Seabrook CE Primary School
A Sense of Self Case Study
A Reception and Year 1/2 class took part in a series of art activities focussing on the questions ‘What is art?’ and ‘What is an artist?’ with the underlying focus to develop a child’s sense of self through a range of art-forms. As part of their project they explored a variety of Arts, either firsthand or online. They were shown clips of musical theatre, pantomime, ballet, street dance, sculpture, performance poetry and artwork. The children explored the similarities and differences and discussed what they thought made them all ‘art’. Interesting answers ensued and prompted a discussion about professional artist and those who enjoy art and whether they are both ‘artists’.
Following on from these discussions, we visited local artist Shane Record who showed the children his studio gallery and shared with them what motivated him to paint, why he paints and how he paints. Following on from this, the children also explored the collage work of Henri Matisse and of nature print artist Laura Bethmann. The children then took part in open-ended collage and nature printing workshops, inspired by these artists. They played with colour, texture and shape without the constraints of producing a finished product.
After the workshop morning, the two classes took part in a couple of circle time sessions. The first session centred around discussing the children’s ideas around art, artists and their response to the art activities they had taken part in. Having looked at three very different artists, the children gave their opinions on what artists’ work they preferred. They talked about the style and subject of each artists’ work. Finally they discussed the artwork they created during the workshop sessions- they discussed whether they enjoyed it, what they thought of their work and where they might go next with it (if at all- there was no obligation to return to it at all).
In the second session, the children were asked to bring in from home three things which showed who they are. The items brought in ranged from family photos, favourite teddies and toys to pebbles from a favourite beach and a favourite music CD. The children got a chance to share their items, talk about why they chose them and how they show who they are. They then took part in a visualisation exercise. Each child was asked to describe what they could see out of their bedroom window. As expected there were a great range of different views from their windows. We discussed that because we live in different places, each window showed a different view. Finally the children put their items behind curtains and revealed them by opening the curtains. The children talked about similarities and differences and reflected on their ‘window’ and the view into their lives and who they are.
Finally each child produced a self portrait on canvas board using acrylic paint. They looked carefully at their appearance and selected colours appropriately. The self portraits were used to create individual panes in a ‘Window’ art installation which was displayed in school. Behind each pane was a photo of each childs’ personal items they had brought in and a quote from them about how each item show who they are. The children shared their work to the school in a special assembly and invited parents to view the installation too.
Over the course of the project four children were closely observed. Each child was asked the same questions before the commencement of the project and at the end, after sharing their work with the school: What is art? What is an artist? What is art for? Do you like art? Their answers are recorded verbatim. During the workshop activities they were closely observed and their levels of wellbeing and involvement were measured using the Leuven scale.
“Art is something creative that you make.”
“An artist is someone who makes things… people buy their pictures.”
“Art is for… I don’t know… you look at art and, kind of, I don’t know!”
“I like drawing but I’m not very good and I… yeah I like art.”
Child A was slow to begin her work and spent time watching what others were doing first. She then was quite careful in her approach to both activities although she appeared less enthusiastic during the nature printing as she didn’t want to get messy. She demonstrated more energy during the collage activity and talked about her work confidently- her work was more defined and she actually created a picture which she seemed pleased with, whereas her nature printing was far more experimental with no defined outcome. Her level of wellbeing and involvement varied between the two activities- scoring highly in both for the collage activity and slightly less so for the nature printing.
“Art is something you create. It can be anything really but it is creative and special.”
“An artist is someone who makes pieces of art, not everyone likes the art they make but they make it because they like it.”
“Art is for people to enjoy. Sometimes people do art because they enjoy it, not just because they sell their art.”
“Yes (I like art). I liked doing my self portrait and I liked making the collage. I don’t always like it because sometimes it’s too hard and I get a bit, a bit ‘arrgh’!”
“Art is what you make when you’re painting or drawing.”
“An artist is someone who… Um… three things: they train really hard to be good at art; they sell their work and put it in… um, special places to show their art.”
“Art is for… I’m not sure. People buy art and sometimes go and see paintings in a, in a gallery.”
“I don’t like art. But I like drawing sometimes.”
