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Setting the scene

When we did a school production of Swan Lake, the backdrop and surround were 2D and 3D paintings and collages using tissue paper, PVA, acrylic and oil paints.

We started by talking about images - swan pictures from the internet, for example - "How would you describe this creature?"; "What words describe the feathers?"; and so on.

Then we talked about the scale, which had to be larger than A1. They drew the outline in the air so I could be sure they had the right idea, then in charcoal or pencil, and we talked about light and shade and how wetness affects plumage. We discussed how to make the swan's feathers look fluffy and they experimented with ways of achieving this. They used white, yellow, cyan blue and cerise for painting the swans, and became skilled at colour mixing.

Before drawing the background we looked paintings by Claude Monet and talked about reflection. Does water have colour? Where does the colour come from? They decided that the reflection would be mainly green and yellow, and made 10 shades of green. We also talked about the pattern of leaves, lilies and the background.

We made collages from ruched white tissue and little bits of translucent paper, and produced a 3D effect by painting on transparent polythene in acrylic and stapling it over painted paper so that some of the imagery showed through. The results were really effective.

Marilyn Barnes is deputy headteacher of Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School, Towcester, Northamptonshire

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