Over half-term, my son had to do an unusual GCSE art project. He’d been given very little briefing on it, but basically he needed to get outside and create something – a piece of ‘land art’. His responses to this idea were that it was ‘trash’ and ‘not art’.
I’ve been really impressed by how my son has thrown himself into his art so far. He’s a good artist, but not a brilliant one. His prediction for art is 6/7 (B/A in the old money), compared to 8/9 (A*/ A*+ in the old money) in his academic subjects. For a boy who isn’t particularly hardworking, he has put a lot of time and effort into this art. But something without a brief could be a problem for him.
My son is a lovely boy, with many amazing qualities, but he can be very stubborn at times. He is also very wary of doing anything outside his comfort zone, when he is not 100% sure of what he’s doing or why (it’s the fixed mindset). For example, he still hasn’t finished his D of E Bronze because he has to do a short presentation and he’s worried about what he will have to say. Plus, the boys in his group aren’t his closest friends and he struggles with that. So, I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about how the art project would go.
Rather than having it hanging over us all holidays (and risking it getting rained off), I told him we would go and do it on Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t know if we would be there for hours. I didn’t know if he would freak out and refuse to do it or stomp off saying it was stupid.
We chose a nearby hill, which has disused quarries and a lot of limestone lying around. We went into the bottom of a quarry, in a clear, grassy area. My son and I started collecting rocks and carrying them into the centre of the grass, with no real idea of what we were going to do.
My son stood one piece on its end, held in place by a smaller rock. He then managed to balance two other pieces of rock on top of it. When he experimented with balancing more, they fell. Getting them back in place was harder than getting them there initially. He thought about replicating the design and creating more of them, but there were no other suitable large rocks. He tried to construct a sort of fence around his rock sculpture with small upstanding rocks, but they immediately fell over, even when pressed into the damp ground. Somehow he managed to balance a third rock onto his big rock, but he needed to do more.
I suggested a sort of flat mosaic around it, so we started collecting flat stones. And my son started piecing them together. Ever since he was little, my son has had a remarkable ability to fit things together in a way which makes perfect sense. His brain was designed for physics, maths and engineering, rather than art. He pieced together about a quarter of his ‘jigsaw’ easily, but then he started to need specific rocks. He realised that, as limestone is soft, he could easily break it by throwing it at another rock. So he started to create his own jigsaw pieces, while I carried on collecting suitable-looking flat rocks.
In under an hour, from arriving at the hill with no plan at all, my son had created his piece of ‘land art’. I think it looked brilliant and I loved his enthusiasm and watching him work. He didn’t show any of the behaviour I was expecting, he really threw himself into it.
As a parent, you never know when you’re going to have a really special time. Who knew that my son’s art project would give us an unexpectedly pleasant afternoon?