By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
“Painting is concerned with all the 10 attributes of sight; which are: Darkness, Light, Solidity and Colour, Form and Position, Distance and Propinquity, Motion and Rest.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Painting and drawing, which we call ‘Art’ in education, is a wonderful subject. It is not like Maths, Science or Languages or any Social Science. Art, which we shall refer hereafter, is a vibrant world of colour and shapes. It is a language, a science and maths and also it is the reality as well as the fantasy.
Children, before they learn to speak, read and write; learn to draw and paint. Before they learn numbers and letters; they explore the world of Art and explore the world through Art. They also express themselves through Art. Unfortunately, Art is not given its due place and honour that it richly deserves in the national education system. As a child grows older, parents do not encourage a child to explore Art.
Many children, although they have used pastels and then watercolours, have never experienced other mediums of painting after they grow up. Adding into this, even in schools, children are not encouraged to explore Art; and Art is given less importance and attention. The ‘Art period’ in schools is considered to be boring and also, there is a tendency to look down upon those who are interested in Art or drawing.
It is indeed sad that the majority of Sri Lankan parents, teachers and policymakers have not understood the importance of Art and its great impact on human beings.
Children and Art
Children, before they get familiar with writing tools, languages, numbers, and even before they speak, respond to colours, shapes and light. They also recognise colours and shapes and are able to respond to them from infancy, such as 18 months, which is before they recognise numbers, letters and sounds.
Art education in Sri Lanka
Children who are involved in painting and drawing gain immense benefits. It helps their brain development, hand/motor skills development, cognitive improvement, self-esteem, emotional release, stress relief etc.
Children, who are exposed to the world of Art at a very early age, learn to be more expressive, respond to the outer world and be more sensitive. They also recognise colours and shape. These developments help them improve almost all their other abilities and greatly contribute towards their personality development.
It is true that Art is a skill that one must inherit and cannot be taught. Nevertheless, children must be exposed to the world of colours and shapes regardless of their talent and should be encouraged as it is a natural tendency of a child to be attracted towards colours; and use colours to express them.
The use of paint must not be stopped or restricted as it is similar or as discouraging as stopping a child who is trying to say something. Many parents scold or stop their children when they are painting or drawing on the walls, furniture or any other place in the house and also ‘enforce rules’ to control their children who are prone to using colours and other Art tools. Also, children should not be told to do their Art activities confining them to a specific place in the house, instead, they should have the freedom to paint and draw, whenever and wherever they wish to. Placing restrictions and denying their freedom to draw or indulge in Art is not the right approach at all, to instil discipline in a child. Such an attitude is clearly controlling or ‘killing’ a child’s creativity and expression of thoughts and emotions. The subject ‘Art’ is in fact about discipline and training one’s eye, mind and hand; it need not be taught using force.
In school, the Art period is considered boring and mundane. Children are expected to sit in a row and draw or paint on a given topic. Also, only a limited number of tools, styles, and techniques are taught to students.
Another extremely sad situation is that as Art and Arts Education is sort of condemned and looked down upon and often regarded as inferior to Maths and Science, the standards of Art and related subjects have obviously deteriorated. It is observed that those are less aligned or have poor skills in Maths, Science, and language and computer proficiency are being channelled to learn Art and related subjects.
Also, introducing the Art subject for exam-based education and degree programmes has a negative impact on the quality of the subject. We must understand that Art is an inborn talent and a unique language one must master; no exam or degree could measure one’s artistic skill.
Misconceptions leading to adverse consequences
Resulting from the misconceptions of Art, the subject has been greatly devalued and degraded. In SL, generally, one who has a Bob Marley or Bohemian physical personality, or acts and dresses eccentrically, or puts an effort to act radical, is portrayed as an artist; in reality, a true artist doesn’t have to make an extra effort to be in the limelight. Although the number of ‘artists’ in SL is noticeable, the number of ‘quality’ paintings is notably low. Even most of the ‘visual arts’ graduates of the universities, are exploring the subject merely on its ‘outer surface’. Also, Art is not about producing chaotic or miserable pieces of work. Art is all about viewing beauty and experiencing relaxation in colours.
Apparently, many in today’s society are self-centred and insensitive towards others and its environs. There is a strong possibility that a child who is well exposed and trained in the world of Art from a very young age moulds into a more sensitive and sensible person in adulthood.
Give your child the freedom to explore their world through Art and allow them to express themselves through Art freely. Do not consider Art as a subject of the weak and the poor. Those who are gifted with a knack for ‘Arts’ are blessed to see the world in colours and shapes and express themselves in colours and shapes: an opportunity only a real Artist could conquer.
“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.”
– Vincent Van Gogh