From little seeds grow mighty trees

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Introducing children to outdoor art making, using nature and its elements to build forms, and drawing on natural surfaces.

It has been a year of conducting workshops about the outdoors, rekindling observation and using found objects and material of we have around us. I was invited to Goa earlier this year to conduct a workshop in Anjuna, and was fortunate to have a venue so apt for this kind of work. The workshop was held at this outdoor location, by the sea, amidst farm animals, lots of space to wander around and observe nature.

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This was an exciting beginning to designing this workshop that spanned over a month.  All I could think of was natural light, walking around barefoot looking for tools to work with, the sound of animals and the joys of not having to imagine what the outdoors has to offer, but actually having it all around us, to witness, as we worked.

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I’ve found this to be especially important when working with children, as it adds an extra touch and memorability to the learning experience.

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For children, the outdoors are the greatest playground of all, with all its diverse structures, smells, textures, its creatures of all shapes and sizes.

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The workshop was divided into three parts beginning with looking at the earth as a canvas, moving into water life and changing landscapes and the air that surrounds us. Using the outdoors as a fertile space for ideas, inspiration and building an outdoor studio draws on a model based on a playful, child-centered, nature-based art education.

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What colour is your sky?

Some of the most powerful and creative work that to come from the kids at Drawing Room has happened when I planted a question in their minds and allowed them to go wild with coming up with the answers.

Sky Colour is a fabulous book by Peter H. Reynold, that explores the thought processes of a child named Marisol, as she and her friends are faced with a dilemma of painting the sky for a school mural. The story traverses their explorations and the creative process of breaking out of the notions of right and wrong, finding one’s own meaning and sense of what we see around us, and most of all it stresses on observation being a key element in making art.

Inspired by Sky Color, by Peter H Reynolds

One Saturday, we began our session with the question “What colour is your sky?” and read the story together. Marisol, as well as the children in her class, considers herself to be a true artist and are at first stuck to the idea of perfection and accuracy. But slowly they explore the possibilities of looking at different hues, tones, textures and find a range of different ways to depict the sky.

The story was a great way to introduce observation and critical thinking outside the boundaries of picture perfect art. I observed that even in my own class, they were inspired to work outside of their comfort zone and not stick to colouring within the lines. What I hoped was that this was a beginning into encouraging them to question why something is right and wrong, considering other possibilities and decide why something works for themselves.

A few pages from some of the sky journals we maintained.

The exercise didn’t end there. We each kept a sky journal, recording what we observed about the sky for a number of days to come. Looking back into the journal, it’s safe to say that the kids realized that the sky is not always only blue.