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An Dealbh Mòr - the Big Picture

An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook An Dealbh Mòr is a Gaelic/English children's visual arts and performance project celebrating Skye with a large scale composition developed from drawing in the surrounding landscape.

Project Background
Student Feedback

An Dealbh Mòr - Project Background

The project is the first major undertaking of Lasair Ealain (Gaelic for 'Blaze of Art') - a committee of school children from Sleat Primary School.  Their long term aim is to set up and manage innovative, ambitious and exciting art projects in collaboration with professional artists of differeing disciplines. 

In the organisation and running of An Dealbh Mòr, they worked in collaboration with four artists to celebrate the landscape of South Skye. Between April and October 2005, the students went out every week around South Skye with artists Julie Brook, Kath MacLeod and Sarah Jane MacIntyre to draw the landscape from observation.
An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook

After that the children made large charcoal drawings and also worked in water colour. A very successful interim exhibition of these drawings and paintings was held at An Tuireann, Isle of Skye.  Lasair Ealain then organised and ran a workshop to teach the public what they learned, which included taking them out for a day's drawing.  This event was so popular that they have been asked to do it again. The students then began working on an enormous painting - the peak of this part of the art project - that was placed on the floor of the cafeteria area of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic College in Skye. 

An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook Working in collaboration with movement director Clare Pencak, composer Piers Hellawell and the visual artists, the students performed on the painting with the audience looking from the balconies above.  The performance explored the geological evolution of Skye, and included re-enacting the volcanic explosions that formed Cullin!

Lasair Ealain are planning to tour the exhibition and a documentary of the project and performance itself later in 2006 -2007 to celebrate the Highland Year of Culture.  Proposed venues: Portree, Isle of Skye, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.

Lasair Ealain - Student feedback

Below is Lasair Ealain’s Initial Report on An Dealbh Mòr, addressing the questions 'What we liked about the project? And why?' An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Steven Mackenzie

Raonaid: 'We weren’t bossed around much when we were painting so we got freedom to do our paintings in our own way; we were encouraged to change things or improve on something but nothing was ever actually wrong'.

An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook Benny: 'I liked playing the music. I wasn’t playing the saxophone much before, this has inspired me to play more and Piers let us do lots of things we hadn’t done before, making up sounds and rhythms. We were able to experiment more with new sounds - Piers gave lots of helpful advice.'

Linda: 'I liked the art trips. I liked choosing our own view and not being made to draw something I didn’t want to. It meant you could play to your strengths. You do your best when you are interested in what you are drawing. We had more choice and therefore more responsibility for ourselves. It is good to be different from the others.'

Neil: 'I liked teaching the adults and leading the workshop at An Tuireann. It felt good to be in charge. You could help the people but you weren’t actually doing the painting yourself so you could see the drawing from the outside and suggest helpful options for them to choose from. It made us remember our paintings and want to do another. We are also learning when we teach.' An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Steven Mackenzie

Christie: 'I liked the music because it was different from our usual tunes. We were learning new ways to make sounds.'

An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook Kylie: 'I liked the art trips. I liked going out to see all the different places and views. It was different drawing them than just looking at them.'

Elspeth: 'I liked the freedom of sitting down to do my own painting. We were able to draw what we saw combined with our own imagination.'
An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook

An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Steven Mackenzie Mairi: 'I liked drawing what I wanted to draw. Sometimes I challenge myself and experiment with shape and colour and try different things. We were encouraged to do this in our own way. It was good to use high quality paint and materials (brushes, paper etc).

The quality of paint is very bad in schools as the council are also worried that the younger ones might eat it but we don’t do that when we are older. It was good not to be treated like little children but be allowed to fulfil our full potential with such good colours.  And the younger ones also enjoyed this without mucking about. The paintings were all different. They were all about each person  and expressed our own feelings in the painting. This allows the spectator to see their own feelings in the pictures depending on their mood. When we were drawing it enabled us to look at the views more carefully and show what we were feeling that day. When I was painting a hill I saw brown but I also saw lots of other colours. When the sun was out you can see the rain glistening and put that into your painting which is really beautiful. I liked being able to express my mood that day through the painting or drawing I was making.'

Romy: 'I liked being able to work with a professional dancer. It is not everyday you get a chance to do this and we learnt how to dance properly and learn new methods. We could make up our own dances and know what they meant. We were also able to dance  with a partner and make up duets.' An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook

Lydia: 'I liked painting what I wanted to. After the performance my little brother jumped up and down on his bed and shouted hooray that there would be more painting trips outside.'

An Dealbh Mor; Photo: Julie Brook Isobel: 'I liked painting the big painting. It was good to use big brushes and work on the large area. We liked walking on the painting as we worked on it. We couldn’t quite see what we were doing when we were close up because things were so big. It was good to go up a ladder and see from afar what we had just been painting.

It gave us a feeling of what it was going to look like. We liked dancing on the painting and doing all the different things. We liked the good quality acrylic paint.'

Supported by the Children and Young People Lottery scheme through the Scottish Arts Council


* Sabhal Mor Ostaig
* An Tuireann
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