Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up. Pablo Picasso
I love looking at the self-portraits in the junior school hall and seeing how the kids see themselves, and the painting of Julia Gillard by the older kids in the admin area – all so different, but somehow capturing something of her. And then there are the fabulous starry night paintings after Vincent Gogh and now the Monets!
At the Trivia Night last term I was struck by the lovely pieces of our kids’ art work that had been put together by Bit McLean and Madame Temple. I would have been very happy to have hung any one of them on my wall at home, but was outbid at every turn; everybody loved them and it was not difficult to see why. So for this week’s blog, I thought I would find out a little more about art, and our art teacher, Bit McLean.
Jacqui: Where are you from originally and where did you study art?
Bit: I was born a Melbournian, but began primary school at Burbank Elementary in Boston, Massachusetts, and finished it at Deepdene Primary. At 16 I was whisked down to Hobart by my mum and dad. I completed my Bachelor of Arts (Visual Art Teaching) Degree from the University of Tasmania at their campus on top of beautiful Mount Nelson.
I then moved back to Melbourne and taught art in secondary schools until I left to raise my four kids. After having children of my own, I decided to give primary art education a try and eventually I was lucky enough to find myself as a part of our wonderful Kew Primary community.
Jacqui: Did you have a teacher who was particularly influential?
Bit: I loved school. My two favourite teachers at Deepdene were both men, Mr Gosling in Grade 3 and Mr Harding in Grade 4. I loved doing projects in Mr Gosling’s class. Maths tables competitions were fun in Mr Harding’s class and he had a great sense of humour.
Jacqui: Why is art important, and why is it important for kids?
Bit: Art is important as a means of communication, as an aesthetic tool and as a therapeutic aid. It was the first form of communication and, just like the cavemen, kids can use art to tell their stories. Learning about the power of design and ways of manipulating media improves their abilities to get their messages across to an audience.
Art often helps us to clarify our personal and emotional ideas and thoughts as well. Arts learning helps students to become motivated and confident and to work well in teams. I love watching Kew kids producing artworks. When they create something that they’re really proud of, or when they master a tricky skill or technique, I can tell that they get a real kick out of it …and so do I! Art generally makes you feel good; it makes life more pleasurable.
Jacqui: Can you tell us about the type of art – and artists – you like?
Bit: I love modern art. Bright, glossy, popular imagery seen in the work of successful artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst makes me feel good. The comical irony of their work appeals to me as well.
A more local artist who I think is brilliant is Kerry Lomas. I can’t wait to see her achieve success in the art field. She illustrated a wooden stool with gorgeous characters for me and I will always treasure it.
Claude Monet is another favourite of mine. I loved seeing his works on the NGVI excursion with the Year 3s and 4s.
Jacqui: Do you still enjoy doing you own art?
Bit: I try to write a lot during the holidays; that’s my main creative outlet. Just for fun I’ll doodle, take photographs, sketch or paint but I haven’t attempted something ’serious’ for a very long time.
Jacqui: Who are the ‘Smarty Arties’ and what do they do?
The Smarty Arties are a fabulous bunch of Year 6 students with a love for the Arts. Last term they visited the Art Room to help all the junior classes produce scarecrows for the Kew garden. The Preps made Scarecrow Jack, the Kew Primary school boy, and the Year 1s made Rose, the Kew Primary school girl. Coral is the Year 2s mermaid scarecrow and Sir Crow Fighter is the brave knight guarding the Year 3 garden plot. They also taught a class on collage to the junior classes. Recycled materials were used to create ‘recycled robots’.
I am very lucky to share the art programme with Madame T. She is such a positive, happy, creative person. The main reason I love teaching art at Kew is that Kew kids are always eager to experiment with materials, media and techniques. They are thirsty for learning and, therefore, a pleasure to teach. I love their visual stories, their intriguing ways of seeing, their wild ideas, their logical explanations and their colourful imaginations!
Jacqui: Thanks Bit. Love ya work!
Jacqui Tomlins and Bit McLean
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. Pablo Picasso