Artist and teacher Catherine McCartney-Smith finds her pupils are inspired by nature
I’M always amazed by what children can see that we grown-ups don’t; especially when it comes to looking at nature.
This spring I’ve been working with children from Ivinghoe and Pitstone on an outdoor installation that’s currently exhibited at College Lake nature reserve, one of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s beautiful places for nature.
The College Lake Artists are in residence at College Lake as part of Bucks Open Studios, and the children’s work is displayed outdoors until June 26 among the trees and shrubs that inspired them.
The installation features logs and unfired clay that the children have formed into extraordinary shapes and characterful faces.
It was fascinating to work with young people whose curiosity and imaginations know no boundaries. They have a youthful ability to look at nature with fresh eyes and minds, to see extraordinary images amongst natural forms.
I guided them through the creative process by encouraging them to draw on their interests and imagination so they could experiment and develop their ideas, and their collaborative installation is all their own work.
The impermanence of the artwork will encourage people visiting College Lake to use their imaginations to see lines and shapes that they may not have noticed before on their walks through nature.
This phenomenon is known as pareidolia, which is when the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. We’ve all experienced that sensation when looking for shapes in sand on the beach or gazing at cloud formations and seeing animals, faces and other objects.
The children all attend Brookmead primary school, and Katherine Douglas, the headteacher, is delighted to be involved with this exciting community project that’s giving the children such rich learning opportunities. She is looking forward to celebrating the children’s achievements with the wider community at the Brookmead School Exhibition from June 23 to 25.
The teaching and learning with this group of children reflects Brookmead’s mission statement, nurturing the individuality of these pupils to develop their curiosity, confidence, self-esteem, independence, resilience and problem-solving skills.
I am very excited to be working on this project and hope it will enable the children to develop confidence, and their enthusiasm for the visual arts will stay with them throughout their lives.
This is the first time the Visual Images Group of Bucks Open Studio artists has included the works of a primary school, and the project has been exciting and rewarding. As well as producing some wonderful artwork, the children have benefited enormously from exploring nature and being part of the team of artists at College Lake.
If you would like to know more about involving your local schools in Bucks Open Studios, please contact Catherine at info@ artistcatherine.co.uk.
Youthful ability: Will colourful cornfield flowers at College Lake inspire your inner artist?. Below, Clay faces created by Brookmead schoolchildren exhibited at College Lake