Traditionally art is an important aspect of many early childhood programmes, and one we utilise a great deal at Mairtown. Historically, the father of kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, believed that young children should be involved in both making their own art and enjoying the art of others…as this encouraged each child's "full and all-sided development" (Froebel, 1826). These are certainly wise words and a good reminder that children should have opportunities not only to create their own art, but also to enjoy viewing the skills and talents of other artists.
An artist the children at Mairtown are very familiar with is that of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser tends to appeal to children, he uses a lot of bright colours, often leaving no hint of the white paper he began with. He also represents many aspects of his work, in an almost child like manner (for instance his lollipop trees) and as the children of Mairtown know, Hundertwasser was not a believer in straight lines. These factors make him a natural choice to study and to use as a provocation for the children to create their own Hundertwasser inspired pieces.
Each year at Mairtown, as part of our fundraising, art created by the children is used to make calendars, cards, diaries and notebooks - and yes - our inspiration for this years work was Hundertwasser.
We began our work by using black vivid on white paper, adding colour with a selection of dyes. When this had dried the children highlighted aspects of their work with gold and silver pen, this layering process really adds a depth and vibrancy to the finished pieces.
What I really loved about supporting the children in their Hundertwasser inspired work was how I was able to work one-on-one with the children. I was able to share with them my interpretations, and listen to their opinions on Hundertwasser’s work. Many children told me stories about what they felt was happening in his pictures; I listened to some wonderfully imaginative almost fairy tale like stories and sometimes clearly stories based on the children’s own personal experiences, or past exposure to different artwork and artists.
‘Children’s interest in making art is increased if adults encourage them to talk about art and artists – who artists are and how they make things.’ (Douglas, Schwartz and Taylor, 1981)
Every child was able to look at a large selection of Hundertwasser’s work, and pick one that they were drawn towards – it was so interesting to view the art piece they choose through their eyes; how they noticed different aspects of the images and what these may be compared to my thinking, how they asked such interesting questions, and ultimately how at the end of completing their own work, all the children at Mairtown created pieces that are unique and so totally different from one another.
‘Art generates a Love of Learning and creativity; it develops a willingness to explore what has not existed before. Art teaches risk taking, learning from one’s mistakes, and being open to other possibilities. Children who are creative are also curious and passionate about knowing more…art develops the whole brain’ (Drawing on earth)
Here is a selection of some of the children's stunning, and completely individualised work:
The young child doesn’t critique his work – he paints freely and with pleasure, enjoying the fine and gross motor experience of moving paint over paper and watching lines, shapes, and colours come to life. Art puts a child in the “driver’s seat” and provides freedom: the freedom of choice, thought, and feeling.