Blog - Schools

Greek Myth Writing Competition

Year 5 from Orchard Junior School had me in a couple of months ago as a springboard for their Greek Mythology project, where I spent a morning showing the children how to draw monsters and create new ones of their own devising. They were then tasked to write a new chapter of Homer's epic story The Odyssey, where Odysseus and his crew meet the creature they've created. Having already visualised their horrific beast the idea was that it would better inform their descriptive writing and enhance their creative storytelling, and I in turn would illustrate the monster from the story that most impressed me. 

Today I got to deliver the illustration I'd done to the Year 5 winner, Ted Lawless, who wrote a fantastically captivating tale that was both witty and inventive, particularly in the respect that it was almost the only story not to feature Odysseus slaying the monster but attempting to let it live. Ted's monstrous creation wasn't a wildly fantastic beast with multiple heads and tentacles, but a half-man, half-wolf, akin to the minotaur. In fairness, some of the other children dreamed up far more elaborate and ingenious creatures, but this was a competition about putting that monster into a narrative that gripped the reader, and Ted did this best.

Posted in Schools by Simon on 12/05/2017

Drawing Workshop at Morgan Vale & Woodfalls CE Primary

On 28th February I spent a great morning with the children of Morgan Vale & Woodfalls CE Primary School. The day began with a pop-up shop in the playground where parents and children got to see my books and say hello - fortunately the sun shone on us all. Next I moved into the hall where I joined the lower school for a reading of New Forest Friends & The Litterbugs, a quick made up animal drawing, and then a step-by-step drawing of Beaulieu the Hedgehog. The children were brilliantly attentive and full of smiles throughout. The step-by-step drawing is something I've only ever done with Year 1 and upwards, but one reception boy was hanging on my every word so his teacher suggested he join in too and his resulting drawing was magnificent. Then, after a quick coffee, it was time to do it all again with the upper school, although here I swapped the reading of the story for a more in-depth chat about what I do and how I do it.

A really lovely school and a great bunch of children. Thank you for having me!

Posted in Schools by Simon on 03/03/2017

Drawing Cats Workshop At Abbotswood Juniors

I do a few different workshops and talks to schools and groups, but one of the more unusual ones is to the children of Abbotswood Junior School. For the third year I'd been asked back to help kick off their study of Varjak Paw, a children's book by S.F. Said and illustrated by Dave McKean. My part has been to give the children confidence and encouragement in drawing cats, so I've run a short cartooning workshop that includes step-by-step drawings for them to follow.

The idea is to make the children familiar enough with the subject matter that they can go away and draw their own cat characters, complete with personalities, poses and props that suggest a much more rounded and complete feline than perhaps they'd be able to achieve otherwise. Abbotswood have large year groups, and taking several classes in one session isn't normally something I'd do, but such is the organisation that it all goes swiftly and smoothly with plenty of contented faces. Afterwards I also got the opportunity to do several small focus groups with some of the children, which is always great fun to see up close what they can achieve with a little guidance. Have had some really positive feedback from the day and we're already looking forward to next year.

Posted in Schools by Simon on 24/10/2016

Visit To Poulner Infants

Shortly after the beginning of term I paid a visit to Poulner Infant School. They were going to be looking at British wildlife and their habitats so I got to share my children's books about the New Forest with them. Each class is named after a different wild animal so we also did a spot of drawing, where the children followed my step-by-step instructions to create their class creature. This is always a very satisfying activity because despite the children being relatively young the process uses just simple lines, shapes, numbers and letters to build up the picture, so nothing is too complicated and the results are always impressive. It also gives them the confidence to tackle other drawings using the same technique. Thanks for having me, Poulner!

Posted in Schools by Simon on 27/09/2016

Wessex Literary Festival 2016

It’s the beginning of another Wessex Literary Festival, so yesterday I was at Testwood School in Totton and today I was at Thornden School In Chandlers Ford. The festival involves various authors sharing their books and how they work with students through workshops and talks, and in my case that means discussing my children’s picture books, sharing some cartooning tips, doing a bit of character design, and, if time, creating a sample children’s book page.

Often the challenge is to encourage the children out of their comfort zones, something students at both schools seemed surprisingly comfortable with, particularly with the character design.

I had more time with Thornden’s children so we were able to fit in some children’s book illustration too, looking at effective layout using some supplied text. Even though we were tight for time they managed some great results and a quick understanding of what was required. An impressive bunch.

Posted in Schools by Simon on 28/06/2016

Author Visit To Ashley Infant School

Here are a few photos from my recent visit to Ashley Infant School, where I got to share my children's books and do a drawing workshop with each of the year 2 classes. We take one of the animals from my New Forest Friends books and, step-by-step, recreate that animal using just lines, shapes, numbers and letters on the page. The children copy each step and slowly build up a picture that looks very similar to mine, meaning even the most under-confident of artists can achieve something recognisable to be proud of.

We polished off the day with a book signing, which I'm pleased to say was well attended. Thank you, Ashley Infants!

Posted in Schools by Simon on 20/06/2016

Drawing Greek Monsters

I've been back to Orchard Junior School for a second year to help with their Greeks topic. The children have been tasked with writing an additional chapter for the story of Odysseus, which means creating a new Greek monster for their tale, so to give them inspiration I spent some time in three classes drawing various beasties and creatures. We discussed how many of the Greek monsters are human and animal hybrids, or just animal hybrids, and looked at how a habitat might shape the kind of creature that resided there, so when I suggested a mountain environment the children would suggest, for example, golden eagle, mountain goat and bear, and I'd draw an amalgamation at the front of the class. After a few of these the children knuckled down to develop their own monsters while I helped show them how to draw a wolf's head, or a scorpion's tail, or a crab's claw. It was an extremely busy morning but there were some immediate and very satisfying results from the children.

The next step is that the children will complete their story, and whoever is deemed to have written the most exciting, dramatic and descriptive tale will get their monster drawn by me and presented as a framed piece of art. Last year this went down very well, so looking forward to reading the shortlisted stories soon.

Posted in Schools by Simon on 22/01/2016

Art Club Cartoonists

Had a splendid time with Abbotswood Junior School's Art Club recently. They have a well led, and so well attended, club meaning the children are all raring to go and keen as mustard. Armed with their fancy new pens and sketch books I took them through some cartooning basics, showing them different ways to build an interesting and fun character before they had a stab at it themselves followed by some constructive critique. It was all over a bit too soon, but appeared to be left with the inspiration to carry their cartooning forward to greater things.

Posted in Schools by Simon on 17/06/2015

School Visit - Awbridge Primary

I spent yesterday with the children of Awbridge Primary School, a relatively small school but with bags of personality and some lovely, enthusiastic children. I was there to share my children's books and do some drawing workshops, so it was a busy full-on day that once again left me in awe of the teaching staff that do it day in and day out. 

I try to tailor my visits to whatever the school needs, and in this instance they were keen for me to do my step--by-step drawing of Beaulieu the Hedgehog that children copy as I go along. This is done using just lines, shapes, numbers and letters, so even the children with low confidence can achieve a recognisable and worthy result (as the adults often find too when they have a go). Because the classes have mixed age groups I hadn't twigged that one class had a handful of five-year-olds, but even they did remarkably well with it. Some of the children went on to do some creative writing tasks based around what I'd been talking about, so hopefully I'll get to read some results in the coming weeks. All-in-all, a great day in a lovely little school.

Posted in Schools by Simon on 09/06/2015

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