On day one, we explored body trace drawings and painted with contrasting colours. For this, we referenced Matisse’s figure painting work from his early years, abstract collage and painting as he broke away from realistic forms to discovering a body of work in the abstract.
Drawing with Scissors was derived as an activity to make compositions using abstract cutouts with organic and geometric shapes. This was our activity for day two and really got the kids fired up. We concluded the 2-day workshop with a beautiful video that translates the organic to natural shapes in the way that Matisse would.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was interesting to note that unlike my previous experience with this bunch of kids, where we’d meet once a week, across an entire year, the dynamic of a 2-day workshop with a start and stop, as well as a clearly defined purpose. The energy and tempo was entirely different and I hope that it was helpful in helping the kids understand and absorb many concepts like “abstract”, “collage” and “pattern” and understand some of the nuances of the works of Henri Matisse.
I’ve just returned from Mumbai where I had been for a weekend workshop titled Drawing With Scissors, which I structured as an introduction and exploration of the works of Henri Matisse to children aged 5-7.
Many of the participants were children who used to come to the weekend art club I conducted all through 2016, and I was excited to be able to teach them once again. A week prior to my arrival in Mumbai, I had started receiving voice notes and messages from the kids about how eager they were to meet again. Some of them even pushed parents to cancel holidays that were planned in order to come to the workshop!
On the morning of day one, as I was setting up the studio, I heard the kids chatter as they walked up the stairs to the WAA residency, which was the venue for our two-day workshop. Immediately I felt that familiar energy I’ve shared with this bunch.
I was seeing them after five months away and in just that short span of time they’ve all grown and changed! So we all needed some time to warm up to the fact that we were all back in the same room. Pretty soon though, we were all sharing stories as usual, updating each other on all that we have learnt in the months gone by. It set a super-charged tone to the workshop.
I began with a quick round of a drawing game followed by showing of a little film introducing the life, the ways, studio and inspirations of artist Henri Matisse. It helped the kids distinguish the different styles he practiced, when we looked at a range of images of some of his work.
In all the prep I did to develop this workshop, as well as while setting up, I was able to understand so many more interesting and exciting details to Henri Matisse and his work, which I’d completely glossed over when studying art history in college.
I was particularly fascinated with some of the quirky details like his fetish for animals, birds and other creatures. His journey from working realistic to abstract over many years shows a beautiful transformation in form. This was a fantastic insight into relooking at art history for myself and specifically Fauvism.
I’ve always retained information when it was told to me like a story not just mere facts. While designing this module I kept in mind all the little details that made Henri Matisse an interesting person and told his story with images of his work and life, including all those little details that I personally found interesting. I’m pretty sure that it’s the little details like Henri’s pet cat, the birds and animals he kept to observe and be inspired by, and the extra long paintbrush he used to paint from his bed (when he was too sick to leave it) are what made Henri the artist and Henri the person an indelible memory in their minds.