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Acham illai acham illai (Be fearless)- Conquering fear with music and art.

P came home from school singing’Ekla chalo re’. It was the new song they were learning in their music class at school. He was super excited to learn a Bengali song. I asked him if his teacher taught him the meaning of the song and he answered negative. I thought it was a lovely opportunity to talk about the song and a similar song that I play in my head when I’m at crossroads – Subramaniya Bharathi’s ‘Acham illai, acham illai’ (Be fearless). I can still visualise my Tamil teacher singing this song to us with pride and telling us to imbibe the meaning.

We listened to the ‘Ekla chalo re’ song on you tube. I read out the meaning of the lines. Of course it was a tad difficult for him to fully understand the meaning. So I adapted it to facing our fears, head on and bravely moving ahead.

I also played ‘acham illai, acham illai’ and explained the meaning to P. The video of the song was set to India’s independence struggle and how Bharathiyar inspired common man with the song.P connected better to this song.

We then spoke about our fears and how we must bravely face it singing ‘acham illai, acham illai’. P said his fear is being alone in the dark. I prodded him to draw it and also think about how he will face his fear. He drew a self portrait of him alone at home at night. He drew his favourite God bappa (Ganesha) who will help him face his fears. He kept chanting ‘acham illai, acham illai’ and singing ‘ekla chalo’ as he painted.

A picture I will always treasure in my heart!

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Art, the healer

Art is a great healer and I believe it calms me down and helps me best during trying times. We recently lost my father-in-law (P’s paternal grandfather). While we were coming to terms with the loss, we had a greater task of making P understand the ultimate reality of nature – death.

This was P’s first brush with loss of a love one and hence it was an uphill task to collect our own thoughts and present it in a manner that a 7 year old can comprehend. While it is a moment of extreme grief, I wanted P to have a positive approach to the experience. So I explained the circle of life – of how to accommodate more babies, mother Earth and God calls back people who are old and ailing. And achacha (grandfather) was not in the best of health and hence was called back to join his parents who are now with bappa (his favourite God, Lord Ganesha). Of course P had a lot of questions which I tried to answer.

It has been few days now and P seems to be revisiting the experience and trying to make sense of it. That is when I thought I’ll teach my boy to use his strength – art, to express his emotion and feelings.

We spoke about his memories of achacha, the fun times he had with him drumming, pottering around the porch, sighting the squirrels and birds that came to eat the crumbs they had thrown etc. P spoke of the times when they competed about whose crumb the bird/squirrel would eat. I was glad he recounted all the happy times.

I then put out his art sheet and colours and told him to pain his best memory of achacha. P thought for a long while and then to my surprise painted this – him, achacha and our family dog Jocky. Jocky died couple of years ago and at that point we just told P Jocky’s parents came and took him back. Being smaller then, he was upset but soon got over it and busied himself with the other dogs, Droopy and Tiger.

When I asked him why he chose to include Jocky in the picture, he said ‘now I know Jocky and achacha are together and they will play together.’

I hope art has helped my little boy vent out his emotions and he will continue using it as a medium to inner peace, all his life.

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Collaborative learning

I have been doing a lot of watercolour painting this vacation and P has been pestering me to do one on his own. His conditions were – ‘using your paints, your brushes and on handmade paper’. At the risk of my watercolour tray getting mixed and messed up, I gave in to his long standing demand.

So today he got up all excited, finished his morning routine at express speed and sat down determined to paint his masterpiece. When I asked he what he wanted to paint, he told me emphatically, ‘I have it all figured out. I want to paint an ulsavam aana (caparisoned elephant) – the one we clicked during the ulsavam (temple festival). You draw it for me and I will look at the photo and paint’. I was taken aback with the level of planning and so I just followed his ‘figured out’ plan.

With the photo in front of him, he started his work with a little prayer. I was surprised to see how much he has been observing me when I paint – I always start my paintings with a small prayer.

Since watercolour is a new medium for P, I had to guide him through it despite his protests. We worked on the art together, with me highlighting the edges and P painting as per my instruction. And just like that we came up with our first collaborative work.

The time spent, as always gave me a peek into my little boy’s head, a rare opportunity given the fact that his world is now infused with friends, sports, books, play and the likes. When we finished our painting, I told him how I loved our ‘art time’ to which  P cheekily replied ‘I think we should do this more often amma. I can teach you so many things!’

