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After years of isolation, young Highland artists reconnect on canvas

Big Draw 2022
Former headmaster Alisdair Earnshaw, who featured in the original piece, and wife Kate Earnshaw visited the exhibition on Friday. Photo by Sarah Longley

Highland pupils gathered together around a canvas this week and paid tribute to a “legendary” student installation.

Artist Sarah Longley helped organise a community art project for this year’s Big Draw, an art festival with events all over the country.

Teaming up with Ratagan-based artist Helen Robertson, Miss Longley inspired pupils to recreate a piece that Helen made with Auchtertyre and Loch Duich Primary pupils in 2006.

Sarah Longley and Helen Robertson left their marks to kickstart the Big Draw 2022 project at Inverinate Hall. Supplied by Sarah Longley

Glenelg and Kyle Primary pupils joined this year’s project.

Students outlined each other’s silhouettes in charcoal, and then filled in the spaces with whatever patterns and designs they could imagine.

The Big Draw 2022 project ended up as a 50-metre drawing, which stretched around Inverinate Hall and even onto the floor.

During a public viewing, curious residents and even visitors with links to the original project took a moment to bask in the creativity.

The perfect cure after years of isolation

Miss Longley said that the project gives pupils a much-needed chance to reconnect with one another. After two years of isolation during lockdowns and homeschooling, she wanted to restore the feeling of community.

“I had the idea to recreate the drawing with the primary children of 2022. It would be a lovely way to gather them together on one piece of paper, especially since they have had a difficult and somewhat isolated two years.”

Pupils embellished their charcoal outlines with a variety of designs. Supplied by Sarah Longley.
Highland pupils Iain, left, and Jake fill in their silhouettes with charcoal patterns. Supplied by Sarah Longley
Highland pupil Abi fills in an intricate pattern at Big Draw 2022
Highland pupil Abi fills in an intricate pattern. Supplied by Sarah Longley

She said that the finished product coincided with the theme of this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, which is ‘Gathering’.”

Miss Longley was excited about linking generations of local artists and pupils.

Pupil Maisie fills in part of her silhouette near where it connects to a classmate's at Big Draw 2022
Maisie fills in part of her silhouette near where it connects to a classmate’s. Supplied by Sarah Longley

“Years later, children – now grown – still talk about the drawing day as one of the best experiences of their time at primary.

“This is a celebration of drawing and an enormous illustration of the power of art to bring a community together.”

Big Draw 2022: A blast from the past

Today’s pupils took inspiration from a 2006 Big Draw project, which earned a top prize in the national festival. Pupils earned a visit to London and a meeting with Quentin Blake, a well-known illustrator whose artwork was featured in 18 Roald Dahl books.

Highland Pupils from Big Draw 2006 had their project recreated this year. Supplied by Sarah Longley

Some of the original 2006 artists even stopped by to visit the Big Draw 2022 installation.

Caitlin Turnbull and her sister Ciara were among the Auchtertyre pupils who took part in the Big Draw back in 2006. Caitlin is now an artist herself, back in the area after attending art school in Aberdeen.

She said that she wasn’t quite prepared for the wave of nostalgia that hit her on Friday.

“I was 10 years old back then but I still remember it. It was a really good day.

“It’s a bit surreal! We don’t feel like it was so long ago, but then I think that 16 years from now I’ll be in my 40s. A lot happens in that space of time.

“And seeing all of these kids come in and get straight to it, there’s something quite sentimental about it. It’s quite profound in a good way.”

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