Learning Materials

Joe Orton Book Cover Collages


In 2016 artist Ella Phillips worked with teacher Helen Roberts and Year 4 at Vittoria Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Joe Orton Book Cover Collages

Vittoria Primary chose to be inspired by our famous artworks by Joe Orton. Writer Joe Orton and his partner and mentor Kenneth Halliwell in the early 1960’s created ‘guerilla artwork’ using collage techniques. The pair ‘borrowed’ a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books they considered dull or middle-of-the-road from Islington Public Library Service. They then added images and extra text to the covers of these books, subtly changing their meaning as a form of social commentry. In 1962 they were each sentenced to six months in prison for causing ‘malicious damage’ to seventy two library books. Later, Orton became a famous playwright.

Joe Orton, playwright,(1933-1967)murdered by his lover Kenneth H

Activity 1: ‘hacking’

  • giant piece of paper for class rules
  • writing materials
  • smaller labels to write ‘hacked’ rules on
  • printed text from favourite books (blurbs or interior)
  1. Introduce the idea of ‘hacking’: to cut up OR to use something in a way you shouldn’t.
  2. Made a list of absurd library rules as a class, subverting people’s ideas about what a library is.
  3. In smaller groups, if your school library allows, write down all the different uses of the spaces on labels, mix them all up and mislabel the environment. If you can leave the labels out and see how people react to them!
  4. Hand out the printed texts. Encourage pupils to began cutting up the text from the books and placing them in a new order to create a ‘hacked’ text. Encourage them to hack the texts to create:
    1. drama
    2. comic effect
    3. visual interest (different sizes, colours and styles of text)


Activity 2: collaging book covers

  • per person:  pre-existing book cover/ photocopy of a book cover it’s okay to collage
  • colour photocopies, postcards, magazines
  • scissors
  • glue
  1. Introduce the idea of adding new text or images to an existing book cover to subtly change its meaning/ to add drama/ to make it more amusing
  2. Collage the book covers.
  3. Remember you can also hack the text on the spine and at the back if you are using a real book. You might even want to use a computer to create new text to add on to your cover.
  4. Extension: you could discuss what stories/ characters/ genres might be in the books.

Activity 3: collage techniques

  • per person:  pre-existing book cover/ photocopy of a book cover it’s okay to collage
  • colour photocopies, postcards, magazines
  • black and white paper
  • camera
  • scissors
  • glue
  1. Look at the work of John Stezaker, Richard Hamilton & Kara Walker. Discuss what different collage techniques they have used including the use of negative space, splicing and colour. What do you like/ dislike and why?
  2. Created a series of collages using different techniques: silhouettes, negative space, & splicing. These could be experimental or linked to the story you are developing for your book.
  3. Extension: a fun project to do is to take portraits of your class. Then splice them either on the computer or once they are printed out to combine two faces.





Activity 4: our ‘hacked’ library

  • per person:  their book cover and collage experiments
  • large card
  • any more collage materials needed
  • scissors
  • glue
  1. Each pupil can bring together their collage experiments connecting them together with their book cover to create a book. A good way to join these is through creating a concertina book fold.Each end of the fold can be connected to the covers, while the interior pages can display the collage experiments.
  2. Embellish pages with hacked text and pop-up components.
  3. Bring together the books to create your own library art installation.


Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Vittoria Primary School and Ella Phillips as part of the Imagine Islington Project.

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Learning Materials

Collage: Kenneth Halliwell


Collage is a visual art technique where the artwork is made by combining different forms, to create a new whole. Materials used can vary from newspaper, magazines and handmade paper to texts, photographs, and found objects.

Collage is a versatile technique that can be incorporated into lessons to explore

  • a variety of visual and tactile elements, including colour, pattern, texture, line and tone
  • creative starting points and how these can be developed into a range of ideas
  • opportunities for pupils to work on their own and collaboratively with their peers


Activity 1: Exquisite Corpses

Resource list

  • various magazines and/or newspapers
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • white paper
  • food colouring
  • PVA glue

Kenneth Halliwell was a British actor, writer and artist who is well known for his collages, created with his partner Joe Orton and also independently. His independent work often used layers of photographs combining images of architectural features, such as staircases, arches, doorways and windows, with human facial features.

