Natural History Illustrator Out and About: Visit to Hay Primary School May 9th 2014

Story posted: Friday, 9. May 2014 by Lizzie Harper

A couple of weeks ago, Hay primary school (our local school) had a “World at Work” week which encouraged school parents to come along and explain to the children what their jobs entailed.

I went along to talk about my career as a Scientific illustrator.

I began by explaining what I did, and why all sorts skills other than simply drawing were vital; numeracy (scaling drawings up and sorting out invoices), literacy (sending clear emails and contracts to clients), and not getting to knocked back when things don’t work out perfectly...

After showing my portfolio and explaining the process involved in getting from a commission to a final piece (roughs, feedback); I encouraged the children in year 1 and year 2 to do some drawing.

Hay on Wye Primary school children's drawings

The first specimens I got them to draw; and to guess at, were a collection of skulls I’ve amassed over the years.  The only error year 2 made in their identification was between a sparrow and a crow skull; I was impressed.

They were asked to draw the skulls in atonal pencil and some of the results were wonderful.  I think the fact that one’s not burdened by preconceptions of what a skull “should” look like helped their work.

Hay on Wye Primary school children's drawings

I also brought in some entomological specimens and asked them to have a go at drawing these; bearing in mind that most insects are symmetrical, and urging them to count legs and add detail to elytra, antennae etc.  Again, the results are great.

Hay on Wye Primary school children's drawings

Year 1 are younger, so there was more focus on naming the “minibugs”, and I continued in my one-woman campaign to stop kids from being hysterical about bees and wasps (“they only tend to sting you if they feel in danger…”)

Hay on Wye Primary school

After, for their drawing activity, they drew insect specimens and from photos.  Some of the lads who aren’t usually that engaged in drawing were really keen, and there are some lovely pictures.  The teacher encouraged the children to use a wide range of mediums, so they had lots more choice than the older ones.

Hay on Wye Primary school children's drawings

I think the “World to work” week is an excellent chance for us adults to explain a little of what we do to young kids; hopefully to engage them in the jobs we’re passionate about, and to demonstrate the links between what they learn now and how they may earn in the future.

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