The second GenART workshop run at Soft Touch was with a group of children from an Adventure Playground in New Parks. The workshop followed the same structure as earlier in the week but with a different group of people. The participants were asked to look at the exhibition through viewfinders and extract parts of the artworks that they particularly liked. They were then provided with different materials to create their own works in response to the exhibition. Before the workshop began, the group arrived at the Soft Touch building and began looking around the exhibition. All the young people seemed really interested in the works and were discussing them as a group without being prompted.
When we then asked them to go over and look at the works at New Walk Gallery, the young people continued moving as a group and studying the artworks together. This may have been because they felt more comfortable sticking together as a group but it meant that that more discussion took place and they spent longer looking at each of the works. A couple of children broke off from the group and took photos of the artworks that they liked. We noticed that those who had stuck together in a group produced similar sorts of artworks and those who had explored the exhibition as individuals were more confident in creating their own style of work.
Initially, all of the children chose pencils and white paper to work with. They found it difficult to get out of the mind-set of creating a picture of ‘something’ rather than just particular parts of a picture. A lot of them sat for a while saying they “didn’t know what to draw” and had difficulty experimenting with the materials. They all wanted to work on canvas but were scared of making mistakes and wanted ‘practice paper’. We showed them how some of the materials could be used and set up the paints to encourage experimentation and help to remove their hesitations. After a little while, all of the children had created multiple works with various materials and relaxed when it came to their fear of making mistakes. There was a mix of approaches within the group; some children used the materials in a direct, painterly style and created multiple, quite abstract artworks, whereas others chose precise mediums which allowed them to make more considered marks and spend longer reflecting on single works.
When we went round the group to present and discuss works, the children were enthusiastic but seemed slightly unsure about what to say about some of the art. They lost a bit of concentration in this part of the workshop and were more engaged in the practical side of it. However, they were reasonably confident in presenting their works and showed a lot of pride in what they had produced.
They came up with very inventive ways of displaying their works as a collection and chose to make the shape of a volcano to mimic the volcano picture in the GenART exhibition and some of the volcano artworks they had made. At the end of the session, some of the young people in the group were taking pictures of the display of work, which highlighted their sense of pride in their achievements.