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"Gort na Cloiche" hardback art book by Eithne Ring.

Our COVID Virtual Art Workshop.

When Plan B is Better than Plan A:

"Gort na Cloiche" The Artwork.

Wall panel of large bas-relief oak tree with colourful birds nests, birds in flight and real fossils in root system.

Earlier this year myself and Liam Lavery completed a project in Stonepark National School. We made a 6m x 6m Oak tree entitled “Gort na Cloiche” using a plaster resin material known as Jesmonite. The tree represented the growth of the school from its two teacher beginnings to its present fifteen teachers. We produced various birds’ nests and placed them among the 15 branches with its 125 acorns. Also there are a number of birds in flight around the tree. In addition, we placed real fossils within the trees root system. This included a lump of coprolite (dinosaur poo!).

The making of a book. Documenting "Gort na Cloiche".​

Part of this project included engagement with some of the students in a series of workshops that we would run. The pupils would be shown how to make simple relief panels and make copies of these panels using moulds. Unfortunately due to the COVID restrictions we were unable to work in the school. Instead it was decided that we would make a book documenting how the Stonepark National School artwork was made.

In the past, we have made similar but smaller and less elaborate books for other art commissions in schools. We used techniques such as enamelled copper, cast aluminium and bronze in these projects. This mix of materials  gave a more interesting content in the books. In contrast, the process lacked variety in the “Gort na Cloiche” wall panel, as we only used one material. It soon became apparent that my book was going to be extremely boring, uninspiring and unimaginative if I followed the same template. Therefore, I decided to change tack and found a new approach. 

Documenting a project and make it interesting for a younger audience.

Teacher looking surprised to see artwork of an elephant on the wall. Not what she was expecting.

To make it more child friendly I decided to add illustrations. This was my first time drawing with a Wacom tablet and pen. As an artist intuitively, I find it much easier and faster to work with a pencil and paper. However, to my suprise, I found a certain freedom in using the tablet. For instance, colours could be added in layers and I could easily make changes. I drew a few step-by-step instructional pages that the children and their teacher could follow. Consequently, they could then run their own little workshops.

I also documented the entire process involved in the Percent for Art scheme from the first site meeting, to working on our initial ideas up to the installation. We had to retake some of the photos including putting our poor dog Juno into one of the moulds. This was to make the photo more visually interesting for children and jolt them back into concentration ! In the birds’ nests section of the book I explored the stories, mythologies and interesting facts behind each individual bird.I will post in a future blog.

Cute dog using silicone mould as a bed.
Looking down on Artbook "Gort na Cloiche" which is open on page with Elephant Illustration.

Print-on -demand Books.

The book, “Gort na Cloiche”, is published using a print-on-demand service known a “Blurb”. These books are expensive but we feel they are comparable with any other high quality hardback artbook. They are also available on the Blurb website so that the schools can buy more copies if they wish. The option is there also for the school to access the online version. We used our portfolio book “Commissions -Eithne Ring and Liam Lavery” on the Blurb website as a means of showing our work online for a few years before we got our website up and running !

This red rock is a trace fossil called coprolite or dinosaur poo.
Cartoon Illustration of a pterodactyl telling a T-rex that it should hide it's poo..
Cartoon Illustration of fossils as they would have looked when they were alive in prehistoric times.

The Power of Poo !

The result is a resource in the school library that generations of both pupils and teachers can access. Through exploring the book they can connect with the “Gort na Cloiche” artwork in their school. It will give a better understanding of the work process involved and the ideas and themes in the piece.

We received a wonderful hand-written letter from one of the teachers about the artwork and the book. It included the children’s reaction to the finished artwork. Of all the various highly detailed elements on the oak tree the absolute favourite was… the lump of dinosaur poo !

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