Summer Camp Lunchtime Doodles – Part One: Inky Fingers in Fino Mornasco…

Allora, by way of trying to (literally) illustrate what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks, here’s a blogpost with some pictures. (Woohoo! Pictures!) They are pictures drawn by me on the fly during the lengthy lunch breaks in the middle of the summer camp day. I’ve been away in Italy working as an English language tutor in a couple of Italian schools. Every day in the break from all the singing, dancing, didactic classroom activity and suchlike I’d sit down with my lunch and doodle. I’d do this on my canteen placemat (my personal daily diary sketches) and then take the art action outside and reel off sketch requests for bambini to take away. Seeing kids’ faces light up because they love the little scrappy cartoon kittie (or horse, or shark, or panda, or erm, carnivorous plant) that you’ve drawn for them is so rewarding, plus it potentially helps them learn some English. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun for me and, y’know, I like having fun…

Without much further ado then, here are my lunchtime sketches from the fortnight of the first camp which was in Fino Mornasco, Como province, Lombardia. The children here really liked my sketching and I got a lot of requests every lunchtime. I’ve probably never been so popular. I mean, look at these enthralled fans…

I’m like the Pied Piper with a pen…

So, pronto, Day One: this camp was packed lunches so there was no real canteen set-up – just a dimly-lit mensa (canteen) area where the children ate the food that parents had put in their bags (though usually they’d already eaten half of it before morning break time). The result is that on day one there were no placemats but nothing is going to stop me drawing at lunchtime so, hey, paper. The first day is general intro stuff – references to camp songs (‘Olly Olly Octopus‘), drumming up excitement about camp and an attempt to emphasise to an urchin kid named Dario that throwing stones at others is the kind of thing that bad people do. Oh, and a little boy named Andrea wanted to be a donkey…


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Day Two: placemats! The bidelli (all-purpose all-star cleaner-caretaker-matron-goddess of Italian schools) collared me as I marched my kids down to the mensa and said “James! James Bond!” She then presented me with a box of placemats even though I hadn’t asked for them. I guess I’ve acquired a reputation and it preceded me. Anyway, today’s doodles subsequently have a dubious 007 and a witch with a giant croissant. I can’t explain these, but the lion roaring is probably influenced by hearing Kary Perry’s ‘Roar‘ (it was on the camp pop CD) over and over and over and over…

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Day Three: it is Wednesday and here I’m riffing on camp song lyrics (‘No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’ and the official company anthem) drawing some animals requested by kids around me and trying to show just how happy I am to be in the Italian sunshine and not in the English rain. Note the text noting how busy I am doing personal sketch requests. Also, the head/egg thing came from classroom time – when I was getting the kids to label parts of the body on the blackboard one tagged the head as ‘egg’…

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Day Four: some pop cultural stuff (Super Mario, Adventure Time, Lego ’cause ‘Everything Is Awesome‘ is also on the official camp CD) and a singing panda because it was talent show day and suddenly pandas were popular. The bubblegum comicstrip was inspired by a girl in my class popping gum and I’m reading from today’s doodles that it was a particularly chaotic, hot day at camp. I really hope that the kids understood the pig not liking prosciutto ham gag…

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Day Five: Friday’s sketches reference the beginning of the World Cup and Italy’s upcoming World Cup opener against England (I was always very vocal about my allegiance to the Azzurri). There’s also a record of one of my kid’s interest in carnivorous plants and he would go on to play one a week later in the final show that closed camp (he got to eat me, and then all the tigers escaped London zoo to live in the Indian jungle where they dance to Pharell’s ‘Happy‘ all the time). Some camp song lyrics and an educational on how to ask to go to the toilet in English are also provided…

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Day Six: Back to camp refreshed on Monday and upping the art ante on the day designated ‘food day’. Thus, lots of anthropomorphic foodie sketches with a couple of doodles noting changes in the weather. I think the ‘hot dogs are the same but different’ lesson is crucial. Otherwise, I feel really bad about the lonely spaghetti strand and the lonely raspberry. Ditto the evil onion, the death pizza and the harsh mozzarella. Denis the Irish Potato is a tribute to my good (nay, “grand!”) friend Denis, who is an Irish Potato…

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Day Seven: today is a very musical affair and we have a lot of dancing animals including shaking bugs, a squid and a sheep disco. Note the repetition of “I’m happy!” because Pharrell had now firmly established his track as the most dominant camp ditty. I don’t know why there’s a clown or a flaming bull and I don’t think anyone around me appreciated the joke about The Fifth Element. Ah well, I know that Pietro – one of my students – thought it was funny when I turned him into a snotty punk rocker while trying to show him how to ask if he could go to the bathroom to get some tissue. I like Bebeto the footballer bear (World Cup fever is in the air) and the bad drawing of King Kong comes out of a song/exercise thing I made up to get children’s attention and effectively control them… *evil laughter and ape chestbeating*

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Day Eight: here there’s clear proof that the weather was getting back up to scorching highs again. There’s also a little nod to the fact that children are somehow incapable of forming themselves into a circle when you ask them to make a circle. Otherwise, there are references to the fact that we’re making masks in class and, feeling that camp is inching closer to the end, I’m starting to go a bit more ‘out-there’ with the drawings. What we want is a Robo-Monkey and some magic…

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Day Nine: on the penultimate day we ran our water day activities so ahead of the water bomb fights I decided to draw a lot of aqua-themed stuff. The Merman King likes rock ‘n’ roll, y’know. There’s also an awareness that the Fino Mornasco camp is finishing tomorrow and that time is running out…

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Day 10: the final day of camp has appropriate celebratory and sad doodles as befits the bittersweet moment. Ahead of Lo Spettacolo – the final show where the children would act and sing and where I’d get eaten by a carnivorous plant – there are fireworks and sincere sentiments about how I felt about having to leave Fino Mornasco. The banana fetish comes from the fact that I sang the Banana Song as a final day special. Said song is the best Lingue Senza Frontiere camp song but it has inexplicably made itself onto the banned list and so, it being the last day, I defied official policy and threw 170% into that thing ’cause I’m a maverick like that.

Erm, yeah, here are the final lunch sketches from Fino Mornasco…

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Aww, good times. Keep your eyes peeled for the placemat doodle chronicles from the second camp (Gussago, in the Brescia province) but first, to finish off with the kids in Como here are a few bonus bits of artwork gifted to me by sweet bambini. First up is a present from a child named Mattia who was around eight-years-old and wasn’t even in my class. I was made up: look at the major art skills…

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And here are the welcome signs made for me by my host family children Mattia (it’s a very popular name) and Cecilia with my uniform red shirt. Imagine walking into what is going to be your home for the next fortnight and the first thing you see is the two sweetest children on Earth waving those at you. And then their father put me on the back of his Ducati and motorbiked me up a mountain over Lake Como. Some of the most beautiful memories and moments of my life, mi amici…

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In conclusion, I love doodling and I especially love doodling with Italian children. As I say, more summer camp lunchtime doodles coming soon…

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4 Comments

  1. Summer Camp Lunchtime Doodles – Part Two: Goofy Sketches in Gussago… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON
  2. Pronto! Back from Italia, with the Weird, the Sweet and the Sublime… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON
  3. Summer Camp Lunchtime Doodles – Part Three: Wriggly Squiggles in Rescalda… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON
  4. Summer Camp Lunchtime Doodles June 2015: Arty Tricks in Torino… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON

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