How to talk to children about art?

At the Open Minds Lectures & Workshops’ second session (Nov 16, 2013 at Harmony Montessori, Santacruz), art educator Purnima Sampat spoke about How to talk to children about art?

The session brought together a diverse group of 32 participants, among them art teachers, college professors and parents. The interactive lecture was punctuated with critical analysis of significant paintings by western master artists and followed by a critical analysis session for the participants.

“It should be less about you talking, and more about what the children have to say”, began the session. As Purnima took the participants through key steps of talking about an artwork with a child –  of gathering the child’s initial responses, description, analysis and interpretation, sharing information about the artwork with the child and to personalising the conversation with the child – her thrust remained on importance to be given to what the child has to say.

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As the participants saw a few prints of paintings, they touched upon the fundamental elements of the artworks, like colour, perspective, lines, composition, material, techniques, processes, mediums, among other, trying to engage with artworks, which many of them had never tried before.

Purnima’s expansive and detailed knowledge about art history gave the participants an insight about the different ways of looking at art, encountering new meanings and contextualising artworks in an easy manner while teaching children by personalising and simplifying the process.

 

Meanwhile, the kind of questions that children ask and how a teacher should respond, formed an important part of the session, while some of the teachers shared few problematic questions they faced in their classrooms. Coming across nudity in a few paintings, one of the teachers expressed discomfort in sharing such an image with students in her classroom- “If we ourselves are uncomfortable, how can we share and express with our students,” said one of the teachers.

Even though teachers understand that it is absolutely okay to paint an elephant red and the sky green, a number of parents might find this wrong and might be directing children to create the usual, predictable and the real. Purnima explained how teachers could play the role of giving creative freedom to children in their classrooms. “Our inclination and comfort with everything real should not be forced on children” said Purnima.

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The concluding part of the session was a critical analysis exercise. Each of the participants was asked to look at different paintings and write down their analysis, after which they shared it with all the participants.

However, the result of such an interactive and analytic session cannot be limited to the immediate outcome of the participants sharing their critical analysis. It was, instead, noticed in the conversations they had with each other, in the notes scribbled in their diaries, the feedback they shared and further, in what they will take back to their classrooms.

While many suggested longer sessions, because they felt they wanted to do and learn more, others suggested a session on introduction to significant paintings, a session on coming together to discuss problems and questions faced in art classes and on learning about art history.

All in all, it was a winning session, which provoked and pushed the participants to engage with artworks to find new meanings, while learning about ways of talking about art with children.

How to talk to children about art? was an exercise of exchanging, absorbing, processing and translating in classrooms…

I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand

Written by Jigna Padhiar

Collagraphy with Vishakha Apte

Second in our series of printmaking workshops were sessions facilitated by renowned printmaker Vishakha Apte, who taught the participants the art of Collagraphy.

The word is derived from the Greek word koll or kolla, meaning glue, and graph, meaning the activity of drawing.

The artist took the students through the process by showing them some of her own plates, before they started to discover this form of print on their own.

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The plates are made by applying material to a rigid surface (For this workshop we used mount board). The material can be anything that can easily be stuck on board and has an interesting texture. The students explored this criteria by gathering things from nature like leaves, flowers, seeds and sand and also using other items like pencil shavings, various kinds of textured paper, rope and string.

Once all the material is pasted on the board in the desired pattern, a semi-thick mixture containing glue, plaster of paris and water is applied to the plate. After it is allowed to dry, 3 layers of enamel paint must be painted on to seal everything in. Making a basic collagraph plate is quite easy and the children enjoyed themselves.

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The next step involved inking the plate. Apte first showed them how the ink has to be mixed with a bit of oil to thin it down before it can be applied to the plate. Once it is evenly smeared over the plate, excessive ink must be wiped off. Guided by the artist the students quickly prepared their boards and then printed them on soaked and blotted, damp paper. After experimenting with the amount of ink they let remain on the plate and taking test prints, the participants started doing their final prints, by then even operating the printing machine independently!

This lesson in collagraphy gave the students an opportunity to explore a different kind of collage making, to experiment with various textures and material, and the technique of layering to subdue the strength of the textures.

Stay tuned for Vishakha Aptes next set of sessions where she will work in detail on conceptual print making with a select group of children.

Shambhavi Singh: Living on the periphery

“However far I travel, I walk with memories of my earth. Remembrance of sights, sounds, the soil, the people and the chaos. Through all this I pursue my art so that I can distil that something which is eternal and simple.”

