Book making

img20171020125634-e1515669174301.jpg

Begin with telling yourself a story.

Close your eyes and visualise that story, one scene at a time, pay attention closely to all the details, colour, texture, shape, forms.

Where is this story situated? Imagine yourself walking through this story.

We set off with bookmaking several weeks ago – the group of boys who come home for private lessons, and I. This activity was definitely one of my favorite projects that came up spontaneously during these sessions. But T and A have a way of making the most mundane activities and scenes seem adventures, humorous, magical and dramatic.

The idea was to work on a visual story narrative, frame by frame, developing scenes and building on a sequence of events. This seemed to be the most natural process for us to explore together.

IMG_0031

Some sessions are super special for how much they push and challenge me as a facilitator. In getting T to visualise, I had to return to some of my favourite books from a time when I didn’t read words, but engaged with images instead.

PhotoEditor_20171128_15030375

A Dark, Dark Tale is a book that’s probably as old as I am. It was handed down to me by my sister. An almost wordless book, it’s a dark and broody tale with a surprise scary story about a mouse. I shared this with T because I remember how arresting I used to find the illustrations. In the absence of words the pictures did all the story telling with their broad, stark lines and tones that capture emotions, set the mood and show movement.

IMG20171209160557

Inspired by this, and surprisingly picking up the edgy style, T’s book takes you through images of a forest, an isolated landscape and an abandoned house where there lived a cat and mouse, several bats and owls.

IMG_0027IMG_0033

A’s book is about motley crew of sea creatures that are making it through the Bermuda Triangle. It’s still in progress and we’re waiting to see where the story goes.

Advertisements

Reading nature

December presented some fun projects for Drawing Room. One of them was a birthday party at Cubbon Park, in Bangalore. A party in the park was just what I needed at a time when working with nature was beginning to get more and more exciting for me. So I grabbed the opportunity to organise an art activity for the party, in keeping with my interest to look at all sources of the outdoors and what they can bring, and in turn using these as materials or elements for art making and storytelling.

Bday Cubbonpark

I organised for the children to explore a part of the park in a scavenger hunt, through an imaginary “lost land” that I called Sarandiel and the activity was to honour the land and bring back the magic that once was a part of this wooded landscape, by gathering elements that I’d hidden around the place. These elements — rocks, leaves, textures and the like — were then used to make art.

IMG20171209103205

Watching the kids work, and engaging with them in an outdoor space, made me realise how we as human beings seek being outdoors and what a difference it makes to the energy of learning from surroundings.

We weren’t just walking through the green areas of cubbon park but actually paying attention to all the life inside of it, the colours, textures and changes in trees and plants, insects and birds. Someone even spotted a shed snakeskin under a rock, and it caused a lot of excitement. The birthday girl brought her dog along, and he frolicked all over, joining in as the kids wandered about on their hunt. And suddenly I realised this madding, ever-growing city that envelopes us in cement and glass, still has this big pocket of green, where we can dip in and co-exist with nature.

As a further exercise to this, I organised one of my weekly sessions with the group of kids I teach at home, to be conducted at Cubbon Park. We set off on a typical sunny, wintery Bangalore Saturday morning, armed with art material, a mat, food and drink.

IMG_0124IMG_0119

The boys were mighty excited to be getting out and were very curious to know what we would work with. I allowed them to pick a spot for the session, and that lead to us setting up the workstation under sunny spot. They went on to looking for uncommon shaped rock and tree bark, following which I asked them to look at the object carefully to notice if they could spot familiar looking face’s, maybe a fish?, a hand?, a foot? This activity had them exploring the many features, textures, shapes, sizes of the objects they had chosen to draw.

IMG_0120

This intimate contact to nature has helped bring in a challenging yet meaningful understanding to the importance to a child’s development and the earth’s future.

IMG_0142

There are two fundamental reasons why outdoor play is critical for young children in early childhood programs and schools. First, many of the developmental tasks that children must achieve—exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development and the absorption of vast amounts of basic knowledge—can be most effectively learned through outdoor play. Enabling young children to learn lots and lots of things about the outdoor world. Can sticks stand up in sand? How do plants grow? How does mud feel?

IMG_0134

IMG_0144

Thoughts and questions like these have set me off on an interesting turn to my teaching methodology. It’s what sparked the idea for my next month-long workshop in Goa.

It’s titled From Little Seeds Grow Mighty Trees and will feature image making with light and shadow ~ Recording natural change through a nature journal ~ Nature walks ~ Mapping landscapes ~ Scavenger hunts ~ Printing ~ Collecting found objects ~ Installation and sculptures.

Stay tuned for a poster and more details in my next post.

Going to Goa

Ever since I began formalising my teaching efforts through Drawing Room, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have connected with many like minded people. Whether it was people who opened up their homes and invited me to run workshops for their children, people who understood the essence of what I’m trying to do and worked out ways in which I could engage with children who could benefit from it, to those who were there for me with resources, advice and all kinds of help to see my plans take shape.

