Monday, April 2, 2012

In honour of Vincent Van Gogh

This is Ryan's interpretation of what is generally assumed to be Vincent Van Gogh's last painting - "Wheat Field With Crows" (1890).

I thought it would be a good time to post it since (as Alicia informed me) Van Gogh's birthday was just a few days ago, on 30 March. You can see a photo of the original painting in this photo (in the book on the table). This photo was taken on the first day that Richard and Ryan started on this piece. They took two days to finish it.

I have received some curious comments on our art sessions at home and on what we use, so here's the reveal. Richard and Ryan experiment with all mediums - oils, crayons, pastels, watercolours, poster colours, acrylic, do-a-dot, stampers, finger paints, etc. We concentrate on just painting, so that the work becomes an outlet for expression of thought and feeling. We focus less on sensory/texture play (like in Ryan's days in Julia Gabriel when art and craft time was more for building fine motor skills and for sensory play). So, for instance, during these sessions, we don't ask Ryan to paint a paper plate so that it looks like a cat, or anything like that. He freely paints/draws what he wants, while learning how to use the different mediums. Of course we adopt a different approach for crafts and making specific things, like when making a paper plate face, the eyes should (ideally) be in a particular spot or the chinese lantern has to stand up in a certain way, but for our art sessions, it's pretty much painting and just painting.

Some people find it unusual that we have set aside so much time and effort for our art sessions. We ourselves don't find it unusual, really. Richard and I love art and have a deep appreciation for it. More importantly, it is pretty amazing to see the little ones creating art - it is a natural expression of their thoughts and feelings, and it seems, to us, to be a waste to ignore it and not to nurture it. It's something that's almost magical. Of course, we do it only if Ryan wants to, nothing is forced upon him.

I wanted to say something further about our outlook on art, which is that we participate in it without caring whether it is "practical" or "useful". In our home, art is freely given, freely appreciated and freely created, without thought or worry about what gains are made from it. That's what keeps it stress-free and enjoyable, which help to cultivate Ryan's interest in it. Art is valuable on its own. It's what makes us human, it's what separates us from machines and animals. Your child does not need to be Picasso but remember that, if your young child does not seem keen on art, this is sometimes a sign of an underlying developmental problem.

I do feel quite sad when I hear about children who don't have the chance to develop their interest in art. Sometimes parents, especially in Singapore, get so caught up in what they think are more practical uses of their time, and art gets relegated to the bottom of the list. In my view, that's a very short-sighted and shallow outlook and it's such a deprivation to the child. If our little ones must only do what is practical and useful for their future, then their childhood is no different from their adulthood. Put another way, if they don't get the chance to enjoy art now, then when? Never?

If love and appreciation can only be given in exchange for reward and benefit, then let me point out, for the benefit of the more practical-minded, that art is also seen as an elite hobby, as in, people who know how to appreciate and collect art tend to be rich and successful, and I'm sure all those practical parents dream of their children becoming rich and successful. While these art collectors may not have gotten rich and successful because of direct endeavours in art, I'll bet that their appreciation for art played a part in getting them to where they are because an appreciation for art permeates one's outlook and attitude in life, affects career, relationships and goals. It makes a better-rounded individual and certainly one with more interesting conversation to offer. After all, would you rather be stuck with a person on a golf course with nothing better to talk about other than the weather or someone who can tell you about the beauty in the things and places he has seen and been to? Would you prefer to work with someone who is oh-so-practical who sticks to the tried-and-tested, or someone who is creative and who can come up with new and fresh ideas and solutions?

In my view, those parents who need a practical reason before they will think about letting art into their children's lives are themselves unappreciative of art in the first place and have a misguided impression that art has no practical benefit. In actual fact, art has plenty of practical benefits for young children, which is why art is always part and parcel of any good pre-school programme. For the sake of this post, I did a search on the internet on why art is important for children - goodness, there were so many reasons and benefits! I got this list from here:

1. Art stimulates both sides of the brain.
2. 33% of children are visual learners.
3. There are studies that show that children who make art, read better and get better grades in science and mathematics.
4. Children learn by using their senses and art is ideal in this process.
5. Children need a place to express themselves (whether at school or at home)
6. Art promotes self-esteem
7. Art encourages children to give more attention to the physical space that surrounds them.
8. Art develops hand-eye coordination.
9. Art stimulates perception.
10. Art teaches children to think openly. It represents a culture of questioners more than a culture of responders.
11. Art teaches that there is more than one solution for a problem.
12. Art teaches children to think creatively to solve problems.
13. Children can share and reflect on their work of art and learn something about the world they live in.
14. When art is integrated with the other subjects in the curriculum, children commit more to the learning process.
15. In the process of doing art, the child is exposed to different possibilities, to discover and to be free.
16. Art nourishes the human soul. One feels good doing it.
17. Art brings the cultural resources of the community into the class (or into the home).
18. Art involves parents and tutors in the school, inviting them to participate as volunteers in diverse activities.
19. Art provides a common ground across racial stereotypes, barriers and prejudices.
20. Art is valuable all by itself.

And from here:

"Art classrooms teach children many skills which traditional classroom settings do not. Children learn how to tap into their creative side to make something without judging the outcome before it happens. They learn coordination and motor skills, making their hands reproduce either what their eyes see or their mind envisions. They learn the satisfaction of completing a job in a satisfying way, as well as taking the initiative to finish that project. This is a huge benefit in today's world, the work ethic that many people lack.

Children will also learn the important skills of learning to critique projects. They can analyze something they are presented with and through that, they will learn how to look at the good and bad aspects of any work. This teaches children the important skills of analysis which will come into play for the rest of their lives. Art can bring all of these skills to children and these are important cognitive skills for success in one's entire life."

Okay, hope that provides some food for thought!


Subscribe to our feed



(function (tos) { window.setInterval(function () { tos = (function (t) { return t[0] == 50 ? (parseInt(t[1]) + 1) + ':00' : (t[1] || '0') + ':' + (parseInt(t[0]) + 10); })(tos.split(':').reverse()); window.pageTracker ? pageTracker._trackEvent('Time', 'Log', tos) : _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Time', 'Log', tos]); }, 10000); })('00');