  1. Split the class into smaller groups sitting at tables, ask them to cut out images from the magazines/ newspapers that represent either human features or parts of buildings
  2. Use these images to create Exquisite Corpses. Give each pupil a piece of paper, ask them to create a head and glue it to the top of the page. Then fold the paper over to hide the head.
  3. Remind pupils to be as imaginative as possible, for example show them how to substitute architectural features for human features (a window for an eye, a door for a mouth etc.)
  4. Mix some yellow food colouring or watercolour paint with PVA glue to create a coloured varnish. This can be applied to the collage t give it an aged effect.


Activity 2: Texture

Resource list

  • thick paper
  • watercolours
  • salt
  • acrylics
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • PVA glue
  • clear wax candles
  1. Give pupils 5 pieces of paper each. Paint each a different bright colour- pupils can choose whatever colour they like. Pupils could create textured colours by using: dilutted watercolour washes; thick acrylic paint; watercolour with salt granules sprinkled on top when wet (this creates a speckled effect); make marks on paper with clear wax and paint over the top with acrylic or watercolour paint
  2. In groups, bring all the pupils individual pieces of paper together to create a library of colours and textures.
  3. Then create challenges for each group: ask them to create a collage that represents a letter of the alphabet through imagery rather than text. For example, for the letter ‘Z’ pupils might use black and white stripes to give the suggestion of a zebra.
  4. The class then gathers together to view each group’s works and guess which letter is represented.

Collage tips

  • Try layering colours and textures
  • Try using torn edges, this gives an interesting effect when covered with a colour wash
  • Layer and layer again to create varied textures. Try creating a collage then painting over it and then drawing over that
  • Give the final piece a layer of gloss or PVA glue over the top for a shiny coat
  • Be creative when thinking of collage material. Possible examples could be:
  1. pages out of old books
  2. dictionary definitions
  3. phone directories
  4. colored tissue paper
  5. coffee filters
  6. pressed leaves and flowers
  7. cut outs from magazines
  8. wrapping paper
  9. playing cards and game pieces

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Kenneth Halliwell

To find out more about local artist Kenneth Halliwell’s life and work read our exhibition.

Learning Materials

Mark making on giant paper

In 2015, as part of the Arts Council England funded project ‘Putting the Wunder back into the Wunderkammer,’ Islington Museum worked with Samuel Rhodes Secondary School, artist Charlotte Young From Cubitt Education and the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. Pupil explored Futurist drawings and paintings from the Estorick’s collection, focusing on the depiction of sound and movement. The pupils then created large scale collaborative paintings using a range of materials and tools that encouraged different movement and mark making.

Resource list

  • A very large roll of high quality, thick paper
  • A variety of drawing and painting materials, including pencils, charcoal, pens, pastels etc
  • Sound clips
  • Wheeled objects, such as toy cars and bike wheels
  • Masking and/or duct tape
  • String
  • Rulers/ garden cane
  • Aprons

 The activity: mark making

Clear a big space. Cut a long piece of paper from the roll of paper. The paper should be as big as can fit in your workshop space, but allow enough space for pupils to move freely around the paper and the room. Tape the paper to the floor using masking or duct tape. Ensure all drawing materials are also prepared ahead of time and easy for the pupils to access.

This activity is made up of a range of mark making activities. You should spend around 5-10 minutes on each bullet point. You can choose a few of your favourites to fill the lesson, or work over a number of lessons on the same piece of paper, adding a new mark making technique each time. 

Using hands/feet/bodies

  • In pairs: draw around your partner’s hands, feet, heads and bodies. Now swap.
  • Individually: lie on the paper with a pen or pencil in each hand and make ‘snow angels’
  • Using ‘push-me-pull-me’ pens (2 pens tied together with a length of string) and working in pairs, take it in turns to ‘pull’ the pens in different directions
  • Draw as fast as you can
  • Draw as slowly as you can
  • Draw ‘spiky’
  • Draw ‘soft’
  • Draw ‘wavy’
  • Use different emotional gestures to draw: draw ‘angry’, ‘happy’, ‘laughing’, ‘frowning’, etc
  • Flick and dribble paint onto the paper
  • Draw to different kinds of music, what does the music look like


Using music

Play music for participants to paint or draw to. Exercises could include drawing:

  •  in time to different kinds of music. Hip hop will make you draw differently to opera
  • shapes and lines according to the mood of the different types of music. Is the music jagged, smooth, pointy, etc.
  • only when the music is playing



