I’ve just finished a project for Twickenham Museum – a large canvas backdrop for their forthcoming exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. I worked with a lovely group of Year 9 students from St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, also in Twickenham, over two days.
Day 1 began with a visit to the museum, after which we looked at the paintings of WW1 artist Paul Nash. Although Nash didn’t reach The Front until 1917, I felt his striking and intense battle-scarred landscapes would be a good starting point for the students. We then made collagraph plates by sticking string, rice and corrugated scraps onto cardboard – this was to represent barbed wire, shell explosions, and torn duckboards. We then used mixed media to create a reduced scale collage to plan the composition for the final backdrop.
Day 2 saw the students cutting blasted trees from black felt (sourced from the wonderful Work and Play scrapstore) and then getting stuck into some embroidery. I must admit I had wondered if this would be the least-favourite element for a group of teenagers, but in fact they couldn’t put those needles down, and the detail of the stitching on the trees is one of the best things about the finished work. We also printed the collagraph plates onto fabric – a mixture of linen, cotton and various satin samples in a muted colour palette. Keeping to the paper plan as much as possible, I then finished the piece by assembling on canvas with a mix of PVA glue and Bondaweb.
Many thanks to Twickenham Museum for inviting me to take part in the project, to the Richmond Arts Team at Orleans House, and most of all to the staff and students at St Richard Reynolds Catholic College for all their enthusiasm, ideas and careful stitching.