 – Shambhavi Singh on her roots and influences from her hometown, Patna, Bihar.

Housed in Chilla village near the banks of the Yamuna is artist Shambhavi Singh’s studio where she welcomed the Delhi batch of 2013-14 of the Partner a Master mentorship program to come and be mentored by her.

Shambhavi’s works have always been influenced by the frugal, involved life of the farmer. She discovered the importance of land and the farmers who nurtures the land at a young age and that is what she wanted the participants to discover through the experience of the workshop.
After explaining the significant role the farmer plays in her works and relevance of the subject in a modern, urban framework, she asked the children to think about it and draw their perception of the situation they imagine on a circular piece of paper.

The wheels of the twenty-one minds in the room jerked into motion and ideas quickly filled onto the strangely, but very thought provoking, shaped paper. Whilst one child utilised the shape by drawing a reflection of a framer and the sky in a well, another decided to highlight the heart wrenching rate of farmer suicides.

It was commendable to note that even though all of the participants were born and brought up in an urban landscape, they were aware and sensitive to the present situation of rural India, where the livelihood of farmer is at stake.

To get more inspiration for their work and actually observe the hardship faced by farmers in today’s fast urbanising framework the students and the artist went the Yamuna bed farmlands, where they met villagers from nearby villages, who shared their experience of displacement due to the Yamuna flooding over every year. She wanted them to feel the struggle and helplessness that the farmer and his family feel and translate that into art.

Back at her studio, Shambhavi made a comfortable space for the students in the heart of the various pieces of her ongoing project, where each one shared what they had seen and how their understanding of a farmer’s life, as being almost a bystander to the rest of our lives, had evolved after the field trip. They went on to do a watercolour sketch of what they had observed.

She additionally wanted them to work with cotton pulp, which was an exciting, volatile new medium for the students. The purpose of this was to shift from basic annotations to the more challenging three dimensional formations of observations. Shambhavi inspired them to express their thoughts in a simplified minimalistic manner without making them craft objects. She introduced them to the technique of using and sculpting in pulp. After creating the desired form, they applied paint with brushes and their hands.

The aim of her project was to make the students come out of their comfort zone and concentrate on creating artistic memories, the nuances of which stays with them long after the 16 hour process spent with her. She wanted them to experience what the farmer feels like, barely hanging on to the periphery of our existence, while ironically being vital to our survival.

Drypoint Printing with Tanujaa Rane

Contemporary artist Tanujaa Rane did her MFA in printmaking from Sir JJ School of Arts and primarily works in the medium of Drypoint.

For the first session conducted by Tanujaa Rane, Sir JJ School of Arts was gracious enough to open up their very own print studio to our lot of budding artists.

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Nikhil from Mohile Parikh, our partners for the Partner a Master Program, took them on a journey way back to China in 105 A.D where print making first began. From there they slowly explored the emergence of print, its transition into a crucial form of art and all the various styles and methods that developed under this discipline. The students were constantly posed with questions that made them actually think about the relevance and importance of print. “Why did print originate in China?”, “How did it spread across the world?”, “Why was print so revolutionary?”  

They then got familiar with works of various prominent printmakers like Rembrandt, Albrecht von Durer and Käthe Kollwitz and India masters like Raja Ravi Verma, Jyoti Bhatt and Krishna Reddy.

Once they had a basic idea about the history of printmaking Tanujaa Rane kicked off the workshop by narrowing down to her favourite method, drypoint.

Drypoint is the technique in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed “needle” of metal. Traditionally the plates used were copper, but now zinc, or Plexiglas,  are also commonly used. For this work shop we used Plexiglas to create the plates.

Once the image is complete, offset ink is dabbed onto the plate until it creates a thin layer, then a cloth or kite paper is used to wipe away excess ink. And voila! The plate is ready to proof print.Image

After a proof print the artist can decide if he or she wants to make any alterations to the plate before doing a final print. They must also sign and number all the prints they take.

The students followed the same process described above, taking inspiration from nature and fantasy to create their images. Once they had made their plates ready and applied the ink, they damped the paper and set up the printing press. Using the press was another exciting event for the participants.

During this session not only did they learn the basics of the drypoint process they also got to delve into why printmaking was so significant in shaping face of everything  as we know it today.

 

We would like to thank the Sir JJ School of art for letting us use their print studio for the workshop.