I had a message from a Graphic Design student in Paris last week. They really want to be an illustrator and there is not enough drawing on the graphic design course, which only uses illustration within design projects.
As I was wondering what to advise, I saw a video by @willterryart called called “Artists should always have a personal project”
It got me thinking. Life takes you down may routes and sometimes you might wish you had chosen a different path. Sometimes, if you are in a really bad or dangerous place, you need to stop and start again immediately, but generally, going back and trying another route doesn’t get you very far either. You can just sit down and cry, but that doesn’t help much.
It’s generally best to forge ahead and do the very best you can, learning all you can along the way. At the same time, have your personal project. If you want to be an illustrator, then draw ever day – all day – in every spare minute. then bring what you learn into the part of your work you find less interesting and do that to the best of your ability.
If you are stuck in a place, work so well, putting in love and enthusiasm to your work, so that you outgrow the situation you are in. It’s amazing how opportunities come to such people, because opportunity likes to work with hard working and talented people.
Your degree qualification will mean nothing in the big, wide world. You will be judged on the quality of your work, ideas and personal vision. So get working on that and others will start working to advance your career. Everyone loves a winner and everyone loves to be a part of their success.
Good luck to you all, but you won’t need it if you work hard and do in your own time what burns inside you. Luck only comes to those who have already prepared the ground.
If you wonder what this post is doing on a children’s book author’s site, then I wonder the same thing too. I’m planning to split my efforts across two sites soon. one will be more aimed at drawing, professional and personal development nad this will return to children’s books.
Authors, travelling around schools, see stuff – stuff that inspectors would never see or even bother to look for, because inspectors are looking for what they want to see.
I keep seeing the Green, Amber and Red colours of testing software printouts. This software works out where to put the most resources to achieve the best test results. That sounds like a reasonable proposition, but in truth it confirms that the current education system is structurally designed to promote failure. Test results are all that matter. The education and-life chances of the children in the system come second. The “customer” – the child being educated – has been taken out of the equation.
If your child is in the green area then you are doing the right thing. You are helping them with homework, encouraging them to read and providing them with a full and diverse cultural feed. They will learn to read despite being at school.
If your child is in the amber areas, then it is worthwhile for the school to put effort into raising your child’s reading levels one or two grades. You can do this easily at home by reading to them in bed every night and showing some interest in their homework and schooling. The school can feel confident that if they invest time and resources in this group, they will bring their overall target levels up. The education system has such a distorted view, nothing else matters but the levels.
If your child is in the red area, you probably don’t care, and neither do the school. They know that it will take a huge effort to raise these children up just one grade, that will not have any effect on the school’s overall performance. These are the children that are doomed to illiteracy – they will cost the country a fortune over their lifetimes in social and medical care, prison and welfare. But that does not matter because because meeting reading level targets are more important.
The chances are that red area children have no books at home. The amber area children may have up to ten. The green area children could have over 200!
Before arriving at school, green children can have heard over 30 million more words spoken than a child in the red area, who may never have sung a nursery rhyme at home, had a book read to them at bedtime, used a knife or fork and my well have not learned to use the toilet.
Children’s centres were supposed to help with early years intervention. But children have to leave the centres to go to school and start learning to read. If the stats say it’s not worth schools bothering with children who need too much time spent on them, then it’s not worth spending the time on them.
The recent report of Britain’s failing literacy standards bears all this out. After 14 years of the Literacy Strategy and the National Curriculum someone needs to hang their head in shame and admit they got it all wrong. After 14 years, literacy should be at 99% of all school leavers.
So where has it gone wrong? Literacy has been redefined as the ability to decode text. That is not literacy – that is a boring, wet, grey, Wednesday afternoon lesson. Literacy is the ability to read. How have we forgotten that?
Reading is the one core skill. Without being able to read, forget about writing and “‘rithmetic”. No child should ever be allowed to fall behind in reading skills. That should be the core statement of education. If children can’t read, don’t progress them onto subjects they don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of understanding.
And how do we promote reading? The cryingly, simple, obvious solution is to read books! Hundred’s of them and if children don’t hear books read to them at home, they need to hear them read in school. Thanks to targets, there is no time for telling stories in school anymore. The key to reading is not phonetics or any other fashionable system, the key is story.
Human beings are hard-wired to listen to an learn from stories. Politicians know this – they tell enough of them. Advertisers know this – story is their trade. Religions know this – Faith is just the believing of a great story. So why has education forgotten and ignored the very keystone on which it is built?
It is story that draws the child closer and closer to the text, they marvel that those squiggly marks make up words that mean something, words that tell fantastic tales and explain fantastic concepts. Once the connection is made, nothing will stop a child wanting to learn to read so they can do that amazing, magic trick themselves.
