Started back at our regular St Sidwell’s sessions on a Friday, with an exciting opportunity to make an animation about renewable energy. The lovely people at Ekland Solar have donated some money to fund our sessions, and this has given us a chance to do some further themed animation work. The families spent there time this week preparing much of the materials that would be needed to make an animation about Solar Power. We started off working on their individual houses, and moved to some collaborative colouring in and sticking for the night sky (see below) and a lovely daytime scene. Some of the participants also had a go at animating a gorgeous sun, flickering its rays down to the earth and absorbing the heat energy into panels. We also animated this turning into electricity. The families seemed to have a lot of fun working on individual and then collaborative pieces. This focused and themed animation is challenging for us as artists and for the families, but everyone is having a lot of fun but at the same time pushing the limit of their skills. We are also lucky to be mentoring the very talented illustrator Lucy Richards, who is helping to make the animation top notch. Watch this space for updates and the final piece, which should be finished in a week or so.
The Night Sky
We completed our final session at West Exe Children’s Centre this week, rounding up our work with the participants on shadows. The children have really developed their understanding of shadows quite significantly. Playing with light and props, they were starting to control their shadows - adding to them to change their shape and size by use of cardboard and their distance from the light source. Over the four weeks we have experienced some intriguing comments from the group: ‘My shadow is getting bigger’, ‘My shadow is really tall’, ‘That shadow is me’. Watching the film back each week enabled the group to focus on how their shadows work and isolated the shadows enough for them to really understand what they were. On week one they found it difficult to even acknowledge what their shadow was, but by week four they could control their shadow and could recognize their shadows apart from other people’s. This was a huge step for their learning and understanding. The playful approach to these sessions was key here, enabling them to explore quite abstract concepts. Below is a short film that was mostly to document their shadows for their own viewing, but also gives an idea of the way the activities and session grew.
Back at the Whipton Children’s Centres’ ‘Stay and Play’ session, we have been working on Bugs again but this time taking the animation and film work forward. With Kate Mitchell, the children have been working on backgrounds and puppets to be used to create a little film. It has been great working collaboratively on this model, as the children have been getting a much more holistic experience. The puppets and backgrounds have been more complicated and the participants have had to work harder and more creatively. The animation we have been working on also moved forward as we focused much more heavily on replacement animation, thereby extending and improving on the children’s technical knowledge. Although we only worked on a few sessions, the film is technically much more proficient and you can really see that the children’s grasp of animation is hugely improved. As workshop artists we have also been able to develop our model, with the input from the children and the other artists we are collaborating with. This type of focused development is so important but often so difficult without the sustainability of running these sessions weekly. This is something we hope we can keep up over a longer time period - it is exciting to think where we will be in another 6 months.
Shadows At West Exe
Over the last three weeks we have been working with Tamsin Pender at West Exe Children’s Centre developing a creative approach to exploring Shadows. For this age group, the recognition of what shadow is and how it works is really difficult. It has been through a slow process of creative play that they have been able to start to acknowledge, explore and control their shadows in some way. Fortunately, we have had some nice sunny sessions and so have looked at shadow outside - moving, making shapes, and chalking around our shadows. We have also been looking, indoors, at light and shadow through the use of lamps and an OHP. Using hands, shapes, coloured pens, and props, we have started to develop the children’s ability to understand light and dark through this play - leading activities but allowing them to grow through what sparks and excites them. This is a process heavy session, but the growth of understanding from the kids is outstanding. We are looking to put this all together in a short ‘film’ to document their creative play. There will be more for us to look at after our final session next week, after which the film will be made. Stay tuned!
St. Sidwell’s Family Sessions
New for 2012, we have just starting working with families at a session run in the St Sidwell’s Centre. This is our first central Exeter session that is run outside of a Children’s Centre, and the response has been great. Over the first 2 weeks we have been looking at ‘Family’ and ‘Support Networks’. The great thing about this session is that it is a support network in itself; many families meeting and chatting who otherwise may have never come into contact with each other. We really wanted to start looking at the family units, and had the opportunity to do do this through movement, visual arts and film. Working with Lizzie Swinford and Kate Mitchell, we have been building up ‘Family Portraits’ by making picture frames, walls on which to hang them, and working with the families on little bits of movement. We were then able to film these and create moving family pictures.
The families involved really enjoyed watching the final film and the children were transfixed to see themselves and their work put together. Hopefully, this will be a beautiful memory for them to share and look back on over time.
It’s been a while, but we want to say a little bit about, and show you, the final film done at West Exe Children’s Centre in collaboration with Double Elephant Print Workshop and Tamsin Pender. At the final session, we worked on some other layers of faces using plasticine and other items to animate moving facial features. This took the children even further than we had done before and focused them into really thinking about their faces, features and proportions. At this stage in their development, many of the children are still developing their drawing skills and their understanding of proportioning the body correctly. We hope this has helped with that, as well as raised their own self-awareness.
Anyway, here is the animation. Enjoy.
Cooking With Carousel
Over the past few weeks we have been attending the regular, bi-weekly ‘Father’s Group’ sessions run by Steve Bowers. These have revolved mainly around cooking, fires and tea, and have been great fun to participate in. Over the period of two sessions we have decided to work with the participants and make a cooking show - Episodes 1 and 2. The first week they focused on making sausage and bacon rolls, and in the second week we looked at pancake making. With the addition of craft activities and audio at relevant points we were able to make some neat little cooking shows, and hope it is a model we can continue over the project. These films have two strands to thier showing - they are both documentation of the sessions and fictional films in their own right. This is an interesting approach for the project, and more of this type of documenting would be good to do with the young people. We will definitely look at doing more of this; maybe we should call them ‘Fictionmentaries’? ‘Doctions’? Maybe we will let the children decide. Here are our finished products:
The Old Lady and The Birds
The final performance of our puppet piece happened at Stoke Canon, facilitated by Kevin Cotter, and we filmed this so we could make our small film about the Old Lady. The process of this was intriguing, with the children sitting quietly, watching and waiting their turn to show their work. There was also an amazing moment of 8 or so children all using their puppet at once - thereby working together, sharing the puppet space and being careful and considered with their movements. This type of activity is pretty advanced but starts to develop all types of aesthetic and teamwork skills.
The final piece has come together very nicely and has really been a collaboration of the artists working in the sessions and a combination of their art forms. This has enabled the final piece of work to transcend the sessions, and art-forms, to become something bigger - an emergent property of our combined work.
The Story of the Old Lady
Working again with Kevin Cotter and Lizzie Swinford, we have been continuing to develop the story of the Old Lady and the Birds. Today the participants were animating clouds that will be sitting underneath the final film, to give some depth to it. The children working with me on this had to be quite controlled to keep the cloud movement as even as possible, a challenge which they rose to as the session progressed. We also decided to film some of the younger participants ‘being’ the birds through a movement session with Lizzie, so to create the ‘flock of birds’ from the story the young people have developed.
At the same time, Kevin has been developing the story with the participants and we recorded some of the sound for the final film - different birds singing and some aspects of the story narration. Looking forward to see how this develops next week.
The tied up nature of the art activities in these sessions is really exiting, and the hope is the final film will show the advantage of this type of working method.