Painting story walls: learning through pictures, storytelling and curiosity

(It’s creative work that feeds my soul)

Bringing stories to life using pictures is the foundation of my work. Yet the stories I capture can come in all shapes and sizes and are designed for very different audiences.

A great example of this is hand painting tailor-made story walls for early learning centres (ELCs) and preschools that not only look great in the playground but also engage the children and drive their curiosity by using a rich array of pictures, colour and detail.

What’s the purpose of a story wall?

The aim of a story wall is to engage, spark wonder and interest and add an extra dimension to the school environment. In addition, working closely with the ELC or preschool leader and with the right planning, my hand painted story walls can help support key elements of the ‘The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, which describes childhood as a time of “belonging, being and becoming”. Here are some ideas how a story wall can achieve this:

  • Belonging: the story wall and the pictures within it can reflect the relationships and stories children have with their family, community, culture and place.
  • Being: children can get up close to the story wall and explore the detail in their ‘here and now’. The micro-stories within the painting can help spark the children’s imagination, their play and having fun. Educators can also use the story wall to generate imaginative storytelling sessions.
  • Becoming: the story wall can show or play out mini scenarios that emphasise the importance of learning and development in a child. Using visual metaphors, the story wall can help educators approach challenges, complexities and opportunities that may lay ahead for the children.

ELC or preschool staff are welcome to involve the children right from the start by asking them what things they would like to see in the painting. Then the best ideas from the children can be included against a creative backdrop or setting.

What’s the process involved in creating a story wall?

There are several steps and phases that happen behind the scenes to create a unique story wall, as follows:

  • Introductory phone call with the school
  • Quote generated based on the brief taken during the introductory phone call
  • Start draft design (this happens once the quote has been signed off by the school)
  • Share draft design (pencil sketch)
  • Incorporate any changes into draft design. One round of changes to the draft design is factored into the quote and process
  • Design approved and signed-off
  • Hand painting begins on a large wooden board or large wooden panels in my outdoor studio. Most work is carried out remotely (unless your school is based in the Tamworth NSW region where I am based). At key milestones in the process, I will send the school short video updates that can be played to the children to build awareness, momentum and excitement
  • Painting completed (depending on the brief, scale and size, this can take 4-6 weeks)
  • Painting picked up by or delivered to the school (if delivered, additional costs/expenses will apply)
  • Please note: my service does not include attaching or mounting the final story wall to the appropriate space or wall. This will be handled by the preschool or ELC.

So, what’s this stuff about feeding your soul and what has it got to do with story walls?

I’ve been very lucky to listen to and graphic record talks by master storyteller Peter Baines about his life changing experiences working with communities after the Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand. Peter’s stories and the way he shapes them can create an incredible shift in audiences, immediately or over time.

One of the questions Peter asks those listening is, “Do you take time to feed your soul?”. When I first heard Peter ask this, I let the question slip by into my subconscious. But there in the recess of my mind it took root and like a young seedling it grew towards the light, getting bigger and stronger every day.

Peter’s question grew so loud that I couldn’t ignore it anymore and I began to seek out a type of work that would nourish me, challenge me, give me time to re-charge and create unique moments of joy for myself and others. This work is painting my story walls and it gives me immense pleasure and personal fulfilment to create them for ELCs and preschools right across Australia.