Robert Stewart (1924 – 1995) was head of Textiles and Design at Glasgow School of Art. He lived in Cowal and his work is exhibited in public spaces locally and in collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, as a prominent designer for Liberty in the 1950’s. Stewart’s work displayed a strong design identity often featuring figurative, folkloric motifs, deftly executed in an ebullient style. In 1975 Stewart gifted a fantastic ceramic mural to Kilmodan School in gratitude for the education of his children. This amazing artwork of 16 elaborately decorated ceramic panels depicts a majestic bird soaring above a rugged landscape of standing stones and wild grasses, lit by a golden moon.
The aim of the What If project is to encourage the children to produce creative work using a range of new materials and techniques, to develop visual literacy skills, to talk confidently about artists work and to have confidence in their own opinions and work. Working with Arts & Heritage Educator Rosalyn McKenna and artist Ann E Ferguson over a period of 7 weeks children from Kilmodan have used Stewart’s mural as inspiration for their own work. All children were given a sketchbook with the brief to keep a visual diary for the duration of the project collecting and recording anything which inspired them in nature. Each week the children were set new challenges designed to broaden their experiences of art and design and to encourage them to look and be confident in their mark-making. They have experimented with scale moving from large rolls of paper covering the floor in the school hall to small strips of paper. They have worked with charcoal, pencil, graphite sticks, oil and dry pastels, pen, collage, heat-press printmaking, quick print foam and sun-print photographic paper. In the fourth week the children visited an exhibition of Robert Stewart’s work in the Dunoon Burgh Hall and became absorbed in sketching aspects of Stewarts work which were new to them. The children were able to talk confidently about elements of the exhibition which they had enjoyed and learnt from.
As the project draws to an end the children are starting to make decisions about how they would like to display their work to the community. With such a large body of work produced the new challenge is how to transform Kilmodan School into an exhibition space and how to share their new creative learning experiences with their local community.