Take art

You need to be taught to paint pretty pictures, right? Not so, says art teacher Manuella Mavromichalis – creativity is innate and should be nurtured rather than forced

Take art
Take art Image #2

There’s a phrase on the graffiti-covered wall of Manuella’s studio that stands out. ‘Give me wings,’ it says, and that’s exactly what this inspiring dynamo aims to do for each child who steps into one of her art classes. ‘We’re all born with a natural ability to create,’ she says, ‘but as we’re absorbed into the industrialised world and education system, judgment comes in and our wings are clipped.’ Not in her classes, however, which are designed to release the creative spirit and let it soar.

‘Because creativity is innate, you don’t have to teach children about art so much as give them permission to do it,’ says Manuella, who has a Masters in Art Education You need to be taught to paint pretty pictures, right?
‘My aim is to show that art can be absolutely anything; this is one area where there is no right and wrong, so you won’t be told that a tree isn’t a tree because it’s blue, and, whether or not a child is good at maths or can spell is immaterial; everyone can shine.’ This she says is enormously empowering, and helps to build confidence. Just as a child goes through certain physical milestones (rolling, then crawling then walking…), there are artistic milestones too.

Every child will, at some stage, pick up a pen and start scribbling for the joy of it, progressing to more defined shapes, then naming them and so on. And, just as you wouldn’t force your child to walk before he or she can crawl, you shouldn’t push kids creatively or try to guide them, Manuella argues.

To support her belief in giving children free reign with the pen or brush, she quotes Picasso, who famously said, ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, a lifetime to paint like a child.’ The Spanish modernist would certainly have approved of Manuella’s classes, in which she demonstrates various artistic techniques, provides a bit of art history and bucket loads of inspiration, then hands over to the children.

In a semester that focused on Renaissance art, for example, she introduced Raphael’s Mother and Child paintings, then asked children to bring in pictures of themselves as babies with their mothers and to make art with them – whether a painting, collage or sculpture in clay.

When discussing Michelangelo, she shipped in scaffolding and had everyone painting the ceiling, and a semester themed around Native American art involved making headdresses, painting teepees and participating in a traditional ceremony in which each child was honoured for their work. The result is that, while children are learning to express themselves artistically, they’re also having a lot of fun, and are sure to leave sharing Manuella’s belief that ‘art is a beautiful, magical thing’.

Home is where the art is

Manuella’s tips on how to nurture your kids’ creativity at home
Create a dedicated art corner, kitted out with a table or children’s easel (from Early Learning Centre, 17 179 739), along with easily accessible materials (Things to Do, 17 590 409), so they don’t have to ask you to give them paper or paints. This empowers children to be more independent. Then stock the area with good-quality materials and tools, including:

• Fairly heavy paper in a range of sizes.

• Brushes and gouache or poster paints (steer clear of toxic oil paints and hard-to-use watercolours). Finger paints are good for young children; squirt a whole lot onto a plastic table and let your kids make swirly patterns, then place pieces of paper on top of their designs, and voila, they’ve been introduced to print-making.

• Pastels and soft pencils (stick to Bs) for drawing, plus an eraser and blending sticks.

• Clay. Get real as opposed to self-hardening clay, which is hard to manipulate; keep it in a sealed bag and add water if it dries out. It doesn’t matter if you can’t fire the pieces because it’s all about the process.

• Tools for working with clay: a wooden chopping board, garlic press, rolling pin, cookie cutters and dental floss for cutting it. To avoid mess, show your children how to clean brushes and tidy up after themselves, making it clear that if they don’t their privileges will be taken away.

Let your kids get on with it; keep your ideas to yourself and don’t butt in or take over. Bearing in mind Picasso’s wise words, you might even learn something.
New term, Fun in the Sun, begins April 22. Children’s art classes are once a week for 90 mins, for 10 weeks (teens’ term is eight weeks long). BD100 includes all art supplies. For more information, call on 17 402 797 or email makhlouf@batelco.com.bh

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