Some of the students at our school are particularly keen on the big library displays I put up each term. One afternoon a kid pulled me aside in a corridor to give me his big idea for the next picture. His verbal description being highly detailed (he’d clearly thought about it for some time), I asked him to draw a sketch so that I knew exactly what he meant.
The very next day he delivered a beautiful drawing to my office – quite detailed and carefully drafted – and I said it would be my pleasure to take it on board as the next display. At that point I had no idea how difficult it would be to turn someone else’s pride-and-joy into a huge painting. It was extremely challenging to keep as closely as possible to his original idea, whilst at the same time adding the extra detail and adaptations I needed to make it work at a large scale. Anyway, this lovely robot was the result, all thanks to his inspired idea!
As the weeks of the term went by, I added a robot parrot, a robot dog, some robot snacks, a wind-up mouse and a robot instruction book. The kids each coloured or created a little robot minion of their own.
After an author visit at our school, I decided to take down our welcome poster and put up a poster highlighting our new books display. It took me a while to think of an appropriate picture to use, but I eventually thought that a stork delivering new “baby” books would be fun.
This poster looked great when I drew it as a small A4 line drawing, but I must admit I wasn’t very happy with the end product. For starters it looks more like a pelican than a stork. And the eyes turned out quite strange, even after many attempts. Oh well, luckily the kids aren’t as picky as I am. And it’s still nice to have something fresh and new on the libary wall, even if it ain’t perfect.
Many of the dragon images I’ve seen are quite aggressive-looking, so when I drew this one I softened its appearance quite a bit. After all, I didn’t want our kindergarten kids to be afraid to visit the library.
There was some dispute in my household about my choosing to paint the dragon blue, but I stuck to my guns and I think he turned out quite nicely in the end. To link the theme to the library, I placed a pile of books under his claw rather than the usual pile of treasure.
To involve every student, I drew a couple of flying books and asked each kid to write either their favourite title and author on the cover or the imaginary title of a book they might like to write themselves one day. They had great fun decorating their books, and some went to a great deal of trouble to include publishers’ logos, back-cover blurbs and even barcodes on their covers. I also asked the 6th class kids to make small flames out of cellophane, which I then individually blu-tacked to the wall.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I like to add something to the display every week so that it continues to grab the kids’ attention, so for the first week I painted a large background scene. The second week I added a small fairytale castle to the scene, and next week I’ll add a knight on horseback. After that, who knows? Perhaps a small wood and a wolf?
From experience, I knew that the kindy kids – who were yet developing their skill with scissors – would have trouble cutting out their artworks, so I drew the books and wings as simply as possible. Unfortunately this means that most of the front and back covers are obscured. Mmmm… could have done with more thought.
Recycled rubbish becomes a decorative mobile
All the kids in the school happily donated their discarded plastic lids so I could make this “curtain” in the library. I first washed all the lids, then drilled two holes in each one. They’re held together with fishing line, with a shirt button at the bottom to provide a sound base. Each one is tied to a small hook screwed into the woodwork.
The students were astounded and delighted to see their rubbish become something beautiful, and it’s now an interesting talking-point for visitors to our library.
Close-up of lid mobile
Now here’s a school decoration that’s gorgeous, long-lasting, practical and has sentimental value into the bargain. I spotted these mosaics above each of the banks of bubblers (water fountains) at a local primary school. Every tile is unique and signed by the pupil who made it, and they’ve been skilfully put together into a lovely free-flowing design.
These bright and colourful decorations are perfect for viewing up close as the kids take a drink, and I can imagine they will be happily viewed by ex-students when they re-visit the school in years to come.
By featuring a particular genre of book in a display, and making available a selection of those books, I’ve found that we can generate quite a bit of enthusiasm amongst the kids in their borrowing habits.
One day the librarian and I decided to make a display of sporting books. I painted these cute little characters individually, then ranged them around a picture of a book with a sporting quote printed inside. I stuck some sponge behind the book graphic which gave a nice 3-D effect.
The kids loved the cute characters and the sporting books flew off the shelves for several weeks — particularly the non-fiction titles, which was a nice change. We raffled off the poster afterwards, and it was quite a popular competition.
After the old junk-food advertisements were (thankfully!) taken down from above the school canteen, it was looking a little drab, so a friend and I painted this sign one weekend. I drew the lettering freehand on a large piece of paper, then cut out the letters to make a stencil. Unfortunately, it happened to be very windy on the day I tried to put it up on the wall, so my struggles with the enormous cut-out would have been hilarious if there had been any onlookers (though the swearing wasn’t pretty). Somehow I managed to stick it up long enough to draw the outlines on the wall… eventually.
I really like the fruit and vegetables we painted within the lettering, but in retrospect I think the bees buzzing around may be a little too suggestive of flies (or is that just me?). I also think the lettering is a trifle too large, and I regret not having painted the background. Overall though, it’s a big improvement, and the colours fit in nicely with the existing rainbow painting and the murals we painted on the nearby columns.
I spotted this stunning mural on a wall at a local high school. Given that the architecture of this building is fairly basic, I can speculate that this mural has vastly improved its appearance.
The dramatic black borders and flowing river design give a coherent background which looks great at a distance, while the beautifully detailed designs of the animals sustain interest for closer viewing. I presume the students at the school were involved in the production of this mural, at the very least for the hand prints, but probably for a whole lot more than that.
Elephant display made from pages of a dictionary
I thought a full-size elephant display would have some impact with the kids, but I couldn’t decide how to relate it to books. Until, one day when I was working in the library and disposing of some old student dictionaries, I realised that the grey print of the dictionary pages would suit an elephant’s hide. I drew the outline of an elephant onto large paper, then pasted pages of the dictionary over the whole thing. By orientating the pages in different directions, I found that the stripes of the text gave some definition to different parts of the animal, then I simply painted in some shading to give some roundness to the end product.
To involve every kid in the school, I asked them to choose to decorate either a flower or a water drip, which I then individually blue-tacked to the wall. Their efforts gave the finished display both colour and movement, and they were delighted with the results.
To maintain interest in this display over the course of the term, each week I added a few little mice to the picture. Each mouse was reading, holding or playing with a book. Each class enjoyed trying to spot the tiny mice hidden on the display.
I suspect when we take this display down we’ll have lots of entries into the draw to win the elephant – most of the kids are very keen to put this one up on their bedroom wall!
For some time, I had been quite keen on the idea of a tree in the library. It was only after I started to draw it that I realised how big an undertaking it was. Even without leaves it took up an entire wall of my house!
On the bright side, it didn’t actually matter if my drawing wasn’t accurate (unlike the time I chose to paint a representational picture of the Earth). On this occasion it didn’t matter too much how I drew or painted the branches – if they weren’t quite correct it just added to the charm. Being partial to the graphics used in the computer game “Plants & Zombies”, I shamelessly copied their grassy knoll as a base for the tree, and stuck the whole thing up in the library with Blu-Tak.
Every child in the school was given a leaf on which to write their favourite reading topic and decorate to their heart’s content, and it was exciting for them to see the tree “grow” as their efforts were added. Each week (along with their leaves) I added an extra part of the picture: a kookaburra, a koala, a possum, a treehouse, a tyre swing, a goanna, a worm and a beetle. By adding something week after week, I’ve found that these displays avoid becoming background wallpaper. When each class arrives in the library for their weekly lesson, the first thing they do is rush to the display to find the new addition.