Monday, September 29, 2008

I Think Peace Is For You!

I was quite busy, this last weekend, preparing for my ‘Art For Earth’ classes that began today. First, the canvas had to be coated with several layers of gesso. Gesso is used as a base coating to protect and seal the canvas. After the canvas had dried, it was time to lay out the design. For this art project I decided to use a grid with 2” square shapes.

The longest portion of my preparation time was spent mixing the colours. The painting has the colour purple in it, but to make it more interesting I created five different shades of the same purple hue. I always test my paints to make sure that the colours look nice and the small bits that I paint give me an example to point to when I’m explaining how the class will be working on the canvas. You will notice, in the photo below, that I painted the border of the canvas, as well.

When I first began to teach these art workshops, I would have the students paint the border. I quickly learned that the students found this a little boring and it took quite a bit of time. Since then, I have learned to do this part of the project myself, leaving the fun part for the students.

+ + + +

I arrived about half an hour before my workshop was to begin so I could get unpacked and organized. The students were getting ready for their recess break and when I entered the room many of them came up to me with lots of questions. One of the questions was, “Will you be my friend?” I answered, “Yes, of course, and I hope that you will be my friend too!” Suddenly, I had a set of arms surrounding my waist as I was being hugged. Then another set of arms went around me, and another. Within seconds, there were close to ten grade four children hugging me. Wow! This is going to be a fun class!

I began the class with a poetic introduction. Then I picked up my guitar and played a short peace of music. “That sounds very happy!” was one of the remarks from a young girl. I explained that I like to create music that shares how I am feeling and today I was feeling very happy because I was going to create a wonderful peace of artwork with these students. It is important for me to explain that art is not just something that is drawn, painted or even sculpted, “Being creative in all areas of your life is a form of artful expression.”

I explained how – with any art form – the artist must have knowledge about the subject matter. Since we were going to paint a picture of the Earth and sun, we had to fill our brains with thoughts on this subject. I asked them to tell me what they knew about the Earth. Here is what they said:

There’s lots of water.
I like flowers.
Mountains are big.
People eat food.
After it rains there are rainbows.

All of these thoughts, and more, showed me that the students enjoyed talking about all the things that made them happy.

Using the examples that they had given me I asked them several questions: “Does everyone have clean water to drink?”, “Does everyone eat healthy food?”, “Does everyone have enough food to eat, every day?”, “Is the rain, that creates the rainbows, always clean?” Of course, all the answers were “NO!” Then I asked them if there were any other problems in the world that concerned them. As one voice the class rang out, “Global Warming.” I was very surprised. Obviously this was a subject that has been taught to these students many times and they knew quite a bit about it. We talked about famines, population growth, acid rain, war and poverty just to mention a few other items.

Then we talked about our responsibility to be able to find solutions to these problems. All the students agreed that something should be done about these problems and they all agreed that they would try to learn more so that they can be a part of the solution.

At this point in the class, I brought out my guitar, again. I explained that together we were going to create a peace of artwork, but it was not going to be a painting – it was going to be a song. I used the same music that I created for my turtle song and after fifteen minutes the students had helped me create a brand new song:

The Song of Peace

I think peace is for me.
I think peace is for you.
Together there is nothing we cannot do!

We can feed all the world.
We can clean our water, too.
Together there is nothing we cannot do!

I think peace is for me.
I think peace is for you.
Together there is nothing we cannot do!

We can stop all the hate,
The day the whole world celebrates.
Together there is nothing we cannot do!

After this introduction it was time to paint. For the rest of this day and for the next two days, the students will work with me, in groups of two, until the painting is complete. Most of today’s class was spent sharing ideas, looking at pictures and singing songs so only a small bit of the painting was completed. The next two days will be spent focussing on the painting.

As I was taking the above photo, one of the students asked why I was doing that. I told them that I wanted to share the photo with other people so that they could see what wonderful artists there are at Kensal Park School. Several students became very excited and they asked me to take more photos of their artwork… so I did.

Earlier today, the class teacher explained to me that the students had created this series of portraits in a certain style – I can’t remember the name of the artist that was mentioned – but he was known for painting very long portraits, with the eyes placed near the top of the head, with long necks and nose features. I gave them all many complements on their artwork. I thought they were all very well done and the students were happy when I told them that I would share their artwork with my friends – and that’s you – the readers of my blog.

+ + + +

My painting station was at the back of the classroom and while I was working with my students I was also listening in on what the rest of the class was learning. I couldn’t believe it – the students were working together with their teacher to write a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada. The topic of the letter was global warming. As the students were constructing their letter I would hear sentences like “We need to have clean air to breathe”, “Please stop all the pollution” and many more.

When I first began to organize my children’s environmental art workshops, many teachers had expressed that there is not enough focus on environmental issues in the classroom. That was ten years ago. Today I am a witness to the fact that environmental issues are being discussed in almost every area of our children’s education – and I am ever so happy to be involved, in my own small way, to this greater ideal that is being established in the minds of the world’s future citizens.


No comments: