Last Monday was the exhibition of works created by 20 young Project Chiclayo artists who participated in a 4-week series of workshops I offered called “Las Maravillas de la Naturaleza“, or “The Wonders of Nature”. The workshop and closing exhibition took place in the ICPNA (Peruvian-American Cultural Institute), that graciously offered free use of their auditorium. Considering that Project Chiclayo programs normally take place in modest living rooms and community activity spaces, I felt spoiled to be in a huge space with a projector and sound system! And my students enjoyed lounging on the carpeted floor, on occasion, as they worked.
This workshop series was open to Project Chiclayo participants in Grade 5 and up and limited to 20 participants who were prepared to truly dedicate themselves to all the workshops, each of which was 2 and a half hours long. I was thoroughly impressed by the high level of concentration and dedication of the artists during every single workshop, but it is not really a surprise that when you offer a safe space for creativity and art supplies, kids will get to work without too much encouragement (which is certainly how I spent countless hours of my own childhood).
The first day of the workshop began with a bit of getting to know one other as the participants were from 6 different places: 3 sectors of the city district to the north of Chiclayo (José Leonardo Ortiz), 1 sector of Chiclayo itself, 1 sector in the city district to the south (La Victoria) and the seaside village of Puerto Eten. We played a game to encourage participants to talk about why they like drawing and painting, what their favourite colours are and why, what subject matter they most enjoy drawing/painting and what their other hobbies are.
I then used the projector to show paintings done by artists from Peru and around the world, something which the participants thoroughly enjoyed. These are kids that love art, but they have had very little formal exposure to it, largely because they live in sectors where the arts are hardly valued. After this introduction, the rest of the day was dedicated to doing two pencil sketches following the workshop’s theme “The Wonders of Nature” and then testing out the watercolour pencil crayons we would be using, which none of them had used before. Homework for the following class was for each participant to bring in two sketches of they wanted to draw for their final piece, sketches would could be inspired by the artwork we had viewed.
This energetic 11 year old was proud of his drawing ‘The Volcano of Arequipa’, depicting a mountain in Arequipa (in southern Peru), which he had learned about in his treasured atlas of Peru which he brought to every workshop. The piece to the right, ‘Deep Forest’, was done by a shy 11 year old girl inspired by the colours of Van Gogh.
On Day 2, most students arrived with at least two sketches as well as a print out of a painting by one of the artists they had been introduced to. They spent the session planning out their final pieces with a combination of their sketches, new sketches inspired a large selection of photos of nature and other ideas. It was fun to guide them and question their ideas, more than anything to make them think about drawing things from new perspectives, and shy away from their ‘doodle’ styles for flowers (the ‘typical’ flower, drawn with five petals around a yellow centre), butterflies, trees (trees which look nothing at all like the ones typical in this region, but more like oak trees which many have come never come into contact with), the sun (always drawn in a top corner of the page), clouds, etc. Day 3 involved a lot of hard work to advance with their pieces and Day 4 involved polishing their works and adding details such as shading, more layers of colour, more leaves to their trees, etc.
Throughout each session there was a soft background music of instrumental music from Peru and many other countries. I often talked with participants about what they were drawing and worked in the theme of caring for the natural environment by, for example, asking what they knew about the species they were drawing and if they knew that some of them (such as birds) were in risk of extinction.
‘The pureness of the water’ (left) was done by a sixteen year old high school student. ‘The Little Prince’ was done by a nine year old girl who said that the title for her work came from the book of the same name that she read two years ago in her weekly Project Chiclayo educational program–oh, the joys of reading!!
(Sadly, these two artists were sick and could not attend the exhibition).
The artists and the Centro Esperanza-Project Chiclayo staff present,
thrilled with the amazing results produced by hard work and creativity
to promote the beauty of nature and importance of its protection.
The mothers of all participants came to the exhibition, as well as two fathers,
many younger siblings and a few friends. We all left happy to have viewed some beautiful artwork
and the artist participants left with much pride and satisfaction.
I have seen many of the participants already during Reading Kite visits and some were excited to tell me that they have already framed their artwork and certificate and displayed them in their living rooms. They all asked when the next workshop will start, but sadly, it will only be after the New Year as students will soon be in final exams (the school year ends in mid-December), an important time even for such young students here in Peru. Luckily will still be offering other art workshops up until the Christmas holidays.