Child B enjoyed getting stuck in to the workshop activities. He enjoyed the nature printing and explored a range of shapes, colours and textures. He appeared to enjoy the process more than the outcome as his work quickly became over-crowded and layered. He exclaimed frequently about the shapes and patterns the different objects were creating and paid little attention to what other children were doing. Similarly with the collage, he enjoyed tearing and cutting the paper. He seemed less keen on this process but enjoyed seeing what shapes he could tear and describing what his work looked like. He scored highly in wellbeing and involvement levels on the Leuven scale.
“Art is something people create. They have an idea and they show it by drawing or painting or, or, or, sometimes, sometimes art is dancing or acting.”
“An artist is somebody who makes art.”
“Art is for… looking at. People look at it and they think about the picture or whatever they’ve made. It makes them think sometimes.”
“Um, I like art. I really like art. I like making things and getting messy and sometimes I like it when we get to show our work like we did with our window.”
“Art is… when you do painting.”
“An artist is somebody who makes pictures and paints things.”
“Art is for… I don’t know.”
“Yes (I like art). I like painting.”
Child C seemed unsure about both workshop activities, approaching both by observing what others do first. He was very careful and methodical in both the nature printing and collage. He did not wish to get messy and asked to wash his hands in the middle of both activities. He didn’t identify a picture or finished product in either pieces of work but seemed to enjoy the process. He showed moderate levels of both involvement and wellbeing on the Leuven scales.
“Art is… drawing pictures, making paintings, sometimes you can do collage.”
“An artist makes pictures and paintings and they paint stuff like the seaside and people.”
“Art is for making things- you can make pictures and paintings but sometimes you can look at somebody else’s paintings. You can go to a gallery.”
“I like art. I like it when you get mix colours in the paint and then you stir it round and it makes another colour.”
“Art is something creative. You can be creative in lots of different ways, you can sing, paint, dance. Anything really can be art.”
“An artist can be anyone who makes something- you can be an artist or me. I might paint a picture and then I’m being an artist…. Sometimes people are artists who make a living being artists. They sell their work or people pay them to make a piece of art.”
“Art is for enjoying. You can enjoy doing art or looking at art. Sometimes art is for telling a story like in a play or the ballet.”
“Yes I like art. I like being creative, I can imagine something in my mind and then I try and make it.”
Child D enjoyed both workshop activities. She enjoyed the process and quickly developed an idea after a few experimental attempts. She was keen for her work to look like something and this shaped her experience as she became a little frustrated when the nature printing smudged and her picture was ‘spoiled’. She talked in detail about her pictures and how and what she had done to create her art work. She showed high levels of involvement and wellbeing.
“Art is being creative, it can be anything and you use your imagination to do it. Art is about lots of different ways to do things or say things. Like, I won’t draw the same picture of a house as you, because I’m different. But our pictures are still art.”
“An artist is somebody who creates something- they could be a musician and play a piece of music or dance to some music, or, or, paint a picture, a collage. We can all be artists because we can all be creative. But I’m not a proper artist because they are really talented and get paid for their art.”
“Art is for showing different things in different ways. Like, Shane Record shows he loves Folkestone by painting it and he paints things he likes. Like the painting of his breakfast. I liked that one. Art can also be for other people to enjoy. Like, I enjoyed going to the gallery and seeing his paintings, or maybe somebody else enjoys going to the pantomime or singing or dancing.”
“I really like art. I think it’s important because you get to be creative and there are no rules- like, you can make anything. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re not very good or whatever, it just matters that you enjoy what you’re doing and it’s special to you.”
Child A, B, C and D all took part in sharing their Window installation. Their sense of ownership of the project was apparent and they talked happily and confidently about the project. They shared their favourite parts of the project and could explain what the window of self portraits represents. It is clear that throughout the project, the children’s understanding of what art is and the role of an artist has deepened. They have begun to make links between their life experience and other artists’ work. They have developed their sense of what types of art they enjoy and their awareness of themselves as unique individuals with differing opinions, perspectives, tastes and abilities. Art is notoriously hard to define and these children have begun a journey to understanding the subjective nature of art and, simultaneously, are developing and strengthening their sense of ‘self’ through opportunities that enable them to express themselves in a wide range of artistic mediums.