My Teaching Context & Practice

Market scene with Jamaican blue hills in the distance merging into a London street and NHS nurses. All to reflect the journey of the subject of this life story art piece

Featured Image: Close-up of Daphne’s 80th close up by Leigh

23 Jan 2019

The task? Your teaching practice in 5 pictures

The outcome? I realised that I teach through my art. Here’s the story…

Pic 1

Photo of people in carnival costumes with plastic moulded rat heads for head pieces. All together they look like a horde of rats dancing down the street

Rat Race by Peter Minshall for Trinidad Carnival 1986. Photo by Noel Norton.

“Rat Race”, Mas Band for Trinidad & Tobago Carnival 1986 by Peter Minshall. Photo by Noel Norton. Click to go to the source.I was 10 when I say Rat Race by Peter Minshall. I asked so many questions about that band, and my poor mum and granny did their best to answer them all. That band changed my life because although I was interested in art before, now I saw the real power of art – it could communicate! Now I was obsessed with art as a means of communication.

Pic 2

a mixed media painting set in St Andrews Market Jamaica circa 1930s with the clock tower prominently standing out against a blue sky with hints of purple. In the background the Blue mountains are made up of a map of the counties in Jamaica and in the foreground, a woman wearing a white graduation cloak walks away from the stalls and produce of the market towards a large aloe plant, some nurses, and a street of terraced London houses. The ground she walks upon is a collaged map of all the places she has lived in her 80 years of life.

“Daphne’s 80th” a Life Story Art painting by Stacey Leigh Ross showing the challenges and achievements of 80 years of living from Jamaica to the UK. Click for By Leigh Instagram feed where you can see how this painting was created.

A traumatic incident happened when I was 17 that made me realise the importance of self worth and self confidence. Without those things I wouldn’t be going anywhere in life. So when I healed enough to paint something that wasn’t distress, I began a new obsession – to create Art that builds Self-Confidence. Life Story Art is a natural extension of this. These paintings capture some aspect of the recipient’s life and show them what their challenges, their accomplishments, (and if it’s a gift for someone) how much they are loved (by the person who commissioned it). It’s so easy to think of all that we failed to do, haven’t yet accomplished, things we did wrong and then castigate ourselves for what is often just a natural learning process of trial and error. My aim is to make these paintings a mirror that reflects our best selves and reminds us of all that we have accomplished so that we remember how capable we are, and how much more we can achieve despite the negative diatribe that so many of us have playing on a loop in our minds.

Pic 3

a mixed media painting in blues, purples and blacks depicting land, sea, air and space voyages.

Programme Cover for the Royston Arts Festival 2018. The cover art is a mixed media painting by Stacey Leigh Ross that incorporates the 20 winning artworks of first and middle school students across Royston. Their winning artwork was judged based on its adherence to and interpretation of the Festival theme, as well as the skill used in executing the work. This year’s theme was “Voyages of Discovery”. Click the image to see and learn more.

But Life Story Art (LSA) is a very slow way to change the world with your art, it’s one to one, which is very impactful so I will certainly keep painting my beloved LSAs but I needed to reach more people. So I started in my local community because I believe the easiest place to start is right where you are. Creative Royston and the Royston Arts Festival gave me such an opportunity and I have loved it!

Pic 4

Artist Stacey Leigh Ross grinning like a loon with Akala in the background

Fangirling over Akala at Essex Primary School’s Teacher Conference – “Black & British, Are we Empowering Black Caribbean Students to Succeed?” Like Akala, I was invited to give a workshop to the teachers. My topic was “Empowering Black Caribbean Pupils through Creative School Based Projects” and I’m proud to say I totally slayed!

Reaching my community was great but could I reach beyond? Seems so. In 2018 I was commissioned to design and facilitate a 10 week workshop for 9-11 year olds about their Caribbean Identity and my teaching mechanism, was Carnival Crafts. This led to an invitation to teach teachers how to do this at the Black & British Teacher Conference, then again at Southern Road Primary School. I was now reaching beyond my community with my artsy messages of self-worth, love and compassion. Exciting times!

Pic 5

wide landscape of a beach with a vast sky in soft pastel colours of late sunset. Those colours are reflected in the water as a few silhouettes of small fishing boats bob in the surf.

Las Cuevas at Sunset by Stacey Leigh Ross. Turn a ripple into a tidal wave.

Not satisfied with reaching a few primary schools, I decided to reach a nation. I’m planning a social change art exhibition that I hope will inspire visitors to create more and more action for social change on our planet. As long as I am able I will continue to use art to communicate social justice, self-worth, love and compassion because I truly believe people who love themselves (real love, not egotism) don’t need to hurt, oppress, deny or disrespect others to feel good. Happy confident people want to share that feeling so I’m aiming for a ripple effect. The more happiness and confidence I can push out, the more people will share it forward and the more our world becomes a more loving place to live.