What part does visual literacy play in your art department and how do you try and teach your students about the importance of drawing?
When planning schemes of work for Eastbury Art Department, developing visual literacy and confidence in drawing is a very important part of that process. As art teachers we are quick to say that art develops student’s creativity, curiosity and risk taking, but developing these skills in lesson time takes thoughtful preparation. We factor in the vast variety of ways you can draw for different purposes to each scheme of work such as; drawing to design through sculpture and print planning; drawing to aid thinking when considering compositions and mind maps, drawing for accuracy with the more traditional observational drawings and drawing for risk taking with continuous line and more experimental activities. Often we see young people judging all their art skills on their ability to render a drawing ‘perfectly’, so our job can be about giving young people opportunities to see themselves differently through a broad variety of tasks over the curriculum.
Visual literacy allows students to read the visual clues around them, be curious, open minded and able to understand some of the more complex codes presented to them in art work. I want our young people to feel confident when walking into a gallery and know that these spaces are theirs; developing their understanding of artwork by “seeing” what artists have expressed and created and using these skills in their own practice both now and in later in life.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges currently facing art departments across the country?
I feel the main challenge is sharing the relevance and importance of the arts as viable and exciting career choices for our young people. We, as specialists, know that there are many fantastic jobs and prospects for a life in the arts but this message isn’t always communicated loudly in schools and in the wider public sphere. Creative departments can counter this by forging concrete links with professionals and universities to really showcase what can be achieved. We must share good practice and allow our creative young people to feel that there is a space for them in arts based further education and universities. We aim to take every year group on a trip or workshop and strive for all KS5 students to visit a university at least once to help them visualise themselves in the arts further down the line. If they do not hear or know about these careers and opportunities from us, they may never and we could lose them.
With the 2017 Big Draw festival Living Lines: An Animated Big draw coming up. Does Eastbury have anything special planned?
Eastbury want to continue in our growth and increasing confidence with digital media to make something internationally or something large scale with our pupils, we are excited about what we will do next.
Having hosted such successful Big Draw events what advice would you give to other schools who want to get involved with The Big Draw?
I would suggest trying to get the whole school as involved as possible to present your ideas and The Big Draw’s vision. I gave staff suggestions of how drawing and visual literacy can be discussed in other curriculum areas to start the ball rolling, it could be used a discussion based starter activity in History, story boarding in drama, design work in engineering amongst many other ideas. Ask for feedback about what was successful, so this can support your planning the following year. If possible, try and recruit art champions in the other subject areas who can sustain and coordinate your vision.
Eastbury started smaller to gain momentum over the years, starting with lunch time art drop-ins in communal spaces to raise awareness of The Big Draw ethos and built upon this. As a way to develop collaborative practice, ask your GCSE and A-Level students to be involved too, it’s great for their own CV and confidence and supports the department as ambassadors and leaders.
Think about how you want to develop as a department and work together to explore this, we wanted to gain more skills in digital media so collaborated to make this happen. It’s great to see staff using apps and animation more in classrooms, learning together took the pressure off of needing a ‘specialist’. By learning together, we made the same mistakes the students would which made us better teachers and better placed to predict the learning of these new skills.
Eastbury would love to make more links to universities and internationally, The Big Draw can be an excellent vehicle to explore these areas and allow greater focus when planning future events.
You can check out all the amazing work the Eastbury Art Department are doing on Twitter .
We hope our chat with Jennifer has inspired you to get involved with The Big Draw Festival this year! Read more on becoming part of The Big Draw Festival here or click below to register your event!