After two and a half months of distance learning and online lessons during the Corona crisis a few things, in my art department at least, are becoming clearer. One of these relates to the materials we use and difficulties we face in not having them available to us. In a well-equipped art studio, or even an only relatively well-equipped one there are choices enough on offer as lessons are planned.
Once the children are based at home though, it is a completely different ball game. Yes of course some children have plenty of creative stuff at home, but there are many with very little. Within some classes I find myself assuming that some may only have a pencil and a sheet of paper…..and thankfully also their iPad.
While on the short term this is not insurmountable problem, I find myself looking ahead to after the summer holidays and realizing that this distant learning variety of education might actually be with us a bit longer. The follow up question is how might the temporary emergency solutions of the last couple of weeks, be slowly transformed into more meaningful and structural curriculum elements next year as and when they are needed?
During the lockdown period of online lessons, I have found myself particularly engaging with collage in its various forms as a way of getting beyond just the simplest of drawing assignments. Collage relies on simple materials that all children should be able to lay their hands on. I do always feel that you first must get past the idea in the heads of the kids that collage belongs at primary school. Although as the examples here show my pupils seem to be making this step.
We started with two, technically seen, extreme opposites. A digital collage to create a fantastic and impossible building using iPads and the limitless resources of online imagery of buildings to cut, paste and combine. We then moved on to a more playful form of collage, piles of clothes arranged on the floor and used to recreate existing artworks from museum collections.
The clothes experiments proved to be an excellent warm up and introduction to the more fully worked out transcription collages that I have been doing with the same groups in the last week or two. I made a couple of demonstrations films to lead the classes into the assignments, that undoubtedly helped. There was a degree of choice on offer; create a transcription based on the work of either Magritte, Hopper, Hockney or van Gogh. All highly suitable for the collage challenge.
It has also been interesting to see over the last couple of months how several pupils (particularly boys) have taken time to produce some very good work. Are they less distracted now than they usually are in the classroom situation…..or is an over-enthusiastic parent doing the work? I guess we will never know for sure, but I do know that I am providing and art education for someone out there!!
Collage work has been a much bigger feature of my teaching during the last weeks than it normally is. I and other art teachers are looking for solutions to difficult technical challenges. Perhaps the biggest one still to be got to grips with is three-dimensional work. If when we return to school in the autumn online lessons are still a significant factor (as seems likely), addressing how to work with more spatial challenges are likely to become more necessary.