Posted by: devonteacherblog | August 14, 2012

Coastal inspiration (part 2)


Quite a few months have passed since my original blog post about using the coast as inspiration for art work.

Well, the Cornish art project with a seven year old in my class was a success. A slow starting success, but a success nonetheless.

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, I had undertaken some research about coastal art, both individually and with the child. She has a real passion for Cornwall in particular so while I roamed the streets of Padstow in search of art galleries and inspiration, she took to the beaches of Cornwall and collected drift wood, shells, stones and pieces of coloured glass with her family. She called these her treasures.

Together we read the advice from Cornish artist, Sue Read ( and considered the approach we would like to take. The child seemed to like the idea that Sue mentioned about being free and keeping going with a piece of art until you are happy with it.

We were lucky enough to receive some copies of sketches from another Cornish artist, Paul Mahoney ( and the whole class really enjoyed looking at these. It inspired us to see how a piece of art is built up as Paul had sent us a collection of his sketches which showed the sequence of sketching and then adding water colours. His sketches showed Mousehole harbourside. I subsequently read the children the story of The Mousehole Cat which the whole class enjoyed.

Art work by Paul Mahoney

I think the child enjoyed sharing her special Cornish art project with the whole class so it was brilliant to see everyone getting involved in the art work and the story to match it. A few children had actually been to Mousehole, as have I, so it was even more magical. I could see the child’s passion for Cornwall growing – as was mine! My family live in Cornwall so I have always felt its draw.

Image from The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber

The child kept a Cornish art sketch book where she collected images of paintings and art work she liked, along with her own photographs and some I had taken for her in Padstow. She also started to mimic the styles of the artists and began adding her own colours by extending some of her photographs.

I then left the project to be as child-led as possible, allowing her to decide what she felt like doing that day. Some days she wanted to try out all sorts of new styles, other days she was happy just doing some simple colouring with a friend using felt tip pens (she is seven!).

The only real problem I found was lack of time. I allowed the child to decide when she wanted to do some art work as I felt it was too restrictive if I gave her an allocated slot each week in which she needed to be ‘free’ and feel ‘inspired’. However, the times when she asked to do some of her art work I was often too busy with the rest of the class to sit 1:1 with her. I did usually allow her time to do some more art work when she asked (without her missing out on too much literacy or numeracy!) but I felt guilty that I should be sat with her guiding her through it, I am after all her teacher. With hindsight I think it actually worked well giving her this time to express herself without me watching over her shoulder. She produced some wonderful sketches and her art work started to take some direction.

After chatting to her I could see that she was very inspired by the art work she had seen but that she wanted to produce a final piece which was more built up, with a 3D aspect. We discussed the idea of using a canvas and incorporating the drift wood and other pieces which she had collected. She was very excited by this and her enthusiasm and passion just took over. She produced her final piece in a matter of days and she was over the moon with what she had produced. With a little help from her friends (who were mighty eager to join in!) she had allowed her talent to flow and produced a piece of true Cornish art.

Her final piece

She moves on to Year Three in school next month and I hope she continues to build on her passion and knowledge of art. We both learnt a lot during this project, about art, about freedom, about time, about Cornwall. I am sure she will continue to collect beautiful Cornish treasures and I wish her the best.

Sue Read has also written about our Cornish art project.



  1. Great piece. How lucky those children at your school are to have a teacher with such a relaxed approach which allows them to express themselves so freely.

  2. Claire – appreciate being asked to help with my Art work. Its a great Blog – I do get inspired by the cornish coastline , it is so varied and stunning

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