“Do you have hands? Excellent. That’s a good start. Can you hold a pencil? Great. If you have a sketchbook, open it and start by making a line, a mark, wherever. Doodle. Take a line for a walk, as Paul Klee said. Lose your inhibitions about drawing and just do it.”
So said Chris Riddell who has become the 9th Children’s Laureate – author and illustrator of a range of children’s literature.
He also said that during his tenure, he doesn’t want to go about “wagging his finger” – telling people what they should and should not do. But even without an intention to criticise or influence, he already has.
“I want to show how much fun you can have drawing . . . Parents and children can draw together as a wonderful shared activity.”
We all lead busy lives but something as simple as sharing a creative task together can bring a wealth of benefits. Consider the conversations as you “take a line for a walk” with a young child. Along with the language development there will be a boost for empathy, togetherness, creativity – limitless possibilities of where such an activity can take you and your child.
There’s also an array of apps available for drawing on tablets and smart phones. David Hockney, our esteemed British artist, uses such programs regularly and has exhibited his work at the Royal Academy of Arts.
It would be a fine thing if, in celebration of Riddell’s appointment, every child in every nursery, primary, special and secondary school in the country had taken a line “for a walk” today.
Whilst “taking a line for a walk” isn’t in the National Curriculum, learning to draw is.
Drawing is a life skill and it’s every teacher’s professional duty to encourage, guide and support children as they develop their confidence and their ability to draw.
The appointment of Chris Riddell as Children’s Laureate should highlight the importance of training all teachers to be proficient at teaching children how to draw, and may encourage them to have a go themselves.
The Campaign for Drawing continues and an exploration of this website is a worthy way to spend some time).
Just imagine a display of such drawings from across the country. Would any line be identical?
“I want to bring drawing back to the basics, make it about the pleasure that it can afford and remove the notion that it’s some kind of precious or difficult activity. It’s another way of telling a story . . .
There comes a point where children decide that they can’t draw. I want to say, ‘don’t stop drawing – carry on, and do a sketch a day.’ . . . . . . I think stories can grow out of the visual. It can be an engine for literacy.”
Far too many children don’t have an opportunity to draw during their six hours in school.
Mick Waters, one-time director of curriculum at QCA, often talks of the “Velcro effect” of labelling children. How many people have been told they can’t sing or dance or draw at some point during their school career – only to take that label into adulthood and never attempt such creative activities again? If Chris Riddell’s plea for everyone to draw daily is realised, and all those who are drawing are doing it for pleasure rather than trying to be the next Picasso, all manner of creative and imaginative outcomes can emerge, as well as the positive benefits of ten minutes or more away from relentless intellectual and/or academic pursuits – with brains switched off from any thoughts other than taking that line on a journey.
“I want to put the joy of creativity, of drawing every day, of having a go and being surprised at what one can achieve with just a pencil and an idea, at the heart of my term as laureate. I want to make sure people have fun whilst addressing fundamental issues I care about passionately.”
Having fun should be an integral part of learning. Any work is unsustainable if we endure rather than enjoy for the majority of the time.
Julia Eccleshare, the Guardian’s children’s book editor and member of the Children’s Laureate selection panel, said of Chris Riddell,
“But beyond his printed work, there is Chris in action; out there, meeting children and adult readers, and tirelessly conveying his own seemingly unquenchable passion for illustration and his desire to encourage others to believe enough in their own talent to be creative, too.”
What a fortunate man Chris Riddell is – to have chosen a career where his “seemingly unquenchable passion for illustration” can be engaged.
The role of the Children’s Laureate is important and it’s very positive to see the media coverage and the activity in the “Twittersphere” following Riddell’s appointment.
Every previous holder of this position has passionately “campaigned” for change in one form or another – more poetry writing, better children’s libraries (or preventing the closures of these vital community resources), reading for the love of reading . . . drawing for the love of drawing.
To assist them in their work they’re granted a £15,000 bursary for two years.
Money isn’t everything but this amount appears negligible compared with the enormity of the work needing to be done.
We’ve come a long way with children’s literature but there’s still so much to be done. When an eight or an eighteen year old picks up a great piece of literature to read for pleasure rather than for study, as an alternative to playing a game on their X-Box or PlayStation, then we may be starting to win the battle.
We hope that Chris Riddell will continue to subliminally campaign – without wagging fingers – to bring a wealth of literature and a wealth of artwork into the lives of our children and young people.
We wish him every success in his term as Children’s Laureate.