I didn't sleep much last night... I was thinking about art workshops. I've recently started doing them again, and although the children seem to enjoy them, I am not, to be honest. I get to work in some lovely venues, friendly schools, with children who show enthusiasm and respect and produce surprising things. There are nice parents and teachers. But the one thing that is lacking is materials, pretty much every time. I'm finding it hard to get my head around this, because when I went to school every child had a good quality watercolour box and a pencil case full of well-pigmented pencils. There were material cupboards full of brightly coloured papers, and we never had shortages of scissors. Materials just seemed to... materialise.
Now I am in charge, and they don't. Well, what do I expect? I'm not an art teacher, I can't demand that schools and parents buy stuff because I say so. They think I just want to tell the kids a story and then let them draw a pencil picture of a cat or something, so when I ask them "have you got art materials?" they say "yes, here" and give me some computer paper and pencils - completely adequate for an author's visit, after all the author is meant to be the main event themselves, and is supposed to put on an inspiring performance.
But I don't want to just tell them how they can all be future artists. By what authority could I do such a thing? I want them to be artists NOW. I don't want them to go home saying "I saw an artist and she said she liked my drawing", I want them to come home and say "Look what I made!"
I want to be like the people who taught me how to do things, not like the people who I was supposed to be interested in because they'd done something or other themselves and I just used to think: if you are so interesting, why do you have to bring a talking bunny?
(I understand about the bunnies now, kudos to people who really make them work. - Not me!)
I am starting to realise what I've been taking for granted - we might not all have had great art lessons in primary school (I didn't, really) but we sure had a highly pigmented box of paints each, including process colours and a little tube of zinc white: an introduction to proper art materials, not a toy.
I am sorry that my drawing workshops haven't provided materials like that.
There is a very obvious difference between my sock monkey workshops where I supply all the materials, and every other event where I don't. Both are good fun, but one leaves people going away happy and creative hugging a monkey. The other leaves them with a signed book, at best.
I will change this. No more cheap pencils and sugar paper. I'll source some real materials, take them to the venue myself, and we will make real art.
It'll take me some time to cost and organise it all. I'm going to try and learn some more from my mother, who is a great art teacher by the way. I'm going to collect enough decent stuff to let thirty people be properly creative at a time, and keep it in a suitcase that I'll take wherever I visit.
Until that's sorted out properly I'm putting drawing workshops and school visits on hold... but this is too important to me to do any less than the best I possibly can.