It was back to school again this morning. What was supposed to be one visit has now turned into three and could be a few more. I am doing this as a volunteer, but the repayment is from working with the children, their enthusiasm and their sheer hard work. Today we started on the self portraits, sketching their faces using mirrors, to then work on them next week with colour. First I talked about how art was central to many things we take for granted such as design, computer graphics, not just painting and sculpture. Not all people are ‘artists’ and the longer I go on I can see that. In my early idealism I thought anyone could be, but they are not. I don’t mean in an elitist way, just some people have mindsets and brains which see and function differently. I am not ashamed to say that I have absolutely no idea how a car works, as long as mine went I was happy, if it went wrong the garage would get it going again. Whereas, my brother lived for cars, when we both lived at ‘home’ as soon as he came in from work off would go the suit and on with the overalls, his friends would come and spend all evening taking cars to bits and putting them back again!
A lot of art of course takes great technical knowledge. In sculpture for instance you learn welding, casting, woodwork, carving, plastics, they are tools to reach your goal – the finished work of art.
At the end of today’s session two girls came to me and thanked me for teaching them how to draw, which was lovely. What it did show was the incredible developmental capacity children of this age group (8-9) can go through in such a short time, and they had. We looked at proportion in the face, the shape of the head, not just an apple or circle, but how to build from basic forms. It was hard and demanding work for them. Next week we go a stage further. At any age it is very hard to draw (or write) what you see, not what you think you see.
I have found it a very invigorating few weeks, that does not however mean I wish to use my qualifications and go to teach full time. No, I prefer the role I have just visiting. I am trying to add to the children’s educational experience in my visits, share my enthusiasm for the arts. The use of people from outside the school to share their skills is a vital but now underused aspect because of funding.
For too many in the government and its departments all they can think of are for pupils to become good worker fodder, what they don’t seem to realise is that Britain for 50 years has been in the forefront of design, theatre, visual arts, music. These may seem to be ephemeral but are huge earners for the economy – look at just how much tax and foreign income does our music and games industry generate.
I’m just repeating arguments here that many others have made for many decades, but the spark begins at schools like Summerbank and if just one of the children today has been enthused to think seriously about working in the creative industries then I may have achieved something. The arts are not just for an elite, creative minds come from a broad explorative education, an education which does not always tick boxes or add percentages to a school. Old fashioned, idealistic, unrealistic? I don’t think so. All children need to learn to read, write, add, subtract, multiply, know how things work and what they are made of, where-when-why things happened; they also need to learn the tools of creation and be confident about using them. Whether that is playing an instrument, acting, singing, dancing, wielding a paintbrush, creating a story. Artistic skills need to work alongside the scientific and mechanical skills if we are to develop our society.
Now get down off your soapbox Tim!
Today’s photographs are from this mornings session at Summerbank School.