Monthly Archives: May 2016

How to do an art trail with children!

DAW2016 Logo

Every two years, artists across Dorset open up their studios to the general public.  It’s a rare opportunity to meet the person behind the painting/sculpture/print and find out why and how they create their art! Dorset’s open studio event is the UK’s largest, and it’s completely free!

I always looked forward to doing the DAW art trail with my two daughters.  It was our May Half Term Adventure!  They are independent young women now, but both remember setting out on fun day trips with a picnic and the Dorset Art Weeks brochure. We would select a particular area (always choosing a different one each time) and then plan out who we would visit.  We particularly liked visiting any artists “out in the sticks”, because this often meant the added bonus of walking through a lovely cottage garden. The messier the studio, the better – in our eyes this was the domain of a true artist!! Smelly old dog snoozing in the corner, the smell of linseed oil … – marvelous!

Some places are easier to visit with children than others.  I was lucky that, on the whole, my daughters enjoyed visiting all the studios and looking at the artists’ work.  However, on days when they were less keen, or when the studio wasn’t as “excitingly bohemian” as they would have liked, I used to make up various challenges.  At any rate, we always gave ourselves an imaginary £200 (I would have to increase that figure to £500, if we were still playing that game!) and everyone made a list of what they would spend it on – this involved writing the title of the art work, the name of the artist, and why they chose it.  There were also other “categories” to keep everyone on their toes e.g. “favourite studio”, “friendliest artist”, and so on!  My youngest daughter invariably chose any studio as her favourite if the artist provided any sort of refreshment!!! My eldest daughter used to relish writing a comment in the artists’ visitor’s books.

I am now an artist myself – a printmaker. When I was visiting those open studios with my children, I never imaged that one day it would be my turn! I cannot provide a studio out “in the sticks”, nor do I have a pretty cottage garden to walk through! I do have a dog (who likes people), but she’s not particularly smelly.  I am definitely friendly though!  I relish being able to explain what I do, and to any parent visiting with their children I say: “Good for you!” Children don’t have to be artistic themselves to be able to look at something and decide if they like it or not – there are no rules to appreciating art. This is something they can learn very early on, by doing an art trail!!  Come and visit me at Venue 281 this year in sunny Wimborne.  If you can’t get hold of a brochure, you can visit the website and plan your May Half Term trips out from there:





Like many things in China, there is a great deal of symbolism attached to this humble plant.  Even before I went to China, I chose to have bamboo in my Dorset garden – being careful to choose a clump forming variety and avoid the ones that spread all over the place! In Beijing I noticed that bamboo was resolutely holding its own against the onslaught of urban development. It wasn’t going to be defeated!

And this is precisely what the Chinese love about bamboo: its resilience and strength, yet also its flexibility; it can bend but it will not break!  Looking back over China’s history, until recently the people have had to endure many centuries of war, poverty and hardship. No wonder then that this plant is prized so much.  To the Chinese it represents many desirable character traits: moral integrity, resistance, and loyalty.  It’s tall, straight stem symbolises honour and an upright character, which is simple and straightforward. Its deep roots stand for resoluteness and resilience.  The hollow interior of the stem also has symbolic significance, because there is wisdom in emptiness – the hollowness reminds us to empty our minds of prejudice and fear, and it encourages us to be modest.

So I knew quite early on after my return from China at the end of September 2015 that I wanted to create a collagraph print of bamboo, but first I decided to paint it using my traditional Chinese black ink and Chinese brushes I bought whilst in Beijing – my thanks goes to Maggie at the Hutong School for providing me with a shopping list in Chinese that I dutifully handed over in the art shop!  Maggie taught us some basics of Chinese painting in one of the many extra-curricular activities organised by the school …

When I got home to Dorset, I followed bamboo painting tutorials on Youtube: I learnt how to do the bone stroke for the stem, and how to hold the brush vertically to get the pointed end on the leaves.

I wanted to retain the unique characteristics of the Chinese brush painting in my final print, so I traced my own brush paintings directly onto the long strips of mount board that would become my printing plates. I drew some apartment buildings using two-point perspective – something I am not terribly familiar with, but it’s amazing what you can teach yourself when you need to!  I built up the blocks with collaged strips of textured paper, PVA glue for a white background, knife scoring to give definition and clear lines, tearing away to provide the darker tones ….

5 finished collagraph blocks, coated with shellac varnish.

Here is the final print!

Urban Sprawl

So there you have it!  The story behind the creation of one of my more complicated collagraph prints.