Teacher education is such that a whole new generation has been taught nothing about children’s books or how to read them to their children. How are we going to convert them back to story-time?
Learning to read is the hardest job anyone will ever do in their entire lives. To condemn a child to the red area is to write them off, to mark them out as the detritus of society.
How many times have I heard teachers say, “But what can I do? Targets have to be met.” Forget about striking over pensions – we’re all in the same boat there, so teacher’s won’t get any sympathy from the public over that, but how about striking for the right to teach?
And how about hauling parents in and reminding them that they have responsibilities too? School is not a child-minding service, it’s a partnership of Family, Child and School – giving the child the best opportunities in life and preparing them to make the most of their talents so they can contribute to society. When did we ever stop wanting better for our children? What happened that all responsibility has been outsourced to over-stretched schools?
The real test of education is the number of happy, fulfilled adults that have benefitted from their time at school. The target should be adults that behave, that understand the difference between right and wrong, that have the confidence to rely on their own resources, that contribute to life and society, adults who cherish the next generation and help them on their way in the hope that they will help in return when we get older.
The education system that does not work for its “customer’s” best interests is broken and those in charge of setting the targets are as guilty as the red area children will be, when they grow up and appear before the magistrates in the dock.
A little while ago, I was contacted by Dan Morrow, who asked me to look over a picture book idea he and his brother, Derek had been working on. He said I should be honest. I felt the story needed a bit of editing and tightening up and made some suggestions. I never heard back from him!
Just as I was starting to think, maybe I’d suggested too much and had maybe upset Dan, I received another email from him. He’d revised the story, and now they were going to make an animated movie – Would I possibly record the narration, voice-over soundtrack? How could I say no to such a determined young man?
Last night, I was wondering wether they would actually make the movie when, ping! – an email arrived saying is was done! Comet – The Movie – was live on YouTube!
I think it’s rather fabulous. If you know anything about animation, you will appreciate how much work has gone into the making of this little movie. Please go and have a look, click the like button, subscribe to Dan’s channel and leave a message too. I think you may be witnessing the beginning of a very successful animation career from a very determined partnership – and you will be able to say say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been following them from the start!”
I was never good at sitting and watching the TV, I always had to be doing something at the same time. Nothing has changed. These days, I often have my sketchbook open and draw the people on chat shows and the like.
I was drawing someone last week and realised that the way their hair sprouted was a great way to show you how to draw curly hair.
You can take a lot more time than me and make it look a lot neater.
I’m doing this as part of #Inktober which is a twitter hashtag for pen and ink drawings done in October.
I was trying to think of something similar for pencil – but I couldn’t think of anything smart… can you? Answers in the comments box below please! Drawn with a Rotring Tikky Graphic Pen.
Yesterday I visited Lydbrook Primary School, here in the Forest of Dean. It was once a village school that took children up to school leaving age – Lydbrook was a mining village and many of the children went to work underground or in other manual trades.
One of the teaching blocks has this fabulous sign carved from the local forest stone, announcing that Manual Instruction was taught inside. That would be carpentry and metalwork as well as cooking and other skills.
How many children yearn for a building like that at school, these days? Somewhere to make something, create something and learn a real skill. A classroom where there are no written explanations or reflections, no written exams, coursework or measurable outcomes, other than the the finished object speaking for itself – just manual instruction – the passing on of skills and craft attitudes that matter in the real world those children will grow up to live in.
A little bit of DT mixed into the curriculum doesn’t satisfy practically-minded children. All those essays and written coursework that the art, drama and sports department now require, only serve to put those, who are naturally suited to the subject, off pursuing them.
Haven’t we had enough of political correctness forcing children to be square pegs in round holes for the sake of neat accounting? Will education ever come again to accept that one academic size does not fit all? Will we ever be grown-up enough to accept that we are not all wired-up the same way? We knew it once and built classrooms for Manual Instruction.
Now that a bit of history has passed under the bridge, I can see what happened. The grammar schools gave extraordinary chances to working-class children. Those who got to Oxford and Cambridge soon came to run the country as leaders of the Labour Party, lording it over the Swinging Sixties, when almost anyone could do anything and and almost anything seemed possible.
So how did those ungrateful, mean-minded politicians repay the help and belief they were given by previous generations, that worked so hard to give them a bright, new future? They closed down the grammar schools, that got them where they were, and pulled up all the ladders to advancement behind them, protecting their new-found wealth and position from any new upstarts who might come up from below and take away what had been given them in a spirit of hope and generosity. Then they invented political correctness to put fear into those who might criticise them.
