In this week’s blog, Start Artist Educator, Sheridan Quigley tells us about her recent workshop with Baird Primary School." /> In this week’s blog, Start Artist Educator, Sheridan Quigley tells us about her recent workshop with Baird Primary School." />
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HOW TO PAINT

In this week’s blog, Start Artist Educator, Sheridan Quigley tells us about her recent workshop with Baird Primary School.
 
People in general seem to have a very conflicted attitude to painting. On the one hand we admire the virtuosity of Vermeer or Rubens, revering their talent but only faintly aware of the years of dedicated practice to develop their skills. On the other hand, paintings by 20th century artists are dismissed as something a child could do.  So, painting is regarded both as something very hard and something very easy.
 
Whatever the case may be, painting is often seen as an indulgent activity, something to play about with or use for relaxation. Perhaps it’s not surprising that painting is a skill that is not actively taught at school – it is seen as a messy treat every now and then, with a nod to the value of “self-expression”. But, the reality of this experience is that although children enjoy splashing about with brushes full of colour, it rapidly becomes frustrating as every palette curdles into a puddle of brown paint (the inevitable outcome of mixing all the colours together). Paper dissolves under the scrubbing motion of a paintbrush, and it’s almost impossible to express yourself if you have no control over your medium.
 
To which end I devised a painting workshop for the children from Baird Primary Academy for the Start Programme.
 
My objective was to set a few rules that would provide a comfortable framework to work from. This would give everyone confidence in handling the materials and remove the anxiety of trying to decide what to paint. The rules were:
  • How to hold and use a paintbrush – stroking the paint across the paper (remembering that left-handers need to work in the opposite direction).
  • Restrict the number of colours being used (in our case only white, blue and black)
  • Pre-determine the subject matter (a seascape) and basic compositional elements (top half of paper = sky; bottom half of paper = sea).
 
For inspiration we used a charming mixed-media painting by John Piper, Beach and Star Fish, Seven Sister’s Cliff, Eastbourne, 1933-34. We were really lucky to have the painting on an easel in the Studio for the entire workshop so the children could examine it carefully at the outset and then refer to it during the session. Beyond the rules, they were free to play with the ideas and make the image their own. They combine painting with collage work in the style of Piper to create seascapes that were fresh, sparkling and individually unique. They worked confidently, calmly and quickly and were delighted with their paintings – every child producing a piece to be proud of.
02 April, 2015
Written by Sheridan Quigley