FullSizeRender

I feel lucky that this also has led me to collaborate with enthusiastic people who have been so supportive and encouraging. My next project will see Drawing Room travelling to Goa next week, where I will spend the next three weeks creating a dedicated art space for children to feel free to visit and create, when they have an urge to.

The space will be equipped with drawing materials and tools for every child to explore what he or she wants to. Starting on the 13th of September, I will begin my three-week teaching stint in the art space. Over the course of three weeks I hope unfold various stories, explorations, revisiting memories and a lot more, while learning techniques and skills, and ending with looking at our earth and its existing natural forms to learn about abstract and natural life forms.

The last two months have been especially exciting as I’ve felt waves of inspiration while planning and structuring this project. If you’re in Goa (whether you live there, or are visiting any time in the duration of my project) please drop by and join me in making some art! Do share the details in the poster below, with friends and family in and around Goa. I’d be happy to meet some of your littles and share some of the magic!

Sep Goa.jpg

Follow Drawing Room on facebook for more updates and my experiences with teaching art.

Travelling with Drawing Room

It’s been a busy few months and the new beginning I made with Drawing Room is slowly unfolding into some exciting projects lined up.

Right from the start, my dream has been to be able to create Drawing Room as a travelling entity that can go to anywhere that children may be seeking an opportunity to make art. Free from the boundaries of classes, or schedules and timetables. I wanted to be fluid with the destination, and open to going to children, rather than having them come to me at all times.

I’ve been working at expanding the reach of my interactions through workshops and private sessions across cities, to make this as true as possible. So far we’ve had workshops and private sessions in Bangalore and Mumbai (see here and here) with incredible regularity and it has been all kinds of exciting!

Later this week, I’m off to Mumbai once again for private sessions, after which I’m taking Drawing Room to Goa in September. Stay tuned for more information about that!

Thank you all for the support and encouragement all along. I would like to share a peek into Drawing Room with you all, to see how we unpack ideas and allow them to take form into stories told through drawings and painting.

 

Follow Drawing Room on facebook for more updates and my experiences with teaching art.

It’s fun to remind ourselves not to always be right

I explored a composition session with my recent students — Niko and Mia — who were visiting Bangalore on their summer break. The session drew from a popular game we all played as kids – the memory card game. Using a set of illustrated cards, a selection I for the purpose of this activity, we played the game together. Then, based on the cards each one of them was left with, we created a composition that allowed for each element, picture, character in the card to be accommodated within it.

The restrictions imposed in creating a scene that allowed for each card to be placed in it, but not necessarily in a conventional or “correct” way actually allowed for a free-flowing creativity. And the challenge of placing animals and palaces in spaces that they wouldn’t other wise think of them to be made for two very fun compositions.

Niko1Niko2

 

I hope it was a small step in entering into a world where things aren’t always what they seem. Where it’s perfect for a hippo to live underwater, in a submerged palace.

niko4Or a world where geckos, elephants, tigers, hippos and owls come out of hiding to live together.

Niko3It’s the world of fantasy, and going in there from time to time is a necessary ingredient in enjoying any kind of artistic activity.

7cef1aa963b8d70bf7c1111a9ea638be

Follow my experiences with teaching art with Drawing Room on facebook

Beautiful Oops!

When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful.

Beautiful Oops
Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg.

There have been times when as a facilitator, I have had to explore ways of unlearning concepts and some of the strong conditioning that I come with, both as teacher and as a child. This challenge has many a times brought me to discover wonderful ways of unlearning and re-learning.

I’ve grown up hearing adults and teachers at school say, “making a mistake is part of learning” or “making a mistake is part of life”, yet I never wanted to believe either of these statements. When you use the word “mistake” to describe an artwork for instance, you immediately imply that it’s far from perfect, or that it can be better. Whenever I heard the word, it was hard to not compare my work to something that was right and perfect. Because as we all know we celebrate our correctness over our mistakes a lot more.

I took this up as a challenge in my role as an art facilitator (and also for myself in life, in general) to learn to try and accept, and to celebrate my mistakes as much as I celebrate the times I am correct. Initiating that change meant creating an accepting and trustful environment for the kids to work in. Which in turn meant keeping in mind a nonjudgmental language when critiquing their work.

Looking back at my student life, I have come to realize certain phrases lock in judgmental ideas about the artistic processes. These phrases, the very language of feedback, right, wrong, mistake, easy, etc, cues a focus on performance, competition, comparison and risk of failure. Even though it requires constant attention to break these habits, it is well worth the effort.

In Mumbai, I taught a group of children aged 4-9, and one of the sessions was structured around this extraordinary book, Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg. It’s a simple book that shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. Creatively made, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope” to demonstrate the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.

Introducing this discovery to the class brought about an immensely positive change in the way the kids explored and expressed themselves. It seemed to have set off a cycle of change where each of them discovered their strengths, while encouraging each other to work with a sense of spontaneity, acknowledging their mistakes and learn to work towards what they wanted their work to look like, regardless of the blips along the way.

Here are a few images from the sessions after having introduced Beautiful Oops!

