The Singing Tree

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This painting is on my cupboard door and came about because my husband said, “everything else in our house is painted, that side of the room looks bare”. It was supposed to be (and is, really) a lighthearted, decorative mural….However, it has taken on loads of meaning for me. especially since this is the first thing I have completed in ages; I’ve been struggling with a pretty bad case of artists’ block.

Since researching fairytales and fables as a the theme for my art programmes this term, I have come deeply appreciative of how much these whimsical tales have influenced my art even on a subconscious level. Fairytales can be macabre, but they have a quality about them where we find the most naive and earthly aspects of our humanity is connected to magic and the divine. Princes turn into beasts and bears, children are brought out of intolerable situations through their own courage and wit, animals speak plainly, forests are enchanted ..the whole world is charmed in a fairytale, and anything can happen. There is also something wonderfully redeeming about the phrase “..and they lived happily ever after”.

This painting has aspects of the tale “The Singing Tree”, where a besotted prince takes a magical tree from an evil goblin in the hops of winning the hand of a beautiful, narcissistic princess. The goblin threatens to turn the prince into whatever form he chooses if the princess fails to fall in love with her. Sure enough, the spoilt princess rejects the prince. She is turned into a hag and cast out from the castle; he is turned into a bear. They are forced to live in the forest where the goblin torments them. As a bear, the prince looks after the princess and they eventually fall in love as her heart softens because there are no mirrors to remind her of her ugliness; she finds kindness in her heart instead of self-absorption. Needless to say, in the presence of love the spell is broken “and they lived happily ever after”.

 

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Alien Landscapes

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My Grade 3/4 and 5/6 classes both created ‘Alien landscapes’. First, we brainstormed movies we had seen that included an alien landscape (for younger students we unpacked the idea of ‘alien’, that it can have some features of earth, but different). Students  came up with movies such as Green Lantern, Star Wars, Avatar and Planet 51. I wanted children to use a horizon line to map out where the sky and land meet, and encouraged them to think of the different landscape features on planet earth (such as cityscapes, deserts, rainforests), and how they could be altered. Students made preliminary thumbnail sketches, then lightly drew their designs using pencil. For their final piece, the older group used dry pastel and the younger ones used watercolour. This provided another teaching opportunity, in the characteristics  and possibilities of the materials. Both provide good colour saturation with a fair amount of control.

Most important, though, I think this project inspired their wonderful creativity and they really expressed their imaginations.