It’s 20 minutes into the class and children’s illustrator Korky Paul is waving his shin in the air.
He pulls back a trouser leg to reveal a shock of yellow and red as he exhorts his elementary school audience to come up with drawing ideas.
The class is one of a series of workshops last week at Dulwich College Seoul. School visits are something he tries to fit in twice a month over most of the academic year.
“You just see what the kids enjoy doing, what they enjoy reading, and what makes them laugh and what makes them tick,” Paul told The Korea Herald before the workshop on Thursday.
The more avid young readers in the room might recognize his socks as those worn by Paul’s most famous creation, Winnie the Witch.
Created with writer Valerie Thomas, the Winnie books have sold over 7 million copies according to publisher Oxford University Press.
Riding on that popularity he uses his school visits to encourage kids to draw.
“It’s amazing the drawing that the kids are doing here,” Paul said indicating the work on the walls. But he laments that it seems to be losing its status in schools in England.
“I always tell kids that everything you see in here, someone had to draw it. This table, that little chair even that air conditioner, someone had to draw it before they could make it. Drawing is so important and I think it should be taught like reading and writing,” he said.
“If you’ve got that basic knowledge you can visualize things, you can plan things.”
A positive atmosphere is important.
During museum and library visits, he insists the adults join in the creative process, rather than wait anxiously on the sidelines -- one of several tips he picked up from teachers.
The enthusiasm is infectious, he said, remembering one grandparent who had to be reminded that the session was over.
“He hadn’t had so much fun in years,” said Paul. “It was brilliant. That kinds of stuff is heartwarming, you know. You touch some family or parent or kid.”
Illustrator Korky Paul leads a drawing demonstration at Dulwich College Seoul on Thursday. (Samuel Wigginton/Dulwich College Seoul)
For school visits like this, he lays out all the children’s work at the end of the class.
“I tell them ‘You’re in an exhibition and you’re here to see some fantastic artwork. And it is, it’s amazing,” he said, adding that kids feel more confident when they see their work alongside their peers’ pictures.
“Also they are incredibly curious, kids, that’s what’s so delightful about them. So their curiosity is sort of sated and they can see what everyone else is doing.”
What would he tell kids who, curiosity sated and confidence boosted, want to follow in his footsteps to become illustrators?
“My top tip is draw every day,” he says. “And don’t draw the same thing. Because some of them get locked into drawing fighter planes or rockets or horses. Draw anything and everything. Draw your dad when he is fast asleep watching television.”
“And look at things. If I tell you to draw a jumbo jet you can sort of do it because you have seen one. But if you go and get photographs of it you will see little details like the nose and how the windows are and all those little things,” he said, adding that looking at drawings rather than photos can lead to an inconsistent style.
“Look at Quentin Blake, whatever he draws whether it’s a cup or a carpet or a knife and fork or a person or a whole building, they look like they are part of that world part of Quentin Blake’s world. They look like they belong.”
He said sometimes children drew too small, and should be encouraged to draw bigger, and not be afraid to make mistakes.
“Sometimes I make a mistake in the drawing and I will point it out and say ‘We can make it something else.’ It doesn’t matter if there’s a mistake, often mistakes are happy accidents,” he said, giving his character’s quirky hat as an example.
“Winnie’s hat has got a bend in it at the top, and the reason for that is that when I first drew Winnie’s hat, I got to the edge of the paper and I couldn’t finish the point on the hat.”
“These kind of visits deliver ‘shared experiences’ as part of our One College, Many Campuses Dulwich philosophy,” said Graeme Salt, the headmaster of Dulwich College Seoul, which is part of the Dulwich College International network, which has eight schools in Asia linked to the original Dulwich College in London.
“It is important to make students’ education memorable, and visits from inspirational artists can be especially memorable.”
He added that it was useful to have visiting artists talk about creative careers and real world applications of art, as well as the importance of enjoying art.
“It is also the case that the arts are diverse within themselves -- there are numerous artistic styles just as there are numerous ways to dance, art and make music,” Salt said. “Inviting practitioners with expertise within a particular niche expands the students experience beyond that which their teachers may be able to encompass.”