ALL Children are Artists
By Ana Paula Berlin
Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination“, children are without a doubt the purest form of creative skill and imagination and, as a result, Picasso was only right to state that ALL children are artists.
I have been in India and at Tushita Foundation for a little over a month now, it feels like I arrived yesterday and like I have been here all my life.
The first class I taught my Art History lesson to was the Daisy class and I believe it was the perfect fit to begin my time as a teacher at Tushita Foundation, these children are very young (they are divided mainly by their English skills) but what is wonderful about them is that most of them started in Sunflower class (youngest class) and learned enough English to move on to the third most advanced class even though some of them are only 6 or 7 years old. It was ideal because young children have not developed a sense of self-consciousness and this translates automatically into great artwork. Some of my oldest children in Daisy needed a little push but were undoubtedly proud of their final work (as they should be!).
If there is one thing I believe true is that art cannot and should not be graded. Effort can be measured in a classroom but ALL children must be encouraged to create and very much applauded when they do; it boosts their confidence and their skill and makes them feel capable and proud. Art is, in my opinion, the purest and most effective tool to provide a child with those powerful feelings and it has been such a joy and such an unmeasurable privilege to guide these amazing children in their creative process.
The class is designed to provide them with a little bit of English vocabulary and history. As a result, I begin my lesson with a brief 15 minute Power Point presentation explaining the specific art period we are covering that day as well as some fun facts (main artists, place where it emerged, etc.) and the rest of the class is dedicated to the project itself. The covered art periods are:
I was very surprised at their art skills and concentration, I always play classical music as soon as they begin painting and talking is extremely discouraged during the lesson as I believe they have to focus on their artwork without distraction (classical music helps them enormously; after the second class we barely heard a sound during the 45 minute period).
For my first project I asked them to scrunch the piece of paper I had given them (to create a rocky, cave-like texture but also to help them relax and enjoy) and they stared at me like I was crazy so I had to grab one of their papers and scrunch it myself and received nervous laughter from all of them as they started (cautiously at first) scrunching their own piece of paper and laughing.
For the second period I jumped straight to Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, the only time they were allowed to look at the picture for a longer time period and even then I was positively surprised to see them reaching out for bright colors and adding flowers to their work!
The first one to do it (brilliant little girl named Muskan) looked up at me as if asking for permission and I gave her back a stare as if to say “your art work, your call” they now recognize this stare whenever they look up at me asking me to help them with something or my approval on their sketch before they move onto using paint.
Art with children is tricky, it requires innovation because using the same technique can get quite boring and the last thing you want is to discourage them and so, for this movement, I decided to introduce them to Monet’s Water Lilies and provided them with paper so they could cut and paste it to come up with their own flowers. I could not find maché paper (ideally the second class will be provided with only pastel-colored-maché paper) but I think this was once of the most successful projects, they loved the technique and had a lot of fun experimenting.
For this project I decided to let them paint anything they wanted. The main problem I faced with this class is that, because of their age difference, the little ones tend to look over to the older’s work for “inspiration” so I tend to encourage them to restart when I see plagiarism in their work. Anyway, the technique included 8 different colors, pencil, paper and cotton swabs. They looked at me once again like I was crazy when I pointed at the cotton swabs and called them paintbrushes but they all found it quite funny (perks of having children for an audience!).
At this point the class knew Art History day was on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we barely had one or two children missing during those days. They also knew they were allowed to stay longer if they wished to finish their artwork on that day and so the bell did not apply to them. It was such a great feeling to look at their excited faces when they came in the classroom to find it rearranged for art class (the tables get put together to form one big table and the supplies are always in place by the time the kids come in) but also great to have them ignore the bell sound and stay focused on their work.
Pointillism was a great project, they came up with some brilliant art work and it was great to begin seeing them gain the confidence to focus on their own paper and come up with their own ways of using their materials.
Van Gogh! What do you mean he didn’t sell one single painting? Their little expressions trying to figure out whether that big black thing was a tower, or a castle, or a tree? “whatever you want it to be” is the correct answer to that one I believe (I personally always saw it as a big scary tower).
For this project the kids used paint mixed with powder soap to give it a heavy, oily consistency and help them recreate the thick brush strokes our Dutch friend loved so much.
The results are pretty amazing and they captured Van Gogh’s sky brilliantly.
This was, to my great sadness, the last art movement that I could teach the Daisies as I only had one month in each class. It was definitely a challenging and perfect way to wrap up the first batch of Art History at Tushita Foundation. We took inspiration in some Picassos and the results (in process, tomorrow batch 2 and 3 will complete their art works) are amazing:
I believe that staying a whole month with one single class was the right approach, having been a student of many art teachers I deeply believe a connection between student and teacher is very important as they need to feel comfortable creating and the space has to feel right and prepared, in all, I believe an art class has to provide the children with the opportunity to escape life for a little and just concentrate on the artwork, and that takes time. And so, alternating between classes would not have provided me with the trust I needed to obtain from the kids and learning their (very complicated!) names as well as their personalities, teaching them English besides art, learning their ways and little quirks because all that took some time and I am left feeling incredibly nostalgic that for now, my time with the Daisies is over but also very excited to apply the lessons learned and get to know my second class: the Jasmines.
It has been a great privilege to learn from these kids, to enjoy their pride and to discourage their self-doubt, to see them smiling when they found their artwork hanging on the wall of the classroom and listening to them when they greet me by saying “hello Ana-ma’am, I am an artist“. Yes, you are. Every single one of them is the best artist I know.