Illustrating Archway

Illustrator Grace Holliday tells us about working with primary school students to create a collaborative mixed-media display about the local area.


  • Grace Holliday, illustrator and educator
  • Learning

I began working on this project with Years 1 and 2 in much the same way I begin working on my own projects as a practicing illustrator: with mark-making.

We started by creating patterned swatches with a range of marks, materials, colours and textures. These swatches, cut into shapes, became Archway’s buildings.

We explored drawing, painting, printmaking, collage and 3D construction, giving students a taste of the many possibilities of illustration.

Working with students over several days allowed me to introduce them to new techniques like colour-dragging, pop-up design and mono-printing, which they loved!

Printmaking was particularly well received. The ‘eureka moment’ of revealing the printed transfer as it was peeled away from the acetate was really inspiring – it was wonderful to see the pure creative joy on students’ faces at the ‘big reveal’.

Students, particularly young ones, don’t often get the chance to use equipment like printing ink and rollers, so it was brilliant to see teachers wanting to do more of this in future.

The students really shined in these workshops. Each student really put their own stamp on their work, while also helping each other, problem-solving collectively and working together, particularly on printmaking and collage. You could see their confidence, creativity and teamwork grow throughout the project.

Students in each class made a varied collection of items that could be put together in lots of different ways to create the final display – giving the school a real sense of ownership over the result. The students took pride in having created something of scale together.

Projects like this are invaluable for both students and teachers. They allow students to feel comfortable being creative, help teachers feel refreshed and inspired, and create a lasting impact on the whole school community.

Want to inspire your students? Find out more about our in-school workshops.