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Introducing the tribal art of Gondh

The invite to do an art workshop at the local Art festival was a big surprise and honour for me. I shared my joy with P and he too wanted to be a part of it. I always take him with me for my art workshops so that he can interact with the young and od artists, see their work and just soak in the arty atmosphere.But this one clashed with his school timing and we both moaned over it. Nevertheless I promised I would do a mini one with him first.

I was doing a workshop on Gondh painting – one of India’s oldest tribal art. It is easy yet intricate and has so many possibilities within.

We started off with me drawing a bird for P (for once he settled for something other than a plane). I told him he had to do a basic water wash of some bright colour, and once the paint is dry he can do the Gondh design with anything other than a brush.

He decided he didn’t want to wait for the paint to dry and before I could tell him anything he started doing the Gondh designs with the back of a brush, toothpicks, Q-tips, pencil stubs and just about anything he could get his hands on.

I was a little weary about P’s interest, as Gondh is a constricting art form in a way – it allows just dots and dashes. But my li’l artist took to it and went on to doing a fish too!

Hope next time he will consider the basic colour wash which will give the painting a brighter feel.

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Water colour resist painting

Water colour is a tricky medium, especially for children who love it’s vibrant transparency, but are unable to manage its runny character. P has watched me do innumerable water colour paintings as it is one of my favourite mediums. But he has never got the hang of controlling the ‘running paint’.

Just giving the drawing a water proof border will do the trick. Water colour resist is a good way of teaching children to paint within lines and to manage runny water colours. It is pretty simple and the results are more than satisfactory.

We chose to do this on a small canvas as P wanted to display his work in the living room and not on the door of art. I thought doing leaves will be a good start as there is enough inner space to paint. Thi is how you go about it.

Things you will need

  • Canvas/Paper
  • Fevicol (the tube one)
  • Water colours

Instructions.

  • Draw the picture of your choice
  • Outline with a thick border of fevicol. Wiat for it to dry out completely
  • Once the border is firm, use water colours and paint.
  • Outline (if you please) once the art work is completely dry

The thick border of fevicol prevents the water colours to run around and they stay right inside. It also allows some amount of shading and texturing without spoiling the shape of things drawn.

Cool isn’t it!

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Nurse elephant’s big lesson to P

P came with an unusual request today. ‘Amma, I want to see and paint the Jungle Hospital story’. We have in the past, done art work based on stories and characters that P has loved. In all those, the art that followed were largely from P’s memory and imagination. So today’s request took be aback.

I gave in when he reasoned that he just couldn’t draw the Nurse elephant in her costume or Timmy Tiger with his leg in a cast or Philip Frog in a wheel chair, without seeing the book.

The story, ‘The Jungle Hospital’ from the book ‘Bedtime 2 Minute Tales’ has been P’s favourite in the last 2 weeks. He has been fascinated with Nurse elephant and how she heals other wounded animals in the story, for long.

P soon sat down with the story book and his art book and got to work. He had a tough time trying to get the orientation, perspective and depth right and kept calling for help from me. I did pitch in but kept it at the bare minimal as I wanted him to understand there is no ‘right way’ in art. He has to enjoy the process, even if it meant crooked faces, jagged lines, wrong perspectives or numerous correction. He should not draw or paint to please the gallery.

Big concept, I know, but my little fellow did manage to get it and soon shut the book and let his imagination flow.

P coloured his work in crayons, outlined with sketch and later gave a bright water colour wash to the entire painting.

My boy has truly made a big leap – of drawing on his own, mixing various medium and most of all enjoying the process.

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Smoke art

P and I hate the long spells of not doing art projects together. While P indulges in art on a daily basis with his random drawings, painting or just creating things with his blocks, ice cream sticks and other stuff lying around the house, our ‘art together’ time is getting challenged. So today we more than made up for it by doing a long pending project – smoke art.

I was inspired seeing a few smoke paintings online and at a gallery in the city. Smoke painting is a difficult art and needs great dexterity and manipulation to get the right form and effect. P is too young for it and I am still learning it. So I thought  a simpler version of it will be a great start.

Warning: Parental guidance is required for this project

Materials required: Candle and Paper

Method: Light the candle and slowly move the paper (right side on the flame) over the candle till the black smoke creates dancing patterns on the white paper.

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First we tried on plain paper

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and then on some of P’s previous art work.

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P even tried to draw stars and moon with a Q-tip over the smoke.

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We loved the smokey texture and background on the paintings – especially the Ganesha one. It gave a celestial touch to P’s art!

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