“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary,” Pablo Picasso said.
In the past few weeks, students at Adam Robertson Elementary School (ARES) have been learning to combine art techniques with journaling, with working artists to lead them through the process.
The project began with ARES Grade 2/3 teacher Maria McLean’s successful application for a grant from ArtStarts in Schools.
“This project will bring professional artists into our rural school to explore art journaling with students (K-7) and teachers,” she wrote in the application. “The artists will share a variety of mixed media methods, including paint, collage, stamping, tearing and cutting paper, working with texture, and integrating found items and personal mementos into journals. Each student will receive a journal and be introduced to healthy and creative ways to express themselves and explore their personal identity on its pages.”
Added to the ArtStarts funding was money raised by sales of an art calendar last year, which Creston artist and Imagine Ink proprietor Brandy Dyer helped create. The ARES parents advisory council paid for the journals themselves and some supplies were donated.
Participating classes were led by working artists Eileen Hirota (a former school counsellor), Joanne Ferry and Cheryl Place, who led them through a series of exercises to personalize their journals and learn a variety of art techniques.
“Now I remember why I retired from teaching!” Hirota joked. “Actually, this has been a lot of fun. The kids are really enthusiastic.”
Ferry, who, like Hirota, is a mixed media specialist, said that the experience benefited the students, teachers and artists.
“It took a lot of preparation beforehand,” she said of the project. “We met with Maria several times, and Eileen, Cheryl and I worked together to plan what we wanted to do with the students.”
Ferry, who studied art at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, said working with elementary school students was a joy.
“ARES is a great school. I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again,” she said. “I always learn something when I teach.”
With the artists’ lessons now complete, each student has a personalized journal to write in for the rest of the year, adding art creations as they see fit.
“We left behind all the art exercises we used in a book for the teachers to refer to in the future,” Ferry said. “I gave all the teachers hints about other things they can do as well. The kids will end up with a journal and hopefully they will continue making and art and writing in the future. One little girl said she had already started another journal at home!”
Ferry said the energy she felt from the students is contagious.
“You see the enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s inspiring and encouraging.”