How My Letters Inspired an Art Class in South Africa
Sometimes you just do your thing, and you’re not sure if it really matters or if anyone really cares at all.
Then a message comes across your DMs that gives you all the confirmation you need to keep going.
A few months ago, I received a message from a woman named Candice Gibbon. She wanted to know if I would mind if she used my letter art as inspiration for a lesson she wanted to teach to her art class.
Intrigued, I asked a few more questions and discovered that she teaches at school in South Africa. I became fascinated by her story and immediately wanted to share it—and of course, I gave her permission to use my letter art as inspo for her art lesson. I wish I could have been there with the kids, painting right alongside them!
I’m so grateful for Candice’s message to me, and I hope to meet her in person one day. Our interaction was a beautiful reminder to me to just keep doing my thing as an artist and trust that it will land exactly where it’s supposed to. Candice’s students are very lucky to have such a loving, understanding, attentive, and genuinely dedicated woman as their teacher—and I’m honored to have been included in the fun!
Here’s what we learned about Candice’s life and students, and what she did with her “Letter Lesson”.
First, I’d like to thank you, Caitlin, for allowing us to use your art as our inspiration. I was so excited to share your response to the completed artworks from this lesson with my students. I wish you could have seen their faces light up when I told them that the artist that they have been learning about liked their work! They were surprised, dumbfounded, and honored that you looked at their artwork. They left class feeling like they could achieve just about any artistic goal they set because YOU believed that what they did was good. To be able to give a child that gift of belief in themselves is the most wonderful thing ever, because you never know where that positive ripple you started might end up—or how far it will go.
Thank you again for being such a wonderful human being, and for all the positivity and love that you share and spread.
Cash Color: Hello, Candice. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us about using the Cash Color letters as inspiration for an art lesson at your school in South Africa. How did you learn about the Cash Color letters?
Candice Gibbon: I’ve never met Caitlin—not yet at least—but I’ve been familiar with Cash Color artworks for about two years. I came across her Letters Collections on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the design, simplicity, and beauty.
CC: Tell us a little more about the school where you teach, and how you became a teacher there.
CG: Lebone II College of the Royal Bafokeng is located in Phokeng, in the North West Province, South Africa. Lebone’s mission is rooted in the extraordinary African culture, the surrounding Royal Bafokeng Nation, and is focused on equipping students to participate in a global future. It is a place of upliftment and positive influence that encourages curiosity and innovation whilst being grounded by international research and best practice education examples. In short, Lebone’s purpose is to inspire, educate, and enable people to flourish.
I started teaching visual art at Lebone almost ten years ago. My role at Lebone has been very dynamic, and I have also taught as a homeroom teacher in the Foundation Phase, as well as visual arts in both Foundation (first grade to third grade) and Intermediate Phases (fourth grade to sixth grade). Last year I was lucky enough to be teaching visual art to grades five and six.
CC: Describe the role that visual arts plays in the curriculum at Lebone. Do all students get exposure to visual arts, or just specific grade levels?
CG: Artistic expression and creativity are highly valued. Subjects such as Visual Art, Design, and Dramatic Arts ensure that the students are exposed to a variety of learning experiences to equip them with diverse skills that can be applied across the curriculum. Visual Art is a subject that all students participate in from Lower School, and they also have the option to take as a full-time subject in the Upper School through to twelfth grade.
As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” I truly believe that too, and am so proud that Lebone considers a child’s education to include the mind as well as the heart, because ultimately, that's where art comes from.
CC: What inspired you to teach this style of art with the students? Can you describe the context for the lesson when you introduced the students to Caitlin’s letters?
CG: Sure. We had been doing a series of personal artworks, such as self portraits, and I thought that the letters would be a wonderful addition to this unit because of the personal nature of the artworks. I knew they would love using their names and favorite colors. We had also been learning about color, shape, and space, and I thought it would be a great way for the students to be able to apply all of those art elements to their own letters.
CC: How did you introduce the letters, and what steps did you use to teach the students how to create them?
CG: I started off by telling the students a bit about Caitlin. I got information about where she studied and had previously worked from her website, as well as a photo of her which I showed to my students. I always find that students are more engaged when learning about an artist that actually comes across as a real person.
Once I had introduced Caitlin, I showed the students some of her individual letter artworks. And, just like when I first saw her work, the students didn’t immediately pick up that these were letters. They first spoke about how they liked the use of colors (how the more neutral letters worked in any space, the more colorful letters were vibrant and fun) and composition of shapes on the page.
After a few slides of individual letters, I slipped in one that spelled out “LOVE” and I didn’t say anything—I just let the visual sit on the board. After a few moments, there were a few excited gasps from all over the room as they began to realize that these artworks were not just a collection of shapes and colors, but actual letters. Laughter rippled across the class as they all realized that they had been looking at letters all along. I pointed out that none of the letters had a defined outline, and we spoke about what colors were frequently used together. The students then set about creating their own letter artwork using the letter of their first name as a starting point.
CC: What an inspiring introduction! How did the students feel about their finished letters?
CG: The students loved creating the first letter of their name with their favorite colors. They described this art lesson as fun, but discovered that it was pretty tricky to keep to their lines/shapes neat with no defined lines to help create the letter. These are two of my favorite student responses:
“I used colors to express how I wanted to feel when looking at my artwork. I used yellows and greens because I think that they are calming colors.” —Leago Bogatsu, 11
“The artwork made me feel happy, because I had to think about myself and how to express myself through my art.” —Kutlwano Roestoff,11
I hope you can see in the photos how much fun we had with this lesson, and that the students were proud of their final letter artworks. Thank you for inspiring all of us!