After rescheduling due to a snow day in mid-November (that we hope does not portend what winter has in store for us), we finally met with the grades 1-4 from Beatrice Rafferty School and author/illustrator Rebekah Raye at the lovely Eastport Arts Center in early December.
Upon entering the arts center, we found the hall decorated for the holidays with twinkling lights and silver and blue baubles that made the room bright and festive for the young artists. “Thanks to the Animals” is the book they were working with and Rebekah hung her companion mural up for all to see. In the story, little Zoo Sap and his family are moving from the coast inland for the winter and other animals help Zoo Sap stay warm. Listening to Rebekah with her lilting southern accent share how she met the author, Allen Sockabasin, the kids were quietly attentive. She shared how her ideas came from listening to Allen tell the story over and over and the images formed in her mind. “Don’t ever be afraid of your ideas,” she told them, “we need your ideas.” She showed them Goosey Goose (he’s made of papier maché and comes along to every visit for children to pet). “That’s why there’s a goose in the story,” one youngster noticed.
The third and fourth graders were given tracing paper, carbon paper, and heavy multi-media paper along with graphite pencils and kneaded erasers to get started on their artwork. “The tracing paper is where you get to practice your design,” Rebekah said as she demonstrated the technique she uses regularly. This would create a “ghost” image for them. It was an advanced art method, but the kids were up to the challenge.
One young lady drew two cats side by side with contrasting colors. We like to incorporate a shared reflection and feedback opportunity for the kids at these workshops and while sharing her cats, a fellow student noted, “They’re doing a staring contest.” Another expressed that she liked the ginger cat. “I love that you used that word, ‘ginger,’” Rebekah responded.
With first and second graders, Rebekah kept the workshop simpler, but added colorful paint sticks that were a huge hit. “We all have our own style,” she stressed before pointing out that there are a few elements that every picture needs: dark, medium, and, with a chorus of a response from the kids, “Light!!”
While the children tested their skills with graphite and kneaded erasers, Rebekah showed them her original paintings for the book. She pointed out the picture of Zoo Sap falling off the sled and asked the children why they thought he fell. They all could see it was because he was curious about the animals and reached a little too far because he wanted to learn more. “This,” she said, “is something you all should remember, be curious and learn all you can.” She left them with a final instruction, “Leave a sparkle of light in the eye — every living thing with eyes has a spark of light, it adds life.” “I see a sparkle in your hair!” one girl noted. She was right. Not only does Rebekah have a twinkle in her eye, she literally has sparkles in her hair. It’s always a bit magical with Rebekah Raye.