Book making

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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.

 

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Drawing with Scissors: An Introduction to Henri Matisse (Part 1)

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.

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Nyra’s depiction of the Drawing Room family back in class again after five months.

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.

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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.

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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.

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HENRI MATISSE A NICE

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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.

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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.

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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.

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