Using objects as drawing tools

Use a variety of objects dipped in paint to draw with such as:

  • toy cars
  • measuring wheel
  • roller skates (to be used with hands, not worn!)
  • bicycle wheel/ scooter
  • hoops
  • hand and finger prints
  • wearing wellies dipped in paint
  • make extra-long paint brushes by tying brushes to rulers/ garden canes with tape or string

Painting - no faces45

Creating a sound piece in response

Once your class have created their artwork, gather the pupils around the painting. Ask them to find sections that they liked, enjoyed painting, or found inspiring. As a class/ or in groups, discuss that section (‘it has wavy lines’ ‘it is blue.’) Then think about what it might sound like. For example, ‘wavy and blue’ might sound like the sea.

In groups, compose a sound effect for your piece. In turns record the sound effects.

Then listen to your class sound piece while looking at the picture.

 Mark making extensions 

  1. If working with a group who might find it difficult to use the floor, get participants to work individually or in pairs at tables.
  2. Try mounting large sheets of paper on a wall instead of the floor. This might work well for teenage participants or if there is not much floor space available. This would also allow participant to create multiple ‘extensions’ of their drawing tools in order to be able to reach the top of the paper. Extensions can also be made for floor drawings, for example, tying or taping pens and pencils to garden canes.
  3. Some individuals with SEN have particular sensitivities to sound and touch. Be mindful to check with participants if, for example, any audio is too loud for them. Some pupils may also be worried about getting dirty so have some aprons and rubber gloves ready if you think this may be the case.
  4. This activity could work well outside during the summer and you could try using more messy ways of mark making such as paint-filled water bombs, ice paints or pots of paint with holes punched in the bottom.
  5. Any paint splattered coveralls or gloves can be cut up and used to add collage to the large paintings.


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Learning Materials

Mail Art: printing stamps and image transfers

In 2015, as part of the Arts Council England funded project ‘Putting the Wunder back into the Wunderkammer,’ Islington Museum worked with Highbury Grove School, artist Carl Stevenson From All Change and the British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA.) Students were inspired by the BPMA’s unique collection of mail art, historical letters and curious addresses, identifying
elements they’d like to incorporate into their own mail art. Students explored a range of different media and techniques, including print making, stamp making and using vinyl. Their final work was displayed at the BPMA archive  in January 2015.

Ever since the invention of the postal service, people have sent weird and wonderful things through the post. The American artist Ray Johnson is considered to be the first person to send an artwork through the post. Today artists use a range of media and techniques to create mail art. Mail art can incorporate everything from collage to print works, even the position of the stamp on the envelope can convey a hidden message to the recipient.

Resource list

  • Pencil
  • Polytile
  • Paint trays
  • Printing ink
  • Printing rollers
  • Paper

The activity: making stamps

  1. Start with a piece of polytile. Using a pencil, draw your design into the polytile. Designs could be anything from letters, patterns, symbols, small images or emoticons. You will need to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierces the polytile.
  2. Put some printing ink on to the paint trays, roll it with a printing roller until it is smooth.
  3. Use the printing roller to put ink on to your polytile, covering your design. Do not use too much ink.
  4. Place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. Run a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it onto the paper.
  5. Carefully peel back the polytile to reveal your printed design on the paper.


Resource list

  • Images from old posters and advertising
  • Wide clear parcel tape
  • Basin of warm water
  • PVA glue
  • Paper

The activity: image transfers

  1. Choose an image, it could be from an advert, magazine, book etc. Take a back and white photocopy of your image.
  2. Cut out the photocopy and stick clear parcel tape to the image. You may need to use multiple strips on wider images. Rub the tape to make sure it is in contact with the whole image.
  3. Put the taped image into warm water, covering it gently. Slowly rub away the paper. You will find that the paper will rub away in the water leaving behind the black photocopy image stuck to the tape.
  4. Paint PVA glue on the sticky side of the tape. Stick the image, glue side first on to your paper. Then wait for it to dry.
  5. Once it is fully dry if you are careful you can slowly peel the tape away to leave the photocopy image stuck to the paper.

