In the little kindergarten and the kindergartens the children use watercolours, watered down to begin with, as they represent the truest experience of colour for the child. Painting is relaxing and brings a calm mood to the kindergartens. Children naturally begin to explore colour mixing on their paper, at first dreamily, but as they get older they might exclaim with excitement “Look I made green!”
In Classes 1 to 3, they get to grips with the technicalities of using a paintbrush, respecting the paper surface and controlling the paint, and the relationships between the colours. Different tones and also the characters of the colours themselves are worked on: ‘shining’ yellow, ‘strong’ or ‘intense’ red, ‘calm’ blue and so on. The teacher links these exercises with the Main Lesson subjects, and brings out a mood from a creation story for instance, in Class 3, or a fable story in Class 2.
From Class 4, the children paint scenes from Main Lesson subjects (Norse mythology or ancient Egypt, for instance), whilst also looking at the seasons, festivals, animals, times of day (sunrise/sunset) and so on. By this age the paint is used drier and the children become very adept at controlling their strokes, working hard at producing a fairly detailed painting.
As well as the painting lessons in the Lower School, wax crayons are used for drawing, both in the Main Lesson book, and sometimes to illustrate in a subject lesson book. Pencils are used by the older children. Basic drawing skills are taught with the very versatile wax block and stick; pencil drawings follow on very naturally. Modelling and artwork are also brought into main lesson blocks such as the geography of Britain, as below.
From Class 6, the mood changes again and the students start with black and white drawing and learn to perceive the equalities inherent in light and dark. They begin a new technique working on dry stretched paper in layers – this is called ‘veil painting’ and requires patience, maturity and care.
The light and dark theme continues in Class 7 with the exploration of shadows, symmetry, mirror image and observation, using charcoal, conté, pastel, pencil and some pen and ink work. Colour perspective, maps, mood paintings (for example, storm scenes – a wonderful example of their own inner turmoil) are also covered.
in Class 7 the Renaissance Main Lesson is a wonderful chance to look at drawing, painting and modelling through the High Renaissance artists Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo, respectively.
By Class 8 the students come out of the darkness and back to colour (this is reflected in their development, some are ready long before others). They return to painting, both wet and dry techniques, and look at nature moods, places, landscapes and the weather, very often working in a single colour or limited palette. Drawing skills also continue, and they usually end the year with a project – something they work on at home, a chance to really experiment!
In Class 9, as pupils mature through the enormous physiological and psychological changes facing them at this age, and as they learn to deal with the subsequent emotional stimulation and stresses, their art lessons attempt to nurture these processes. The keynote of these lessons is one of quiet, skilful sketching hence the predominant use of black and white, and more importantly, all the various greys that form between these two extremes.
A variety of media are used to develop the skills of the class, such as charcoal, crayon, chalk pastels, Chinese ink, and block/lino printing. We explore the work of Albrecht Dürer in detail, observing his mastery of light and shadow and the formative techniques he established as a print maker. We look at more technical aspects of drawing, a review of perspective and creation of geometrical shapes with light and shade. Another major theme in this class is the aesthetic use of lettering and language, developing skills for the visual presentation of ideas. In the final term Class 9 complete a GCSE-style project brief, which demands self-discipline and a self- directed line of research, before arriving at a finished piece of artwork.
Class 10 students produce three GCSE projects to fulfill the course requirements. They explore still life through direct observation, and through the study of many artists’ work, thus learning to place their work into the context of the art world. Pupils produce a range of work in various media, including a still life of their own in watercolours. They complete an individual artist project, providing an excellent opportunity to develop self-directed study and manage their time to a deadline. Other projects may branch out into printmaking, mixed media work, relief or sculptural work. If the student has a strong wish or inclination to work in an achievable direction, the teacher will support these explorations.