Guardians of the Art Galaxy 2.0

It was David Thoreau who once said “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” and this holds particularly true for the study of Visual Art and even more importantly for teachers when endeavouring to comprehend the students with whom they interact. 

In my special teacher project over the past two years I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with a range of gifted art students. Often these students may struggle in many of their other classes but they have been able to excel in drawing, painting, mixed media and digital processes because success breeds success. It is really gratifying to see their self-esteem rise as they realise that they are actually adept at something which is highly valued and in turn their confidence and self-motivation matches this realisation.

For this year’s project I wanted to build on the success of last year when I worked with students such as Shenghan (Simon) Lin who designed and created the phenomenal wizard’s head for our world-class performances of “Wicked”. After such a triumph new goals were needed and Shenghan has been working tirelessly for months now to learn new digital skills and researching 1950s Broadway images to allow him to create a digital projection backdrop for next year’s musical Guys and Dolls. This real life challenge carries with it all the gravitas of an architectural, multimedia and virtual engineering project and he is revelling in the design, although his vision often exceeds the capabilities of his hard drive and the range of the digital platform on which he is creating. It’s been a new frontier for him as he traditionally shuns computer tools to create art and his pencil drawings and paintings are da Vinci-esque in his ever-expanding sketchbook. 

The idea of a real-life brief fuelled another aspect for this year’s guardians (see title above) when Willem (Theiric) Piers ten Ham, Natalia Pattison and Edward “Call me Ted” Hardy were given the challenge of designing medieval banners for the upcoming junior school musical “Once Upon a Mattress”. 

Going well beyond the weekly painting and glueing of the Creative Crew Willem had to devise a questionnaire for the Senior Leadership Team to complete so that he and Lixuan (Chloe) Wang could create custom banners based on their favourite colours, patterns and “spirit” animal. If anyone is ever wondering about how versatile Powerpoint is for creative endeavours, Willem deftly wrangles it to create outcomes of which an Adobe Photoshop expert would be proud. Lixuan has a designer’s aesthetic eye and relishes a challenging task where she can demonstrate her many artistic talents.

Meanwhile Natalia and Edward, sorry Ted, were looking at larger heraldic banners and trying to give a guernsey to the lesser known animal champions. Not for them, lions, stallions and dragons but penguins, flamingos and ibis all will be seen gracing the walls of the castle banquet hall in technicolour glory. All of the students in the Guardians project possess a wry sense of humour and a quirky view of the world around them and are able to harness their higher-order art skills to create charmingly ironic works. When these tasks result in works that enhance theatre productions and other real-world applications it’s wonderful to see the students be appreciated by so many and to be “seen”.

Vocational pathways have been revealed to these keen designers and their resumes are already being populated with higher-order exemplars of their skills. As long as we have an art galaxy and there are guardians with such wonderful weapons then Planet Art is in safe hands.

Barry Voevodin
Visual Art Teacher