Looking & Telling Letting Kids Tell Stories

All at Sea

Looking and Telling art is created to enable children make up and tell their own stories. Learning by doing.

Two kids engrossed in a story of their own telling.
Kids love detail. They want to dive in.

Learning (Any) Language as Spoken

This might sound terrible fancypants but sure...

Hiberno-English exists as a synthesis of the Irish mindset and its meeting with the English langauge. While English has long had an emphasis on the recorded written word, in Ireland language as a communication tool has been oral. We communicate in ever-changing, micro-localised forms. We have the heritage of filĂ­ocht and the spoken, evolving myths.

A historical reflection of this can be seen in our didactic high crosses which communicate purely visually, eschewing language and its singular approach.

All this came forcefully back when reading a story verbatim to my young son.

"Daddy, what's naughty?"


The stories are given to kids, often in a language that is unfamiliar to them. This is not to say that we here speak a sort of slang hybrid. We have a rich language that has its own form.

It's about Details

The art pieces were always about detail. Too many people sell down to children - bright colours, simple shapes, directness. Real children don't want that. Where is the mystery? Where is the intrigue? hey want to read into things, figure them out, craft their own narratives and possibilities.

A second notion struck me when reading to him. What he could see in the beautiful illustrations as he looked ahead at pages to come, did not end being the story. It was better than the story.

Kids' imaginations are not encumbered by actuality and liklihood as ours are (https://people.goshen.edu/~marvinpb/11-13-01/Effects-of-Stereotypes.html). Even at an adult's most free and unconstrained, their imagination will never be as fluid as a child allowed to dream.

It's just a fact. Kids tell better stories, and in their own language.

But sure there you have it like...

Is he saving the man, or letting him drop? Does he know? Is it a man or woman? There's no right or wrong.

With action happening everywhere, there is narrative breathing space between elements. But even then they are linked - the boss-like gorilla sits, a menacing presence, in the hold while those above go about their business. Meanwhile outside the hull...

The posters have been created for Naoise and Ruarc McDonnell, and so they feature, telling each other stories, way past bedtime.

The artwork that started the project.

Thanks for looking! Now do the telling!

Created By
Ronan McDonnell


All images copyright Ronan McDonnell

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