Ooops2
By Om Ahuja. Age 5.
1Ahilya
By Ahilya Lulla. Age 5.
2Akira
By Akira Kini. Age 5.
3Antalya
By Antalya Gupta. Age 5.
Ooops1
By Azad Rao Khan. Age 5.

Follow my experiences with teaching art with Drawing Room on facebook.

Take a line for a walk

IMG20170603104530

Drawing is taking a line for a walk.

Paul Klee’s famous quote, above, really does strip down the basic principles of drawing.

Making a drawing is about communicating with your self, without a conscious thought of what mark you’re making on paper. With this approach, I’ve realized there is a sense of ease, spontaneity and freedom with which I explore basics of techniques and composition elements.

Paul Klee’s quote was also the inspiration for a workshop I had the opportunity to conduct last weekend, in Bangalore. Over two mornings, I interacted with a delightful group of 5 – 8 year olds, exploring drawing lines of all kinds.

IMG20170603110156

Through games, freewheeling exercises and watching some videos, the kids saw that pretty much everything and anything that is drawn uses lines. The activities planned helped describe, develop and use different line qualities — horizontal, criss-cross, vertical, slanting, dotted, thick and thin etc.

The venue was a lovely terrace garden surrounded with plants, and made for a great location for the children to recognize the existence of lines even in our surroundings.

IMG-20170604-WA0001

By the end of the two day workshop, every child illustrated an experience of a journey they have taken. Using depictions of the various lines that we explored over the course of the workshop, and through different mediums, their drawings came to life.

As a facilitator, watching the unique process each child takes in understanding and implementing what we explore in every session, is as exciting for me, as it is to see what the final outcome is, in terms of the picture.

Take a line for a walk

The thing about conceiving Drawing Room as a travelling art project is to be able to reach a wider bunch of children, create more such experiences and take it to them, rather than always have a static “class” for children to visit. I look forward to many more such interactions in the coming weeks and months.

Drawing Room is open to collaborations! If you have a bunch of children, a venue or a space where you’d like to host a workshop or session, please get in touch with me.

Follow my experiences with teaching art with Drawing Room on facebook.

Cult Of The Street travelled to Bangalore.

Cult Of The Street.

Bone setters and Barbers shops  An exploration in mixed media,

documenting these unique professions though photographs, drawings,video, sculpture and sound.

Cult of the Street Niyati Upadhya

This is a compilation of 2 bodies of work that traces the lives of two of Bombay’s most queer professions: the bone setters and the barbers. The exhibit takes viewers thought some of my picked documentation of the city’s streets, which showcases the nature, dynamics and reactions of the people and their business, with the common man, set stage in the by-lanes of Mumbai city and a few other cities.

My exploration led to representations of what I saw, in a mix of different media.  I have documented these dying professions with a keen closeness to the senses.

2 business, 1 human body

While the compilation depicts 2 very different professions, they are both closely linked to the same human body.

Bones speak of fragile bodies, mortal remains, healing and restoration form within.

Barbers shops speak of beautification of the body, sexuality, male power, and vanity depicted through the curiosity as an on-looker/passer by, to something that is considered to be otherwise private.

sayani hajjam1Blogresized

HajjamGiri (3)Blogresized

Cult of the Street travelled  to Bangalore and had a rather happy opening on the 19th of April, at 1 Shanti Rd  An Artist Collective Center, run by Suresh Jayaram and Cop Shiva.

It was great to be doing a show in the very city I have been brought up in, where the seeds of my explorations were first sown.

Being in Bangalore gave me a sense of familiarity, but also came with the extra effort of putting up an entire exhibit in a city I don’t live in anymore. Right from transporting my work to Bangalore, finding the best framers, getting all the props and electronics I needed, finding the right printing support and finally setting up the show was a great learning experience.

1Shanti Rd setting up

1Shanti Rd

For me, it was also special to see my work up in a space totally removed from the space it originated from. Putting up a show also brings with it a sense of separation from my own work. The minute the frames and sculptures find their place within the defined walls of a gallery, there is a detachment, where I stop viewing the work as my own, but as a subject that finds interesting reactions in those that come to view it. Gauging what people take back from what you have left them with, completes the entire process of creation, for me.

blogresized3

blogresized6

Having this opportunity to share the Cult of The Street story with people I have grown up with, as well as those I have come to know through my recent interactions as an artist, was a special one. It was good to see the sense of curiosity in the minds of people who visited. There were lots of questions about the subject and why  I was drawn towards it.

blogresized5

blogresized4

blogresized2

And for an artist, it is always nice to see peoples’ reactions to something that is new to them, but that grows more and mroe familiar to me with every passing show.

Cult of the Street, The Bone setters and Barber Shops.

The Cult of the Street is a series of visual diaries that documents the ‘professional underbelly’ of the Indian city. It is an essay in mixed media, exploring the Naayi and the Had-vaid through photograph, drawing, video, sculpture and sound. The stories of the bone setter and the barber are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant.

                                                                                                                      cultofthestreet1

Poster Design By Mana Dhanraj.