A group of GCSE Art students, who have been working alongside local visual artist Becci Kenning to design a cow for the world’s biggest public arts event, were on hand as the life-size exhibit was officially unveiled this week at the Artists’ Village.
Taking inspiration from the rich history and exhibits of Watts Gallery in Compton, Becci worked collaboratively with the 15 Year 10 Kings College pupils and their art teacher Lucy Davis to create a design reflecting the work of the eminent Victorian artist G F Watts and his wife, designer Mary Watts.
During two workshops and a dedicated tour of the gallery Becci listened to the students’ thoughts on the numerous paintings and sculptures to get a real appreciation of the specific textures, colours and different styles that interested them.
“It’s been a fantastic experience,” said Becci, who specialises in working collaboratively within communities, early year’s settings and schools to create ambitious and inspiring art.
“I’ve built a great relationship with the students – it’s been wonderful talking to them as artists and listening to their ideas in a relaxed environment.”
Becci believes the resulting design, which took two weeks to paint to create the desired texture and depth of colour before being glazed, features a strong Arts and Crafts pallette, which is a nod to the pottery at the gallery and features a male and female bias to celebrate both G F and Mary Watts’ work.
She added: “As everyone draws out and highlights different things, it seems whoever you visit Watts Gallery with influences what you see. Any preconceived ideas I had on the CowParade design were quickly dismissed as the students had a very different take to mine. Each time we met they taught me something while I passed something back to them!”
The pupils’ own sketch ups of the CowParade design and studies of Watts’ approach and drawing techniques will form part of their GCSE art portfolio.
Kings College’s head of art Lucy Davis said: “Surrey Hills’ CowParade is a great initiative. We were keen to get involved as it’s been wonderful for our art students to have the opportunity to work on a real live brief alongside such a talented professional artist like Becci. I would definitely recommend for other schools to take part as in the 15 years I’ve been teaching there’s not been a similar opportunity that gives students the chance to experience first-hand the entire process – it’s been fantastic.”
She added: “It’s also been very refreshing as none of our students had ever visited an art gallery before. They’ve quickly realised that they are a lot more exciting and inspiring than they originally thought. Watts Gallery’s new lottery-funded artists’ studio is also very child-friendly and a great resource.”
Lucy Shipp, Heritage Learning Officer, The Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, said: “Mary Watts created Watts Chapel with the help of people in the local community, so working with Kings College on the CowParade project really reflected the heritage of community partnerships that were started by the Wattses. The direct influence of their designs and artwork are really clear in the final design of Pilgrim, and it’s been inspiring to see the Wattses inspiring designs by young artists today.”
The Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village and Kings College cow will be available for the public to see in the grounds of Watts Gallery throughout the CowParade exhibition which runs from May-September. Pilgrim will be herded along with all the other CowParade cows to the inaugural Surrey Hills Food, Drink and Music Festival on 3 September where they will be exhibited, judged and auctioned off for charity. The profits of the auction will go to the Surrey Hills Trust Fund established in partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey to conserve and protect the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, leaving a legacy for generations to come. The fund supports local community projects and enterprise schemes that benefit and enhance the Surrey Hills landscape.
CowParade was born in Switzerland in 1998 and has been staged in more than 80 cities and towns worldwide. Over the years 3,000 cows have been decorated by more than 5,000 artists. CowParade New York had 450 cows and was seen worldwide by 45 million people. The highest-grossing cow was created by designer John Rocha for CowParade Dublin in 2003 – studded with thousands of pieces of Waterford Crystal it was auctioned for $146,000 – quite a lot of moo-lah indeed.
For more information on how to take part call the Surrey Hills CowParade team on 01483 661150 or visit the website at www.cowparadesurreyhills.com