This week we hear from Head of Music at St. Bede's Catholic Middle School, Rowena Eastwood, about how this Trinity Champion Centre gave students the opportunity to work with a professional MARVEL artist.
When we first started our journey to become a Platinum Artsmark school, we realised how Arts Award went hand-in-hand with our application. With this in mind, myself and the Head of Art each became qualified to deliver Discover, Explore, Bronze and Silver levels, embedding them into the curriculum and schemes of work we already had in place. As an Arts Award and Trinity Champion Centre we’ve successfully supported over 1000 students to achieve a range of Arts Award qualifications over the last few years. And this year we are particularly excited about the opportunity to have hosted a real-life MARVEL artist, exposing students to his unique techniques and work.
The Marvel-lous workshop
For this project, we decided to focus on Bronze and Silver Arts Awards for our Year 8 students (the oldest in our school). Silver students were taught alongside Bronze in lesson time but also had specialised extra-curricular clubs at lunchtimes and an evening after school. For this fantastic project we managed to secure an amazing opportunity for the students to work with Lee Bradley, a UK based freelance illustrator who works within the comics industry. Lee works on all aspects of comic book illustration in various roles from penciler, inker, to colourist. He has worked on a variety of comic book properties including; Spider-man, Transformers, Transformers Animated and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He has worked as an illustrator on a variety of different MARVEL products from Sketch Card series such as Retro MARVEL, MARVELS Greatest Battles, Women of MARVEL, AVENGERS Age of Ultron & the Marvel Masterwork's Card Series.
The opportunity came through the Forge Mill Needle Museum as we had strong links with the gallery and exhibitions, having completed some workshops there. Lee came in to the school and delivered a wonderful workshop with the students. He spoke about the people he had worked with and on his journey to working for Marvel. Students were enthralled with his story, particularly when they got the opportunity to draw using his techniques. Lee showed them all how to draw Thundercats faces and they individually drew their own, guided by his expertise. It was a very rewarding workshop and one that we know the students thoroughly enjoyed, giving them artistic skills which they have since transferred to other projects.
Working with a professional artist had a very positive impact on the pupils and their aspiring career choices. It brought art to life for them and gave them skills and experience which could not have been gained elsewhere. A number of our pupils enjoyed the session so much they started their own comic drawing club and created their own comic, sharing it with other students. The pupils gained a gateway into art which they hadn’t felt accessible to earlier on in the year. The workshop successfully grabbed the imagination of students and they ran with it. In the past, we’ve struggled to keep boys attainment level as high as girls but comic art definitely boosted these results. We have yet to see if any of them follow in Lee Bradley’s footsteps, but we’re very hopeful that this experience has guided them in the right direction.
Arts Award’s impact on our school has been great. As the Head of Music at St. Bede’s, I have become a Senior Leader in Education in the Arts through South Bromsgrove Teaching School, enabling me to offer support and guidance to other schools in the area. Our arts provision is well-respected and appreciated in the community and we work with other schools to enable their students to achieve Arts Awards as well. My advice is to be brave and leap in! The awards are achievable during lesson time with some careful planning, allowing students to leave school with a nationally recognised qualification! Our students would say it is definitely worth doing and they have really enjoyed it.