Rather than generally reducing children’s prospects, by creating the comprehensive schools that sought to promote the mean, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if they had followed in their public-spirited forefathers’ steps and addressed the abysmal state of secondary modern schools instead, turning them into first class academies of technology, creativity and craft, that stood on a level with the grammar schools, the two cultures working side by side?
Wait a minute – that still sounds like a good idea to me!
I heard on the news this morning that more and more families are hiring home tutors. While that may be a good thing if your children need particular specialist help, there are things that you can do that will have a much deeper effect on your children’s education and also on the happiness of your family. They are not only cheaper, they are free!
The press and politicians love to bash schools. They do it to sell more papers and gain more votes. The care and education of the children comes a long way down their list of concerns.
Schools actually do an amazing job. Each year they are asked to achieve more and more, and are given a hard time if they can’t squeeze more into the same sized brains that enter their doors each year. The world is changing just as fast for teachers as it is for you I. Schools and teachers are doing an amazing job keeping up while meeting unhelpful political targets. Teachers want to teach, not win votes for politicians.
Teachers only have so much time in the day and rarely have time for a one to one sit down with your child. If they do, they are probably, subconsciously making sure there is no physical contact and that no part of the conversation can be misconstrued.
Children come home from school tired. They’ve been working hard all day. The last thing they want is to see the smiling face of a home tutor when they get through the door! They’ll put up with it and may even, reluctantly, learn something because, generally, children do what they are told.
You, as a parent are the best home tutor a child can have and you come free! Every thing you do is a potential learning situation. Separating colours for the wash, weighing and measuring, counting, adding and taking away. So many irritating moments can be made simpler and more fun but remembering to turn it into a game. I know it’s hard to remember when you are exhausted too, but it does make it so much easier than fighting and arguing.
But there is one simple thing you can do that no teacher or home tutor can do that will change the lives and educational prospects of your children more than anything else.
Snuggle up together at bedtime and share a book.
You don’t have to be the greatest reader in the world or be able to do all the whacky voices. You are your child’s hero, so whatever you do will be great. If you can make the time to spend twenty minutes or half an hour reading to your child every night, you will be increasing their educational prospects more than any other intervention could ever hope to.
However sophisticated we think we are, we are still apes and we still need moments of physical closeness to bond. It is that closeness that children crave that modern life does its best to exclude. If children learn to relate reading with the best, cosiest time of their day, they will want to learn to do that magic trick themselves.
Following along as you read, is the best way to learn those long words and see them being decoded before their eyes. Learning to read is the hardest job any of us encounter in our lives. It requires thousands of hours of practice to become fluent. And fluency in reading is the key to pretty much every subject in education. Even sport has become an academic subject! Without fluency, don’t waste money on home tutors. They will force learning in one ear for it to pop out of the other. A tutor should enhance a hunger for knowledge, not be there to force it in.
The stories you read at bedtime will stay with your children for ever.
And, if you remove TVs and computers and any other electronic distractions from the bedroom, you’ll find that children who’ve had that special, bedtime story and a quiet review of the good bits of the day or prayers, if you are that way inclined, will go to sleep happy in the knowledge they are loved and that someone has the time to care about them.
This can be your quiet-time and relaxing end of the day too – every day.
I was with Derwent Pencils at the British Family Fayre in Westerham, Kent on Saturday. I had a great time showing how to use watercolour pencils and aquatone sticks with Derwent waterbrushes great fun was had by all! great to meet everyone – very tiring but great fun :)
On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of August I had the pleasure and privilege of joining Derwent Pencils and the Keswick Pencil Museum at CarFest North at Oulton Park race track. The place was buzzing with cars and families. The Festival is the brain child of BBC Radio 2′s Chris Evans. It’s a great weekend out for all the family with cars, food, music and lots for the kids to do.
The sun shone almost the whole time. We had our own marquee and were visited by hundreds of people coming to see what Derwent pencils are all about and finding out more about the Pencil Museum in Keswick ,where I will be showing how to draw scary stuff over the October half term holiday – 22-23-24 October. Come along, why don’t you?
Derwent donated a six foot long graphic pencil, just like the ones I use in my videos, but six foot long and a real working pencil! It raised £500 for Children in need. I had a lot of requests for how to draw Pudsey! Maybe I should do that for Children in Need this year?
It was a fantastic weekend – incredibly tiring – on our feet the whole time, meeting and greeting the great british public, showing them that it is really easy to draw, if you just pick up a pencil and have a go!
Come along to the Great British Family Fayre in Westerham Kent, next weekend, 31st August. We’ll be doing something similar there, but without the cars!
Music from epidemic.com Car chase 8 by Victor Ohlsson