I recently ran six days’ worth of illustration workshops at the London Transport Museum over the Easter Holidays as part of their family activity programme. I found it a really rewarding experience and now I’m back home and the proverbial dust has settled I’ve written a little piece summing it up.
The workshops came off the back of my inclusion in the London Stories exhibition held at the London Transport Museum as part of the Poster Prize for Illustration. While this was my first time doing any illustration-based teaching, I’m not a stranger to making a fool of myself in front of a load of children. I’ve been running a weekly martial arts class for kids for the last seven years so I felt that had given me plenty of practice at being a teacher. Martial arts and drawing….not that different right?
The workshop was split up into two parts – one was a talk about my life as an illustrator and what I do and the other was a ‘make and take’ activity session which was the practical part.
Activity time first! Because I’d focused so much on individual people and their personal stories in my original exhibit, I thought it would be fun to continue the theme with the kids. I decided to get them working with their family groups to come up with some fun and creative characters that you might find riding on the bus. I created a game (kind of like consequences) whereby they could take it in turns with their family to write down an attribute for this character, taking care not to show anyone else. At the end, they’d open their sheet to read off a completely random and hopefully hilarious character description which they would then illustrate.
I’d also painted a giant bus which was hanging on a sheet in the workspace. Kids could cut out their characters and stick them to the bus to form an interactive and ever-changing artwork.
I was absolutely blown away with some of the creativity that the kids showed. Real nice, out-there characters, dinosaurs, space monsters, princesses and Lionel Messi all took a spin on the bus. It was brilliant interacting with everyone and listening to the kids’ descriptions.
We had unicorns, policement, cooks, giraffes and all sorts riding on the bus. I was impressed at how long some of the kids spent working on their characters. It was really good to see the parents getting involved as well and seeing families encourage each other to the next level of silliness.
This guy here was my absolute favourite. Drawn by a brother and sister, they went one step further and each drew a different part of the character and combined it together.
Giving my little talk twice a day was an interesting experience also. There was a wide mix of ages, from 2 all the way up to 12 and sometimes it’s hard to hold the attention of the room when some little tyke is doing their best Godzilla impression and trying to rip up and eat the matting that everyone is sitting on. But we got there. I think my presentation / quick distraction skills got significantly better by the end of the week. Because of the ages of the kids involved, I did the talk more as a structured discussion about what people like drawing, career aspirations and how to improve at illustration (huge shout-out to the little kid who said my book 2019: Nature Month by Month was his favourite book. I had just been passing it around the room and he was currently holding it. He had also just been chewing it but I really appreciated the sentiment). Again, I was impressed at the focus some of these young people displayed – a pleasing amount of them want to go on to be illustrators. However, I don’t want to be the person to tell one young boy that his dream of being a dinosaur tamer may come to naught (although, scientists are talking about bringing back the Mammoth, so who knows…).
We had a Q&A at the end of each session where we covered topics as varied as how one deals with horrible clients, what things are the funnest to draw and why you can’t be a dinosaur when you grow up….my answer of not being able to get costumes big enough is easily disproved by a quick search I now realise, so maybe someone can help me out on that one….
I really enjoyed my little stint in the city – a massive change of pace from freelancing in a sleepy coastal town. Outside of working, it was great to spend a bit of time catching up with friends, seeing family and eating all the food that you just can’t get in Cornwall (here’s looking at you Vietnamese, Japanese, Xinjiang, Mexican & Peruvian…).
So in conclusion, hard work, but very rewarding. Would 100% do it again.