Friday 19 July 2013

Wonderful Paul Klee inspired Felted Portraits by year 4 students

Felted portraits made by pupils in year 4 (8 and 9 year olds). Paul Klee was their inspiration.

‘Taking a line for a walk’ is an expression that everyone who has ever attended a college art class has heard, but up until recently I had no idea that it was Paul Klee who first coined the phrase.

One thing about doing activities for schools’ Arts Weeks is that you get the chance to do projects on new themes and also take inspiration from artists that you haven’t used before. I was delighted to be asked by Beech Street school, Eccles near Manchester, to run a day long session on Paul Klee for their year 4 pupils.

Paul Klee’s work is hard to categorise as his style was very broad ranging. My friend instantly thought of his goldfish painting but I was reminded of the postcard that I had on my wall a long time ago when I was a student up in Edinburgh. I actually saw the original painting in the flesh very recently too (see below).

Original painting by Paul Klee. In the Peggy Guggenheim museum, Venice.

So I decided to use Paul Klee’s portraits as the starting point for my felting workshop with the Year 4 pupils.

We started the day by talking about what we knew about Paul Klee; for example I told the children that he was a talented violinist and that throughout his life he still listened to music for at least an hour before starting to paint each day. We mentioned his illness and how that affected his paintings in later life - paintings towards the end of his life are done using darker colours and also have thicker dark lines in them - and we even managed to mention how much he loved cats.

I had taken various illustrated library books and these along with images sourced from the internet were helpful in giving the children an introduction to the artist.

We closed our eyes and did some taking a line for a walk exercises. At this point I wished that I had taken some atmospheric music with me to play as Paul Klee’s paintings were very influenced by his own emotions and music is a very useful way to arouse emotions in these sorts of drawing sessions.

The children did four ‘taking a line for a walk’ exercises and it was good to see how each person’s evolved as they became more relaxed and realised that there was no right answer. All that I asked was that they didn’t lift their pen from the page until we opened our eyes.

We did consider the shapes that the pen was making; spikey or smooth, looping or wavy, and as the children had their eyes closed they had to feel these movements rather than see them. 

I was happy for the children to use two pens at once, either in the same hand or one in each hand. It's always good fun!
Next we progressed onto laying out the wool fibres. I did a short demonstration to show them how to handle the merino wool fibres and we all laid out our first layer of unbleached wool tops. Then I demonstrated two methods of ‘drawing’ with wool fibres; one that was more suited to this portrait style (see below).

Paul Klee portrait alongside my felted example.

and another method that was appropriate to this portrait style.

Paul Klee painting alongside one of the pupil's designs. 

Dry wool fibres laid out before wetting.

In the afternoon the classroom was absolutely buzzing with activity and it was exciting to see how the pupils took what they had learned in the morning and absolutely ran with it. 

I had taken a limited pallet of colours, yellows, oranges, deep red, russet and a couple of greens. These had been selected as the majority of the portraits by Paul Klee were painted using these colours. The good thing about using a limited pallet of colours is that it avoided the felted portraits becoming completely multi-coloured and helped us to remember that we were thinking about the lines that we were making and also that this was about using felting as a medium but the work that we were making was still inspired by Paul Klee.

Each felted portrait is unique and not just felted but felted to a good standard. 

I love this one for the energy and personality that it manages to convey
This minimalist one uses no lines at all! 

And in this one there are more lines than facial features

I can feel Paul Klee's anger as he suffered from a very painful illness here. 

I was really fantastically impressed and pleased with the children’s achievements and it was brilliant as a visiting artist to get such enthusiastic comments and feedback from them all.
“This was our best day!”
“I love doing this!”
“When can we do it again?” 

The day went so well because all of the children were enjoying the variety of the activities in their School Arts Week and also because I had excellent support from the class teacher Miss Orr, teaching assistants and parent helpers. 

And a Janitor who helps you in with all your felting materials and equipment is always a hero!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it! Great to see an artist's work interpreted in different media.