Life skills in creative ways

That’s because it involves a run up to the canvas, arm action and – splat! – a dash of colour across the whiteness – followed by the cheers of the participants and the handing over of the brush to the next artist.

“Creative Arts is more than just drawing or painting,” asserts Vishal Talreja, Director, Dream-A-Dream. “Art is a powerful tool for communication and an effective technique in imparting lifeskills.”

As the children laugh and paint, we realise the important lessons they are learning without realising it — waiting their turn, sharing, observing, and feeling like a community, creating a canvas of bright colours. Instinctively, children who participate later choose colours that their classmates haven’t yet chosen, and cover areas of the canvas that are left empty. We realise how important eye-hand co-ordination is when some children overshoot the surface and spray their classmates with paint!

The activity doesn’t end when the canvas is filled. There is a discussion on who chose which colour and why, and what they felt while they were painting. Children express themselves unselfconsciously, as they are rapt in the activity and what they have to say.
Then there is a Jackson Pollock technique of combining movement with painting. The requirements are — a large paintbrush, a bowl of water, various colours and a canvas each for about seven students. It is important for the facilitator to get the consistency of the paint so that it splatters well without being too diluted.

A more complex variation of this activity is ‘image-building’ conducted with a large sheet of brown paper and a permanent marker. One child draws part of an image, and the other kids build on it by drawing in turn. After the image is complete, the children discuss whether it was easy or difficult to be the first, second or last to draw, and why. The conversation then moves to co-operation, teamwork and conflict management.

Discussing these otherwise abstract concepts in the context of a just-concluded activity, in a relaxed atmosphere, helps children express themselves and clarify various values.
While some activities are team-based, others are individual, and children are free to interpret the topic given in any way they wish.

Thus, with the topic ‘Festivals’, a fourth-standard student paints ‘Duserah’, depicting himself with ten heads! “I’m as naughty as Ravana,” he states, with a merry chuckle. With the topic ‘My Family’, children not only illustrate members of their family on paper, they talk about their favourite members, whom they fight with the most, their pets and the visitors who drop by!

Children then make three-dimensional greeting cards, and address them to a family member or friend, with personal messages on each. “The children bring out a lot of their emotions through their art,” says Chandrasekhar, the facilitator of the session. “We don’t force them to participate in the activity or the discussion, but these kids are eager to do both. The follow-up discussion is as important as the activity itself.”

With the topic ‘My Feelings’, children draw a flower. At the centre, they write their name. Then, each petal stands for a feeling – ‘I feel silly when’; ‘I feel sad when’ – and so on. The follow-up discussion involves sharing how feelings are dealt with, so that children realise they are not alone in having certain emotions in how they react to and cope with these emotions.

Activities can be technique-based, topic-based or even material-based. In ‘Sandpaper’ art, children use crayons to draw on sandpaper, and explore the texture of the material and the effect it has on the colours they are using. Children are also taught about colours themselves — primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Once they have been taught the basics, they experiment by mixing various colours and seeing the results. As they explore the world of art, children develop their personal, inter-personal and cognitive skills. And, judging by the laughter and merriment we hear, they have a lot of fun as well!

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