I started a new children’s art class today. Like yesterday’s new class, it’s one I haven’t taught for many months. This time it’s in the Gaelscoil in Oranmore, which is the Irish-language-only school that my kids went to. I had figured on taking about 12 children in total, and then I agreed to take an extra two because they were siblings of children I’d already accepted. So I was a bit surprised – well, terrified – to see what looked like a hundred tiny red-jumpered children ready to go to class. It turned out there were nineteen in total. I thought bad things about mummies who don’t book in advance, but then it turned out that at least one child had simply turned up on a solo run. But the kids are small! I can take ’em! They were very well behaved, so I think it’ll be fine. And I had a secret weapon – the little pictures of kawaii food that I had made in my sketchbook. I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like drawing food with eyes. The boys draw hot dogs, ketchup and burgers. The girls draw cupcakes, ice lollies and milkshakes. They all draw chips and pizza.
I speak a mix of Irish and English to the children, a little bit more as time goes on, but by the end of each class I’m tired and it’s mostly in English. While the children draw and paint, I like to show the children my sketchbooks, because it makes them excited about art. Often I explain the circumstances of a drawing, which usually turns into a story, and there’s nothing like a sea of rapt faces as they listen to something that has them on the edge of their seat.
Amongst all the recent sketches I’d made of pumpkins (or onions, as one little lad suggested) I showed them a sketch I’d made of a frog on a lily pad from the Beatrix Potter book that I’m using to learn Portuguese. I asked the children if they knew who it was. They drew a blank, except for one little boy.
“Jeremy – Jeremy something!” he cried.
“Well done!” I said. “It’s Jeremy Fisher!”
I explained that Jeremy Fisher was a frog, who went out fishing because he wanted to invite a few friends for supper. I told them how things went wrong when he was startled by a stickleback, and toppled off his lily pad into the pond. That an enormous trout had then swallowed Jeremy Fisher, but spat him out because it didn’t like the taste of his raincoat. I told them that he went home without any fish, and served his guests some food he had in his larder, grasshoppers with ladybird sauce.
“Is it true?” asked a little girl.
I showed them the Messerschmidt I’d drawn at the Battle of Britain museum, and told them how the pilot had escaped from the clutches of the Allies over and over again.
“My friend’s grandfather was in World War One,” said a little girl.
“My friend’s great grandfather was in World War Two, said the little girl beside her.
“My great great great great great grandfather was in World War Two,” said a little girl at another table, who had made a card for the same grandfather the year before.
This was all relayed to me while the children were happily drawing their own versions of kawaii creatures: the food from the sketch I showed them, as well as penguins, owls, monkeys and so on. I’m very glad to be back.