Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Process Art" with kids with disabilities: The beginning of art in all of us....

Trying out the watered down tempera and straw technique! It was a huge success for every age group. Their squeals and "Ahs" made me very happy. Sometimes as I watch these kids, I roar with laughter at their joy. And I have been known to have a few tears drop too when we experience so much wonder together.

Process art is about the discovery, investigation, and enjoyment of the materials without the notion of an end result.  --Barbara Rucci

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. --Pablo Picasso

Picasso's notion that everyone is an artist is a nudge or reminder we all have a yearning to make beauty. There is a creative reservoir that awaits to be expressed in all of us--even if we forgot it at the playground long ago. As a child, I was lucky enough to have long stretches of time to play in sand, dirt, water, clay, puddles, and paint. I could sit and mix oil paints together for a long time, feeling a quickening of excitement watching the colors merge and swirl together. I was on a little vacation in my mind as a ten-year-old sitting in a neighbor's garage mixing paint for an art class. To put the colors that I mixed together on canvas was my first awe of art. 

As a mom with six kids, I tried (even when it got messy) to bring the wonder of creating to my children. When my last child, Elias, was first diagnosed with autism, I struggled to discover what we would enjoy together. I hauled out the art supplies like I had with my other children. I would never have imagined the journey we have taken together (In one month he will have his own exhibit of about 27 paintings here in Doha). Blog coming. Be ready to be wowed! 

As I look back on the "process art" approach of exploring with materials, I see how it has worked dividends with him. As we paint, we sit and talk about the world, colors, music, proportions, light, darkness, seasons, memories, so many things. We listen to music, especially Vivaldi's Seasons. As I watch him paint, I remember the little girl in the garage who was enchanted by mixing paint and boldly bringing it to the canvas. Doing art together has made us have a strong bond because we have discovered and explored so much beautiful terrain together.

Since art has brought him focus, confidence, and joy, I wanted to see if it could happen with other children with disabilities here in Doha. Elias and I have been lucky enough to teach several dozen magnificent children and young adults. We have seen so many children mesmerized with art materials, some who barely speak or do not speak at all, willingly take a paintbrush or a cut up piece of cardboard to dip in paint to do printmaking or whatever. I have seen confidence and concentration grow. I have seen incredible collaboration when they work together. But mostly, I have seen astonishing joy as they are captivated by their creation. 

Picasso was right: every child is an artist...  

My daughters long ago showing their pure joy by capturing their feelings on paper.  Of course, there were lots of messes, but I think it brought a joy that moved me every time. To watch them become more observant about the world and try to make sense of it was worth it. This picture reminds of the quote by Claude Monet, "I am chasing a band of color."

My son Peter, who is now 22, rolling his cookie dough. I believe to give kids the opportunity to explore and discover is one of the best gifts we can give them.

Some favorite art supplies

 Here are just a few of my favorite materials to use. The Isopropyl alcohol drops on paint make some wonderful effects, kind of link a cell. There are white dots on the paper. The salt pulls away from the pigment of the paint, showing a splattering effect, like a spray--good for backgrounds or an ocean scene. The droppers are for the alcohol or to drop watered down tempera or watercolor on paper--and then blow it with a straw. Sponges are also a wonderful effect for frothy oceans or random speckles for a bush. I found many sponges one day on a beach in South Africa. I love using them. Leaves of any kind are great for printmaking. I use the gesso to make small canvases with cardboard or paint over other paintings--if we want to recycle a canvas.

Some different tips to give interest to the "process artist."

Art projects that have brought so much joy to my students:

More straw painting--a really big hit!

This young man loved watching a gorgeous picture emerge before his eyes--with the vibrant colors colliding and mixing together.

Balloon painting

Splattering with the paintbrush--making bubbles, waves, spray of water. Besides, it is just fun....
Doing some "Matisse style" creating with the kids--dividing up areas for them to collaboratively create together.
Just tape it off, and see the designs they make...

Finding the joy of bending and folding paper...

Making a city with folded paper

Painting with Q-tips--another favorite. Sometimes a brush for kids, especially with disabilities, can be a little daunting.  The small Q-tip spreads well and just absorbs a little paint or glue.

Q-Tip painting, with pastels as a background...

 Elias teaching some of the students how to paint the dabs for their falling leaves...

This is my son, Elias. With some practice with Q-tips, he has made some beautiful paintings with dots, the technique known as Pointillism.

Another favorite is to bring several lazy susans and put them on paper. The child loves to twirl and make circle paintings.

String painting

 Making an ocean scene--dabbing lots of paint and layering saran wrap on it to pick up the paint--showing bubbles and froth of the waves. They love it.

Jackson Pollack style dripping. Watch the joy... 

More splatter painting

Bubble art--This was fabulously successful for all age groups. I was surpirsed. You just add food coloring or watered down tempera paint in a bowl with some dish soap and water. The children blow the bubbles and then put a piece of heavy paper on top of the bubbles. One smart kid said the painting looked like bacteria, cells, and viruses swirling around together. 
More bubble painting, and then peeking in to see how their painting is shaping and forming.

This picture makes me inordinately happy because this student was definitely not happy about 20 minutes before this painting. For children with disabilties, process art shows immediate, fun, and experimental joy.
Making a group mosaic with different colors of squares. Sometimes its good to have a collaborative project and to work together. 

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