iCandy x Camilla Perkins: Exploring the Natural World with Children's Art Week

iCandy x Camilla Perkins: Exploring the Natural World with Children's Art Week

From the global pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride, recent events have highlighted the essential nature of creativity and the visual arts when it comes to learning, connecting and wellbeing. With many sectors of the creative industry still closed, such as galleries, museums and cultural organisations, engaging in the visual arts is more important than ever. As such iCandy is delighted to be supporting Children’s Art Week, a UK-wide programme run by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education. The program runs over three weeks and focuses on three special themes, kickstarting with ‘The Natural World’.


We naturally turned to Camilla Perkins, an Illustrator and Painter, who iCandy previously collaborated with on the iCandy White Peach Charity Art Project, dedicated to Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital. The project saw gifted artists donating their time and talent to create one-off Peach pushchairs using a white Peach as a blank canvas for their own unique designs.


Camilla embraced this brief with a pushchair that is adorned with playful, party-parrots in jaunty hats, sat upon brightly coloured branches and imaginary fruits. The creation is not only bold and fun but incites the viewer to play and create themselves. The pushchair design is reminiscent of a child’s bedtime story book, where a young mind could wander and explore wondrous worlds and be completely immersed in a new and exciting landscape, that is uniquely their own. Drawing from her own early influence of such designs, Camilla wants the child and parent to regress back to that time and enjoy play with their child and the importance play has in a child developing imagination.


Keen to continue the conversation about the connection between the natural world and art, iCandy caught up with Camilla to chat about how she explores these themes with her own young family…



iCandy x Camilla Perkins Interview

Were you introduced to art from a young age? What are your earliest memories of connecting with art?

Growing up my Mum always encouraged us to be creative, drawing was something that came instinctively to me and I have a really clear memory from when I was at nursery of drawing circle after circle in really bright colours and being really excited about how they all blended in to one big rainbow ball!

Both of my parents were really good at taking my sister and I to exhibitions and museums when we were small children, which I now realise must have been an absolute nightmare as we were so naughty! I particularly remember always wanting to look at the costume section in the Brighton Museum and after my Mum took me to see an exhibition of Matisse’s textiles I came away determined that I would become an Artist too!

How have you introduced art and creativity to your daughter? Is it something you actively encourage?

I think it’s incredibly important to try and encourage creativity in children, mainly because they have so much fun making things! When my two year old daughter isn’t having a meltdown over something as simple as taking her own sock off her foot, or shouting “Wa doing, DISSTER??” in my 3 month old daughter’s face every five minutes, she loves anything artistic!

I try to do lots of drawing and colouring with her but we also like to go outside and collect leaves to bring home and make prints from, which she loves… for about thirty seconds!

Do you have a favourite gallery or creative space you like to visit as a family?

I’m really lucky to have some great kid-friendly places to visit near to where I live in East Sussex. My favourite is Charleston Farmhouse, which has beautiful gardens and during the Charleston Festival has loads of great creative activities put on for children of all ages. I can’t wait for it to be open again!

I also love the Ditching Museum of Art + Craft, I went to a beautiful exhibition of Corita Kent’s work when Wren was only a few months old and even then she was getting excited by all the bold, bright colours!

Many of your beautiful illustrations take inspiration from the natural world- as one of the themes of Children’s Art week, how would you encourage a child to engage with art through nature?

I think that the natural world is often the most inspiring for children, my daughter is just learning all of her animals and I absolutely love it when she asks me to draw one of the animals we’ve seen or talked about on a walk that day for her to colour in.

I often try and encourage Wren to point out the different colours that she’s been learning in flowers and plants and last time we went to the beach we collected some shells which I’m planning to let her dip in some paint and use as stamps, if she doesn’t try to feed them all to the dog first!

Do you have any tips on how to encourage a young child to engage with art in a gallery?

I’m sure anyone with young children can relate to being terrified at the thought of taking their unpredictable toddler into a gallery setting but I think it’s definitely worth giving it a go, even if their attention span will only allow five minutes! I know that it made a real difference to my appreciation of art when I was growing up and so I think it’s a good idea to try and make it a fun experience, I try to work in something that I know Wren would enjoy like counting or naming all of the different colours that she can see. There are so many galleries now days that try to include elements aimed at children so I think it’s worth seeking out places that you will both enjoy.

Are there any story books you recommend that will help to develop a child’s appreciation for art?

My passion for illustration was almost entirely influenced by the books I read as a child! There are so many beautiful books out there but my personal favourites as a child were the “Orlando the Marmalade Cat” series by Kathleen Hale and “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans. Flying Eye Books have an amazing selection of Dhalov Ipcar books and my daughter’s current favourite is “Monty and the Poodles” by Katie Harnett. The Tate also does a beautiful series called “Meet the Artist” which are great for introducing children to the art world! I also love any children’s books illustrated by Emily Sutton… You shouldn’t have asked me; I could go on all day!!

Do you have any tips for children who don’t enjoy the sensation of messy or sticky hands?

I think pens and crayons are always good to have around. My daughter actually went through a phase where she hated anything wet or slimy so I saw someone online had dyed a load of pasta with different coloured paints and left them to dry, then I put them in different sized pans on the floor with some cups and she spent ages filling them up and tipping them out again. That was definitely one of our more successful creative activities!

How about for parents who are fearful of mess?

I think with young children you eventually just have to give in to the mess, it just needs to be contained! I find that oilcloth is a must have, I pretty much constantly have it on the table or chuck it on the floor, all in one bibs are pretty vital too! I also find that my daughter likes (attempting!) to clear up with a cloth when we’ve finished painting, it’s part of the game for her!

Do you have any favorite art and craft supplies you like to use with your daughter?

I really love Crayola twistable crayons, as they’re quite hardy and last a long time. I’ve also found that having a big roll of brown craft paper is really useful for taping down underneath the paper that she’s using as she tends to enjoy drawing everywhere other than the actual piece of paper! Sometimes we draw straight onto the square of brown paper and you can use it to wrap presents, I like the idea of putting something she’s created to use rather than either throwing them away or being forgotten about in a pile somewhere. My mother in law recently introduced me to these precut out paper bodies that you can buy so I’m excited to see if Wren enjoys drawing clothes on them!

What are the benefits of introducing art to children at a young age? How essential is creativity and visual arts for overall learning and wellbeing?

I can really only speak from my own experience of being encouraged creatively as a child, which played a huge role in my life. I think art allows children to learn important lessons in expressing themselves creatively, problem solving, and more importantly it’s so much fun! I remember as a child, the first time I visited the sculpture room at the V&A and being completely in awe of these huge structures that I couldn’t believe were actually made by a person! I really want my girls to be able to feel that way when they see a piece of work that they love, or create it themselves. I think that creating things gives you a sense of freedom and joy that is absolutely vital to your overall wellbeing!

You can find over 180 free creative activities and events on the Children’s Art Week website.

Children’s Art Week is run by Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education and supported in 2020 by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation

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