No one ever said working in a Pupil Referral Unit was going to be easy. I and the visiting artists have always had the warmest of welcomes from staff and students, though for the first time during this week’s workshop at the Taunton Centre I realised two things; firstly just how challenging it can sometimes be for staff to engage a seemingly uninterested group of teenagers in an activity or learning and secondly, that I have learnt not to underestimate the untapped potential and sometimes hidden desire to learn in any of their students.
The beginning of Rick Crane’s workshop was initially met with a post-Easter break apprehensive start from students. No fault of Rick’s whose enthusiasm in setting up his Mac and laying out his t-shirts for students to see did eventually coax some of them into inspecting his professional, colourful and sharp looking designs. Visiting artists in this project, like Rick, have soon learnt to adapt to not using a traditional, structured lesson plan and Rick was great at responding to what the students did take an interest in. After all, even to the most uninterested student, it is not every day that you get to see t-shirts, notepads and images designed by a working free-lance graphic designer.
“Can I have one of these?” one student asked in response to seeing one of Rick’s self-designed stickers. “Can you put these on a phone case?” Another asked. There is a lot of interest in personalisation that has been present in nearly all of the workshops so far. Soon we were discussing shoes, fashion and brands; unbeknownst to the students they knew more about graphic design than what they perhaps first thought.
Today’s workshop was always going to be less practical in some ways, as Rick explained his own process for creating his designs begins often in drawing, sketching, words and building up his source material from which to generate ideas from. The aim of today’s session was to develop a logo/brand for the Young ProspectUs project and explore the whole process from ideas to finished artwork and how it could then be applied to appropriate merchandise such as t-shirts and stickers.
Students became more animated when asked to share work from their own sketchbooks which led to a brainstorming exercise whereby Rick wrote colour, image and word ideas that students felt represented them or the Young ProspectUs project. “There is a lot of creativity in this room,” Rick shared with the students and I would agree that it was inspiring to see the students take pride in showing us work they had created. Leaves, ink splots, Aztec designs, flowers were symbols pulled from students sketchbooks that Rick explained could be adapted into designs on t-shirts or for the logo. One student picked up on the reoccurring theme of the Aztec design in her sketchbook and a stitch pattern she had used previously in Karina’s workshop.
Words such as adaptable, transition, together, stepping-stone, moving-on, colourful, texture and shape were generated by students from the brainstorm. The motif of using a triangle soon transformed into the idea of a volcano and how that represented some of the anger or frustration students sometimes felt. We talked about dreams and aspirations, what students wanted to do after school and more motifs such as stars, rays of colour or light and diamonds soon appeared. It was encouraging to see one student deciding that they wanted to create their own tie-dye t-shirt in the afternoon session, another was keen to see what their photo would look like on a t-shirt using the Red Bubble site that Rick explained he used to produce and sell his designs. This same student then spent the afternoon drawing logo designs and sketches with Rick.
The resulting outcomes were a series of brainstormed ideas as well as the potential opportunities to develop the design of the logo with students and receive their feedback and design ideas.