Published 03.10.2023
by Kids’ Own

St Cecila’s Teacher Triona O’Dowd Hill Visits Artist Andy Parson’s Studio

As part of our artist-in-residence project with Andy Parsons and St Cecilia’s School in Sligo, teacher Triona O’Dowd Hill paid a visit to Andy’s Studio. The aim was to explore new and engaging art practices that could be introduced to the children at St Cecilia’s. Below we hear from Triona and Andy on how the visit developed.

Triona O’Dowd Hill

As a teacher, I love to find new ideas to try in the classroom. I myself love creating but with limited self practice in using paints this was a wonderful opportunity to experience a variety of materials. Andy and I had decided we would look at how to maybe introduce larger scale pieces in the classroom. The big blank sheet can certainly be daunting, but the introduction of the line making tools certainly took off the ‘where do I start’ worry. I loved these mark making tools (paintbrush taped to a long stick and charcoal on another), especially for my students that may not have the advanced fine motor skills required for accurate drawing. We worked together on each project and that in itself gave me an understanding of how students can feel when working on collaborative pieces. I went between “Ah, don’t touch mine, to, Oh ya that’s a cool way to do it!”

Andy had sourced a wide and wacky variety of painting tools from mops to turkey basters!! We tried them all, and since then I’ve been ducking in and out of charity and pound shops picking up new painting tools for the classroom. Often in class the temptation is to get all the colours of the rainbow into the paint tray. It certainly was an eye-opener to see how effective a smaller colour palette can be and a great way to focus on shape, texture and patterns.

As well as painting tools Andy had sourced a great collection of materials to work on across all budgets, from a roll of wallpaper lining paper to handmade paper to a very luxurious Gesso panel. It was really interesting to see how paint and ink reacted on the various textures and was my first time to paint on linen and stretch canvas. We also chatted about types of paint. Of course poster paint being the school standard, was great to hear how even that can be used to create different effects.

The overriding feeling I came away with from my session with Andy was that there really is no right or wrong, there doesn’t need to be a ‘finished product’, the real joy comes from experimenting and experiencing. I hope I can pass this feeling onto my students long after our sessions with Andy finish.

Andy Parsons

In the workshops at St Cecilia’s we have been exploring abstract forms and working with a wide range of 2d and 3d processes. In the spring students at St Cecilia’s created large scale sculptures using clay and plaster bandage which integrated sculptural concerns like form, balance, symmetry/asymmetry with colour and surface texture.

Triona’s visit to the studio was a great opportunity to explore more of these ideas, particularly the use of abstraction in painting and drawing.  I cleared the studio – quite an undertaking as I am very messy – and we worked on the floor on a wide variety of different supports; gesso panels, canvas, linen, handmade paper, and with a variety of painting tools, exploring different ways of making marks with sponges, rollers, pipettes and brushes.

All the materials I gathered together to experiment with were chosen for their interesting material qualities; colour weight, texture, absorbency. When the studio floor was completely covered in paintings we were able to see a whole raft of possibilities for activities in the school. Ideas about materials and processes are still running through my mind in response to the works we created.

As a figurative painter it has been fascinating for me to work in a more abstract way and has led me to create a number of paintings and sculptures that are much more abstract.

Read more about our artist in residence project at St Cecila’s here 

This project is kindly funded by The Ireland Funds, Heart of the Community Fund 2023