Mail Art extensions

  • Use the image transfers and rubber stamps to decorate envelopes. Post them to someone else (e.g. school, home, to another organisation) for them to add to your design. Continue posting the sheet back and forth. See how the design develops during the collaboration.
  • Pass each pupil’s designs around the class during the project so that each envelope has a contribution from each pupil.
  • Invent picture codes and make addresses for the envelopes in code. Post the letters and see if they reach the destination. Or pass it around the class and see if the class recipient can decode it.
  • Vary the methods used to decorate the envelopes and even the envelopes themselves, maybe using 3D collage, origami or giant sized envelopes.

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Learning Materials

Wooden water pipe: art inspired by nature and water

In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Denise Quinn and Year 2 at Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Wooden Water Pipe

In 1613 Sir Hugh Myddleton opened his revolutionary New River, which brought much needed fresh water from Hertfordshire to Clerkenwell. Pipes then took water from Clerkenwell Round Pond to the City of London. These pipes were made from tree trunks, mainly elm. The trunks were individually bored through and joined to create continuous pipes.

The pipes weren’t entirely successful, much of the water supply was lost through leakage. Wooden pipes also had a short lifespan and they tended to absorb gas from leaking gas mains laid alongside, making the water unfit to drink. From 1811 the New River Company started to gradually replace the old wooden pipes with cast-iron ones.

To learn more about the New River and the wooden pipes

A perfect local artefact to inspire natural art: ‘We choose this object to tie in with the artist Andy Goldsworth and use his inspiration from natural forms. Trees are a large part of the natural environment in Islington and it was a good way to encourage appreciation of nature in the local area. I wanted to get the children outside the classroom despite curriculum restraints and SAT’S looming. It encouraged them to make interdisciplinary links and enabled the children to produce inspirational and creative artwork alongside developing their vocabulary.’ 



Activity 1: mark making and rain makers

  • dry beans/ peas
  • tape
  • paint (water theme in colours)
  • cardboard tubes
  • sketching materials (pencil, charcoal, chalk)
  • paper
  • water sounds (rivers, different types of rain, waves etc.)
  1. Show the class images of the water log. Discuss the importance of fresh water, where you get water from, what the log could have been used for and if you think it was an effective pipe?
  2. Talk to the class about what the water may have sounded like- think about descriptive words for the movement of water.
  3. Get the pupils to sit at their desks with a piece of paper and sketching materials. Play them different water sounds. Get them to draw what they hear. Use a different drawing material. Try it with your eyes open, then eyes closed.
  4. Get the pupils to choose their favourite marks and cardboard tube.
  5. The pupils then paint their marks on to their cardboard tubes, using ‘watery’ colours.
  6. Once the paint has dried fill the tubes with the beans and tape the ends to create your very own rainmaker.

Activity 2: rubbings

  • paper
  • coloured paper
  • fat wax crayons
  • clip boards
  • pencils
  1. Take the pupils outside into the playground or a natural environment.
  2. Collect different natural materials- leaves and bark are good
  3. Use the crayons and pencils to take rubbings. Experiment with different textures, lines, shapes patterns and colours

To extend the session you could add in a drawing activity from nature or look at Land Art with a focus on an artist like Andy Goldsworthy. Use your collected materials to create natural sculptures outdoors, take a photograph of your creations.


Activity 3: poly tile printing leaves

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • sharp pencils
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. Hand the children their leaf drawings from the previous session. Get them to choose their 2 favourites to turn into prints.
  2. Hand out 2 pieces of polytile to each person. Using a pencil, pupils draw their leaf designs into the polytile, filling the sheet. They’ll need to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierces the polytile.
  3. Put some printing ink on to the paint trays, roll it with a printing roller until it is smooth.
  4. Pupils use the printing roller to put ink on to their polytile, covering their design. Remind them not to use too much ink.
  5. Pupils place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. Run a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it onto the paper. Carefully peel back the polytile to reveal the printed design on the paper
  6. Pupils can experiment with different colours of paper and ink. They’ll need a number of leaf prints each for activity 4.

Activity 4: collage

  • large sheets of thick paper- black is probably most dramatic
  • the rubbings, drawings and printed leaves from the previous activities
  • coloured paper and tissue
  • pritt sticks
  1. Pupils gather all their natural drawings, rubbings and prints.
  2. In groups they sketch a giant tree onto their piece of paper.
  3. The group then collages their sketch, using their drawings, rubbings and leaves, as well as any extra materials you have. Encourage them to layer, mixing colours, textures and shapes.


 Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School and Sarah Pimenta as part of the Imagine Islington Project.


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