2011年3月11日に起こった福島第一原子力発電所事故、東日本大震災及び津波によるの被害を今なお受け続けている子供達の肖像画です。
子供たちの描いた絵、言葉の中にイギリス人画家ジェフ・リードが子供たちの希望に応じて肖像画を描き入れました。

About

Strong Children is a continuing collaborative art project by English artist Geoff Read. The children draw and paint the images and direct him in making their portraits as part of their design. His work as a co-artist aims to give children experiencing difficult circumstances - of any kind - a way of expressing and communicating their thinking and feeling to a wider audience, creating a circle that aims to improve their situation emotionally and practically. At the time the triple disaster of 11th March 2011 struck he had been living in Fukushima prefecture with his then 8-year-old son for two years. The family self-evacuated for 3 weeks, returned to Fukushima for 5 months, and after a flood moved to Kyoto before re-settling in the UK. 

Over many years my work has included making images with children and young people in the UK who have experienced difficult life circumstances. These might include anything from homelessness, drug or alcohol addiction, self harming behaviour, offending, or domestic abuse, to parental separation, parental disability, addictions or mental health problems. I have also drawn with Mexico City's street children. Living in Fukushima and knowing many children and families well, it was natural for me to begin drawing with them. I hope we can create a lasting legacy of powerful testimonies from this important generation of Japanese children who will be argued about for their whole lives.

Drawing with an English 7 year-old to help remove her severe fear of imaginary wolves



Method
The images are designed and made by the children as much as possible, with words too if they wish. First they make a small sketch of their idea, and once we have understood each other, they draw or paint their picture, then I put their portrait into it according to their instructions. Sometimes I do their portrait then they draw around it. They choose the pose, facial expression, colour and feeling. It is a collaborative process, but they are the boss. I try and help them realise their idea, and do what they tell me. Parents are welcome to contribute words, and sometimes they join in the drawing with very young children.

Although it is in some senses therapeutic, the fact that it is a purposeful public project is centrally important - we are trying to make high quality communication and exchange with adults, policy-makers and other children, locally and around the world. The structure of the project means that each child's individual contribution becomes part of, and influences, the whole - it is a 'community of enquiry'. For example children sometimes extend and modify ideas they have seen in previous drawings and influence each other when working in groups. Seen together, the drawings seem to comment on and play with each other. Apparently simple images offer multiple meanings to the viewer. They interact both with our sense of ourselves as children, and with what we imagine that we know about the events the children are living through.

Drawing with Martin, a homeless boy in Mexico City. He wanted to reinforce his determination to return to schooling.
Principles and ethos
My artwork is based on the principle that children are strongest and most resilient when they are listened to, respected, and encouraged to think creatively and be active citizens. Developing their own ideas about their situation, noticing their own emotions, talking and making links with other people and the wider world also encourages them to take a proactive part in life.

In my view children need an appropriate setting that gives them permission and safety to express a whole range of emotions and thoughts. That might include fear, sadness, grief, frustration and anger,  as well as happiness and the more socially acceptable cute and joyful aspects of childhood more often insisted upon by adults.


Drawing with a 9 year old English boy in a family homeless hostel of his imaginary ideal bedroom. 
The drawing was part of a report for policy makers commissioned by local government.

I also want to create a channel for them to reach the world and get feedback, and to affect the policies that shape and limit their living conditions, health and happiness. This completes a positive circle they can feel proud of and empowered by. Of course children are practically speaking almost completely powerless, but it is important they have an alternative to the passive reception of information and instructions.

Finally, no record of important historical events, or thinking about policy choices or ethics for that matter, can be complete without including children - even if it is just seeing the marks they make, and looking into their eyes as they gaze from a portrait.

Geoff Read