Another way that calligraphy can be used to stimulate creativity, and help children develop a love of words, literature and writing, is to develop a background and then hunt for an appropriate poem or text to write over the top - which necessitates reading a number of alternatives before a choice is made. Or they can write a poem or suitable prose themselves.
This artwork was produced by first writing and overlapping the word ‘Cloud’ many times, using a strip of balsa wood with a straight-cut end as a pen. To make the lighter tones, it was dipped in water before soaking up the ink. The writing was then smudged with a moistened sponge and some Burnt Sienna watercolour painted at the bottom of the wetted paper to suggest the red-brown soil of the Australian outback. Table salt was sprinkled over all the damp area and the paper left to dry - then the salt was removed. Salting creates light spots with unpredictable but interesting ragged edges. To reduce the dominance of the background, I then used a garden hose to wash off some of the ink and paint. Before the paper dried, ‘Rain’ was written on the left and right sides with a fountain-pen dipped in water to make the ink greyer. Letting the ink run and go 'hairy' seemed appropriate. More words were added when paper was completely dry, and their colour depth controlled by instantly blotting some with a paper tissue.
A few more ‘Rain’s then filled a blank space or two. The original is 30cm (1ft) wide.
I’m not sure that the colour or spacing of the letters in the added verse from the poem ‘This Land’, by Ian Mudie, is as effective as it should be. Do you think it’s too dominant? Should the colour have been more transparent, the letter strokes thinner and with more variety in colour and density. Should the letters have been more mixed in size or a different style, or all capitals as in the rest of the piece, or with closer and more consistent spacing or on less straight lines? I’m looking forward to trying again and I'll be pleased to incorporate any suggestions you’d like to offer.
For schools, the nature of the activity is more important that the quality of the script. Students could use pencils for the background and felt pens or ball-points for the words that need to stand out, and write them in their everyday handwriting.
Rather than finding a text to write over a background, facilitating a personal creative interpretation of a poem or text that a child discovers and likes can also encourage them to read and search for more, if they enjoy the activity. There are plenty of other ways of presenting words to refelct their meaning, sound and rhythms.
If you are a teacher, I'll be delighted to work with children in your school to create similar artworks, if you'd like to invite me to visit - please check out my website. If you try something similar yourself, please let me know how it goes and show me the result.
The verse from Ian Mudie's poem was chosen after first visualising the background – but it was coincidental that our location for the workshop was ‘Woodlands’ at Marburg, a beautiful old Queensland mansion with a tin roof - and as you can see, it was a glorious sunny and warm autumn day, and I didn't wish had been raining.