Friday, October 06, 2006

Children's paintings

I've been wanting to post some paintings up for some time now. I think I should get down to actually doing it this time. Pet, hope this is what you will see on the walls of my mum's place.

Ladies and gentlemen, the paintings you will see below were painted by children from 5 to 8 years of age. 'Art classes', as they are fondly referred to in Malaysia, are held on Saturday mornings. Mum stopped hiring so-called art teachers from external sources as they were too rigid. They would draw something on the board and say, "Ok, you follow that and then you choose your colours to paint in la"...... where's the creativity in that? You would hear phrases like, "How can you use this colour?" or "No, you don't draw that here. You draw that on this side" or "No, rub this off". Ring any bells?

Dad's approach is slightly different. His children do not paint while sitting down at individual tables. Instead, they paint standing up at painting easles set up in a way that allows them to observe and interact with other children.He arrives early (or else Mum would tell him off), briefs the teachers on what he would like them to do, and explain it to the children. He has two groups of chidlren. The younger group is taught the basics of colours, i.e. one week would be warm colours and another week would be cold. Once they get a hang of the concept, they then work with 2 colours like red and yellow. Dad only provides them with the primary colours of red, yellow and blue. Once they 'accidentally' find out how they make other colours out of all of that, they move on to more complicated things like brush techniques. Then, white and black would be added to their palette.

Yuk Khey used to tease me a lot. And he did that in perfect English! He'd go, "Shi Jing Jie Jie, how come you don't like to wear pretty skirts?" And I'd be speechless. Yuk Khey was 6 when he painted this. Dad wanted them to learn not to 'mess up' their work. And this painting was also to allow them to practice their waving skills. And they just learnt how to mix green and brown.

Another technique lesson, this lesson focussed on only 2 colours. Dad wanted them to learn that the paint brush is a powerful tool for evoking different emotions when used properly with the right colour combinations. Ming Suet's simple painting here shows you that with the right amount of guidance, children are capable of producing real paintings, not just cartoon-looking drawings and bright colour-me-in run-offs. Ming Suet is one child I am very fond of because she's been with us since she was 3. She is still with us and now she's 9!

Marcus speaks fluent English and was the star of our 2004 concert as he was in the English drama as the lead character. He has a cheerful personality and loves to talk in his high-pitched voice. It does seem strange that the expressions on the faces he painted are more of the negatives than positives. Wonder if this shows anything about life at home or outside of the Centre?

Dad also used real-life objects. His favourite are fruits and vegetables because all he needed to do was either grab them from home and from the kitchen.

Kien Hing was 7 when he did this painting. Dad put up a banana on the easle for them to follow and it was up to them to paint it however they liked. He came to us when he was 3 and his best friend was Dana. His family runs a wantan mee stall in an old coffeeshop in the middle of the wet market in the heart of Seri Kembangan. The teachers don't particular enjoy his presence in the room because he won't sit still but I find that if you make yourself and your lessons interesting, he WILL sit and listen to you.

Another fruit lesson was the apple one. Pretty straightforward. Wai Keat was 7 and his dad placed him in the lessons because he didn't want him to be lazing around at home. Good idea.

One of my lecturers actually thought that was a painting of a bird. But anyways, I'm sure you are able to tell what it actually is. Dad didn't prepare for this lesson so he went into the kitchen and grabbed a few onions and presto! Don't you feel amazed at what Jia Ern, only 6 at the time she did this, could mix the colours and differetiate between the inside and outside of the onion? She is now 8 and the last I heard, she is top of her class and Model Student of the Year.

Dad introduced the masterpiece to the children in reaction to the children's thinking that 'flowers are all in pretty and bright colours'. They are conforming to what is considered normal and I don't blame them for that. No one has ever taught them to challenge what is considered normal and Dad wanted to show them that it is alright to paint flowers in black or leaves in blue. It's art so have some fun! And fun was what Ming Suet had! She thought of the background on her own and the white and black dots, just unexpected!

Until today, this is still my favourite painting. When Hao Yan first came to us, she was rude and 'rough'. She was very stubborn and used to bite other children when she didn't get things to go her way. Her mother had just transferred her from a play-based childcare centre thinking that 'she's had enough of playing'. Parents sometimes do not realise that playing is actually learning. But yes, she transformed and just look at this sunflower! Look at the brush strokes, the interplay of colours, the balance. This was the lesson where Dad showed them the different sunflowers painted by Van Gogh and Klimt.

When you are confident and trust the children with your material, when the children enjoy your lessons and when you do not set boudaries for them, you will find that children have the most remarkable imaginations.

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