An Interview with Jennifer Burns
Please can you tell us a little bit about who you are and how you became a professional artist?
My year six teacher was the first person who saw something arty in me, I became obsessed at that point and created art whenever I could.
Six years ago my husband passed away and six months after that I was laid off from my job, both events were life changing and allowed me the financial security to follow my dream and start my own business teaching art to anyone who is interested. It also proved that from tragedy, good things can happen.
What was your experience of art at school?
When I finished high school I went to Sydney College of the Arts (Sydney UNI), where I studied painting for 3 years and ended up with a Bachelors degree. Uni didn't really prepare me for much, but it did continue my love of art.
Tell us about the Art Auction project.
The art auction idea has been used successfully in many schools as a fund raiser. I was asked to come up with ideas of collaborative age appropriate art projects that could be completed relatively quickly with all the kids being involved. For the younger ones using fingerprints or collages are the most effective, it allows every child to be involved and the artwork is polished at the end by either myself or the teachers. I talk to the kids about the process, ask for suggestions and try to give them a little freedom in choosing colours, etc. Most of the art is done in stages with small groups of kids helping at each stage. The most effective artworks are the ones where every child has a section of the canvas to do their own style/interpretation of the piece. The teachers I try to include, give them ideas and suggestions for working with the kids as a whole, and show them the most efficient way of getting all of the children involved - as well as showing them some techniques.
The auction gives a class the opportunity to:
create something beautiful as a group
work together to raise money for the school
present a polished and finished work suitable for hanging
learn about the concept of auctions and creating something selflessly
Have you ever done anything like this before? Was it successful?
In 2018 I did the same thing at North Rocks Public School. We worked on 33 canvases and made a $4000 profit at the school fete. As it was the first time this was done, it was considered a great success and one of the largest returns as far as profit went (costs were around $1000). We are doing it again this year as the primary fundraiser due to construction at the school.
Why is art good for school children?
Art gives children an avenue for expression. Some hate it but most enjoy the opportunity just to create something. Talent is not necessary to create something visually pleasing and I love watching kids discover this, sometimes they start on something unstructured and it turns into something surprising and effective. I give children in my class guidelines and let them decide where their art is going to go. The lack of rigidity and right and wrong that is part of most lessons, is not as important with art, art is expressing yourself visually which allows so much exploration!
Can everybody draw? Is everyone artistic or are you born with it?
It depends on your definition of art. Anyone can create art, drawing and painting on a technical level takes a skill that I think you are born with. But it differs. Some people can copy really well but can't create individual art, others are great at colour composition but not so realistic in their art. For me, I can paint and draw any animal you give me, but I have no skills when it comes to portraits, well not if you want them to look like the subject! I think being artistic is a very broad category, we all have strengths and weaknesses. My personal joy is seeing a child find the area they excel in, and watch them grow. I have had the pleasure of teaching some kids for the entire six years and seeing them find their 'thing' and embrace it, is wonderful. Some kids get it, some don't - pretty much like everything in life!