Thursday, October 9, 2008

Of Dolphins and Document Readers

The Land of Smaerd book tour continued in Southern California with visits to Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach and Newport Elementary School on the Balboa Peninsula. Kim Newett of Epiphany Books organized the visits. 

What a reception! Both schools  displayed "welcome Bryn Barnard" banners. Each had arranged for the entire second through fourth grade student body to gather in the cafeteria. Both schools provided digital projectors for my Smaerd PowerPoint show-and-tell and document readers for my painting demonstrations. 400 students gathered in each school, row on row cross-legged on the cafeteria floor. A teachers hand went up, and 400 little hands rose like dandelions into the air. 400 voices stilled. That's crowd control. The children's patience and self-discipline was impressive, listening quietly as I read the story and demonstrated how to paint with acrylic.

This was my first experience with a document reader. About the size of a desk lamp, the reader has a base with USB connection, a long movable arm, and an adjustable lens that, like a video camera, captures an image and, via a digital projector, shows it on a screen. Essentially, this is an updated version of the old classroom opaque projector that displayed printed images or text on a screen. 

So after reading the story and showing the illustrations to the assembled crowd I did a short acrylic painting demonstration. And I mean short: in deference to young attention spans, each presentation was only 45 minutes long. I had only about half that time to apply brush to illustration board. The document reader showed both my 16x20 inch illustration board and my butcher tray painting palette. I could zoom in or out as needed. I could mix colors and apply them to the board, explaining my actions and choices as the image developed. For many kids this was their first experience of acrylic, so we practiced colors altogether: "al-iz-ar-an criiiiim-son.," ul-tra-mar-ine bluuuuuuue," di-oxi-nine puuuurple." The kids seemed to enjoy the funny color names.

The subject of both demos was a girl on a flying dolphin (the Smaerd cover image). This proved especially appropriate for Newport El.  The school is situated right on the edge of the Pacific. Students can see the ocean from classroom windows, and sometimes see dolphins playing in the waves.

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