Many of the century’s greatest artists – Kandinsky, Klee, Matisse, Picasso, Miró and Dubuffet – had sizeable collections of artwork by children. They studied and imitated the spontaneous and wilful distortions of children’s pictures as though, like dreams, they offered a royal road to the unconscious.
Consequently, modern art was often – and still is – dismissed with the cliché, “a child could have done it”. In fact, I think this is the best compliment I received from art critic Jayanti Madhukar in her review of my debut exhibit as an artist in April 2016 published in Bangalore Mirror – “She uses the varied inks just like a child, who has recently discovered the delights of colour pens. Imperfections show in the form of slightly smudged lines where two ink colours meet. At first glance, they may seem amateur and child-like, or like a stylized simplification of forms and design.”
Far from being offended by such comparisons, Expressionists, Cubists, Futurists and members of the Russian avant-garde often played up the parallel and frequently exhibited their work alongside the art of children: in 1908 Kokoschka’s work was first shown next to children’s doodles; between 1912 and 1916 Alfred Stieglitz put on four exhibitions devoted to children’s art at his legendary 291 gallery in New York; in 1917 and 1919 Roger Fry showed artwork by children at the Omega workshops; and the 1919 Dada exhibition in Cologne included infantile scribbles displayed next to artworks by Max Ernst and his colleagues.
As an artist, I’m not just influenced by the “primitive” nature of children’s art, there’s a whole lot more to imbibe and a hell of a lot more to ‘unlearn’ from years of conditioning.
Like last year, this year too I was invited to judge the 3M Mini Me art project at VR Bengaluru on 27 & 28 Jan, 2018 as part of their much-awaited annual public art festival – Whitefield Art Collective. It is one event I eagerly look forward to being a part of. Over 500+ children in the 6 to 15 age group participated this year and boy did I love looking at ALL that creativity and colour. Here are my takeaways from this year. There’s just so much to learn from children, isn’t there?
1. Mistakes Are Not A Bad Thing
Children don’t concern themselves with what other people think so there are a lot of ‘mistakes’ in their art. They don’t take care to colour within the lines for one. Adults in comparison are aware of dos and donts and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it ‘right’.
The freedom that results from not giving a hoot about what others might think leads to much more interesting works of art for sure.
2. Don’t Try To Be Perfect
In my interview with Bangalore Mirror in April 2016, I had said, “I do not want to cover up the flaws. They are also part of my work, of what I am.”
I continue to believe that there is a lot of beauty in imperfection, a wabi-sabiness. Imperfections also instill humanity in a piece of art or drawing. They are more relatable and that’s the unique thing about everything that is hand-made.
Like children, I always love free-hand drawing because it feels natural and comfortable. I never have a desire for a perfect rendering in terms of symmetry.
3. Keep It Simple
The topics at the 3M Mini Me Art Project were – My Dream Home, My Dreams, My Favorite Superhero and Save the Environment. There’s no way I would have been able to even attempt to visually articulate any of these topics in the given time because its just not that simple to me. As adults, I think we lose the ability to think in simple terms, everything seems complex and convoluted even before doing it. As it turns out, it’s harder for an adult to draw like a child than it is for a child to draw like an adult. And, once we properly learn how to do something, it’s very difficult to unlearn that way of doing things.
4. Don’t Let The Internet and Google Make You Lazy
If I want to draw something, like a baby or a flower, I often find a picture of it by either photographing it myself or looking it up on the net. Children on the other hand draw from memory and that creates a much more interesting idea of something than a literal representation. We need to tell ourselves that it’s less about photo-perfect art and more about what you think a flower should look like. Flourescent green lotus? Sure! 75 petals instead of 7? Even better!
5. Don’t be Afraid To Misuse, Play And Experiment With Your Tools
At the 3M Mini Me Art Project sponsored by 3M, the kids werent afraid to use colorful post its in place of paint with interesting 3D results. As adults, we are conditioned to use a specific thing for specific purposes only – not so with kids. Feel free, let go. As an 8-year old, I still remember how I took out the felt refill holding the ink inside felt tip pens to make colourful wigs for my hand-crafted egg-shell dolls. At the time, my mom was delighted to see these cute, colorful egg dolls but not as ecstatic when she found out how I’d massacred my felt tip colour pen set to make them.
Explore tools, experiment with them, figure out what you like to do with them, ignore the ‘Not intended for…’ warnings for once.
Use tools to suit your needs rather than strictly using them the way they are supposed to be used.
Pics : Courtesy VR Bengaluru