

I found I had a much greater emotional connection to 'A True Person' It was written with hope and compassion. It left me with a much greater empathy toward the circumstances of refugees than 'Home and Away'

I know comparing the two books it is a lot like comparing apples to oranges. But for me, sorry John, I'll take the oranges.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Painting Workshop

So far, my leaf painting project at the local primary has been an unbridled success. The students involved have been more than happy with the process and the results.

The process being, those children selected to participate search for a leaf they want painted and then request a picture - usually their very favourite thing in the world. That is where my part in the process starts.

I trace the leaf shape onto paper and sketch my interpretation of their request for their approval. Once I get the go-ahead I paint the design onto the leaf.

Of the six leaves I have painted so far I have only had one request for changes at the design stage. And all the children have been delighted with their finished leaves.

The only problem I have encountered is that at this stage, I can only commit to doing eight paintings for each of the Stage groups. So four female students and four male students each from Stage 1 (Kindy, years 1 & 2), Stage 2 (years 3 & 4) and Stage 3 (years 5 & 6) have been selected for my project. This has left a lot of kids disappointed at being left out.

The best solution I could come up with was to run some workshops to teach the students to do their own leaf paintings.

Last week, I held the first of the workshops with the two Year 6 classes at the school. As they were in the middle of their Aboriginal studies, it was decided to combine the two by designing and painting the leaves inspired Aboriginal art.

I started the workshop by explaining how I did my paintings and giving them examples of my design sketches and finished works to look at. My biggest piece of advice to the class was to keep their design simple because without a lot of practice, trial and error, complicated paintings rarely turn out as well as you imagine them. Where simple designs usually turn out at least presentable even for people who insist they don't have an artistic bone in their bodies.

The kids then picked their leaves and went to work.

Due to time constraints we had to paint the background colours on the leaves before doing the designs, to allow the leaves to dry enough to complete their paintings.

The kids worked brilliantly and had heaps of fun during the workshop. As did I.

You can see for yourself the results of their efforts.

I’m planning a second workshop with Year 5 in the last week of term. The only change I think I will make is trying to source some better quality paint for the kids to use. The acrylic poster paint we used for the first workshop was serviceable but not exactly ideal.

Here are a few samples of the students work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life is a Jungle (well more like a Savannah)

Book Fairs are such wonderful things.
Seeing how excited the children from my local primary school were at the book sale in the library today, made it an even greater pleasure.

We hear so much about how books are on the same path as the dinosaurs. How video games and technology are killing children's love for books.

I did not see any sign of this today. And, if the look of delight on the faces of the kids as they picked out the books they were going to buy is anything to go by, books are going to be with us for a long, long time.

Book Safari was this years book week theme and the children and parents of Eglinton Public School did themselves proud today. The Book Week costume parade offered up an amazing variety of African animals, safari guides, witch doctors, Zulu warriors and traditionally dressed African girls. There were also a couple of young tigers, obviously on holidays from India, a wookie, a ninja turtle and even Herbie the Love Bug made an appearence to make the parade a true spectacle.

Today was a good day!