Over the last five years I’ve done quite a few Halloween inspired drawing tutorials – 46 that I’ve managed to locate – but I feel there might be a couple more hiding in my video list somewhere – I’ve made nearly 1000 video on Youtube now!
If you watch this video, it will show you all the available Halloween videos on youtube. Click on the one you like and it will take you to that video. If you can’t make up your mind which to do, go back to the beginning and watch them all again!
This week I went to Whitchurch school to “borrow” some children to try a Ninja Writing idea out on. It didn’t quite work out as I’d planned, but we did come up with a very crazy story!
Beforehand I had to do a lot of practicing how to draw a Ninja. I hope I’ve made it very easy for you.
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.
I have a new lesson at Curious.com – learn how to use perspective to draw in 3d – at the moment it is free so get on over and check it out. It’s quite a comprehensive lesson in 1- 2 and 3 point perspective.
Click this link, and when you sign up to Curious.com you will get $25 that you can spend on lessons in all sorts of things. click it quick not many left on this offer! I learned a lot about CSS design for websites!
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.
I had a great day in a school yesterday – I’ll tell you more later. I was reading them one of my Ricky Rocket stories in which there is a lot of… well… let’s call it bottom burping! Every time I milk that story, I think, “Oh dear! How have I stooped so low. But then today, National Poetry day, I thought about the problem and decided to stand up for what I believe in and and write a poem that concisely expresses my feelings on the subject. And here it is:
What makes me laugh
If I want a cheap laugh,
and not pay money,
farting is free
and terribly funny!
The Ginger Ninja
Signed Copies of the Book
It is almost five years since I made my first Video on YouTube. I set up a camera on a tripod and stuck a couple of lights onto it, hoping to increase the light levels, but the lights fell off half way through, much to everyone’s amusement. It never crossed my mind to edit or reshoot!. I’ve learned a lot about lighting and white balance since then!
The video was about how to use pencils and I showed how to draw the Ginger Ninja.It took me a year to gain 1000 views on that video. Now I sometimes do that in a day. Ginger is still the book that people remember me for best. If you have an iPad, you can get the first three books on the ibooks store and you can also get a free Ginger Ninja story if you sign up for my newsletter – add your name an email on the box on the left hand side of the page.
If you click the image below, you will be taken to the original 1999 Flash animated website – it’s still a lot of fun!
I was asked once to give a talk in assembly at a school. As an afterthought, the head mentioned that it was Maths week. I had just come across Godel’s incompleteness theory which star (putting it simply) you can’t get all the answers using one mathematical system. It made me think about the way I draw Ginger and Tiddles. They are such different characters. Ginger is simple and based on Euclidian Geometry he is all circles, ellipses and tangents and angles. His fur pattern is simple because he combs it every day! His character is nice and happy and uncomplicated too.
Tiddles, on the other hand is a wild, mixed-up bully. I draw him entirely differently. He could be created out of Chaos Theory! I also draw him a lot faster.
As with all things, there is a middle way. When Ginger and Tiddles become friends (What!? Spoiler Alert!) Tiddles calms down. He’s still drawn quickly but in a less hectic sort of way.
I think that session in the school assembly confused a lot of people! But is made me think more about Euclid and how learning geometry has changed – children don’t get to construct complex shapes because health and safety worries over the sharp point od compasses. This led be directly to making my Euclid videos and eventually the book and iPad iBook.Euclid, the Man who invented Geometry
You know how much I love rOtring tikky graphic pens? Well, rOtring have noticed and have sent me a rOtring 800 mechanical pencil to try – and it is gorgeous! It’s the top of their range, so its for a serious artist or draughtsman or maybe a gift for the artist/draughtsman who has everything! But let’s unbox it and see what it’s like.
First of all it’s very black! A really deep matt black with a perfect weight and balance. The tip and end are lovely, shiny gold , the end has the traditional red ring inlayed in to it. (rOtring means red ring!)
The barrel is the same thickness and feel of a traditional wooden pencil but it just feels like… well high quality engineering in your hand – a real pleasure to hold!
The drawing end is retracted into the barrel, so you can feel confident putting it in your pocket without stabbing yourself or ruining your clothes. A simple turn off the end of the barrel and out pops the drawing tip, in lovely, matching, shiny gold.
I would worry that a retractable tip might feel a bit wobbly, but no, this feels rock solid when drawing. The Barrel holds spare hi polymer leads so you are unlikely to run out of graphite on a sketching trip or when making notes and designs about your latest project.
With such high quality comes a price tag, but if you are spend half your life with the same thing in your hand, it might as well be beautiful as well as perfectly designed for the job.