Action-packed techniques

5th December 2003 at 00:00
A primary project explored ways of showing movement with mixed media, as Giles Hughes reports

Over six weeks, our Year 6 class searched the net and scoured old magazines for photographs of favourite sports stars in action. A variety of images, from football players to athletes, tennis players and cricketers were chosen. Each child was provided with a dozen photocopies of their chosen image: these photocopies were used for collage and stencilling activities.

By layering photocopies over each other, drawing around and painting through stencils, the children were able to produce movement studies in their sketchbooks. These initial studies were very popular with the children, especially the boys. Part of the appeal was that even children who considered themselves inartistic could thrive on activities requiring no drawing skills. To complete this initial unit, the children were given the freedom to choose whatever methods and techniques they had experienced to produce a final piece incorporating a number of techniques.

We moved on to look at water. David Hockney is an artist who has depicted water throughout his life. The children were shown his paintings and drawings of water, their attention being drawn to ways in which Hockney is able to suggest movement in water.

The class then were asked to make a mixed-media picture of swimmers. To this end they produced two paintings: a watercolour study of figures swimming and an acrylic study of water. These two pieces were literally woven together, the warp and weft of the weaving both cut into swirling, interlocking strips of paper. When tightly woven they created an impression of a rippling swimming pool packed with swimmers. Original studies of swimmers and water became broken up as if the light was reflecting off the water, giving the finished pieces a strong feeling of movement.

I was eager not to limit the children's experiences to figurative art.

Artists choose to suggest movement in many ways: simply using more dynamic and energetic brushstrokes in a painting can create a strong sense of movement. One such artist is Raoul Dufy, best known for his use of vibrant colour and broad, sweeping brushwork. Many of his best-known works are seascapes and scenes depicting boats. It was this theme I decided to use as the stimulus for the final element of the movement project. After introducing the artist and a number of his better-known paintings to the children, we took time to analyse his style. The basic features were Dufy's use of strong, pure colour and bold, uninhibited brushstrokes.

In their sketchbooks, the children practised basic boat shapes, using a controlled sweep of the brush to form the sails and hull. After creating a simple but bright background of water and sky, boats were added along with flicks of white and blue to represent the movement of waves and shadows in the water. The resulting paintings gave the impression of a blustery action-packed boat race; the children were able to explain eloquently how their use of different techniques had achieved this sense of movement.

A booklet detailing this project is available from the school. Email: Giles Hughes is art co-ordinator at Colmore Junior School, Birmingham

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