Sunday, 23 March 2014

Arts Award Part 2: Painting on Canvasses

Some of the finished canvasses displayed together

I posted before about the skills session I did in preparation for an Arts Award workshop at The Hut in Brampton. This week I did the workshop and had a lot of fun in the process. Following on from the skills session where we looked at colour theory and texture we focused in this session on creating a finished piece of work, inspired by artist Gillian Ayres. The plan was for each student to work on an individual canvas and then all the canvasses could be put together to make one big piece.

Drawing to music

Drawing to music

As well as the primary school students I worked with before we were also joined by some of the students from William Howard secondary school as this is part of a transition project helping make the move from primary to secondary school a bit easier. All the students were great and worked really hard for the whole session. One of the things I was really pleased with was that at the end it was hard to tell which pieces had been produced by the younger students and which had been produced by the older ones, they all really got the idea and produced some fantastic work.

Drawing to music

Designs for canvasses

To get everybody warmed up and into a creative frame of mind I started off by asking the students to draw to music. I played three different pieces and asked them to choose their colours and the type of mark they made according to how the music made them feel. Although I think some of them found this quite difficult I think it was a good exercise to get them thinking about colour and mark making and how it relates to feelings in a piece of art. It was also interesting watching them as the atmosphere in the room changed considerably with each piece of music.

Picking one area of a design

Simplifying shapes and applying paint

After this exercise we had another look at Gillian Ayres work and this time I asked them to focus on the different shapes as well as the colours and textures. I then asked them to work on a design for their individual canvasses, focusing on bold abstracted shapes. For a lot of the students this was very difficult, they are used to observational drawing and being asked to make things look 'real' so to then have to change to making something abstract was quite a challenge. One of the ways I encouraged them to get round this was to pick a small area of their design and make it bigger so that it became abstract and to simplify their shapes as much as possible. I was very impressed with the students because it was quite a challenge for them but they all managed it really well.

Adding flour and sand for extra texture

Colour mixing

Once they had their abstracted designs we moved on to painting the canvasses, drawing on the skills session to encourage the students to really think about how to apply the paint and how to create lots of texture. There was a really good atmosphere in the room and everyone got involved and some fantastic pieces were created.

Bold colours, shapes and textures

Different approaches

It was great at the end of the session to lay all the canvasses out and see how much work they had done, they worked through all morning without a break (or complaint) and the finished pieces are very impressive. Hopefully they are all going on display in Brampton and I can't wait to see them. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, the teachers and students were great and I think they've created a beautiful piece of work.

Some of the completed canvasses

Finished canvas

Finished canvas


  1. Wow Helen, that looks spectacular.
    S xx

    1. Thank you, it was a really lovely project to work on.