Q1: Can you explain more about the ‘no comment’ atmosphere? One of the fun rules of Painting-Play is that we can talk about anything in the closlieu – except the paintings! Of course you won’t get into trouble if you do, but I will gently guide you towards a more non-judgemental stance. This was so hard for me at first, but I assure you, you can do it too with practice! I believe there is a place for traditional art lessons, but I strongly believe that there is also a need for a “space” (physical or metaphorical) in which there is no “audience” for what you are creating. No one to impress or make happy. No risk of comparison or criticism. How rare it is to be able to paint simply for oneself and for the pleasure and spontaneity of it, without inhibition or fear of judgement. I meet so many adults who upon hearing that I am/was an artist or art teacher almost visibly crumble with shame and tell me “Oh I can’t draw for peanuts/toffee etc”, “I’m terrible at drawing” “I haven’t got an artistic bone in my body” etc etc. Somehow I hope that Painting-Play can open up a whole new world of possibilities for us to celebrate each human being’s unique value.
Q2: What does a typical session look like? A: A typical session will start with a welcome in the ante-room and a brief introduction to the concept and then we will all put smocks over our clothes and move through to the closlieu. Participants take a piece of paper and decide where they would like to paint. I attach the paper to the wall at the top and the participant attaches the bottom two corners. They can then approach the table-palette in the middle of the room and take a brush, dip it in the water, dip it in its matching paint colour and take it to their paper to paint. Afterwards it becomes almost a dance. It sounds strange, but it works! Of course I am there to help. At the end of the session, I date stamp and name each painting. Some participants are prolific, some won’t even fill a page. Everyone works at their own pace over the 90 minutes. When the paintings are dry, I archive them safely in vacuum sealed bags. Next session, participants may want to start a new painting or add to a previous one. Some paintings grow to fill whole walls over a long period of playing! I have step ladders!
Q3: How would a session with a 3 year old differ from one with a 7 year old? How would you keep a small child engaged for 1.5 hrs if the intention is independent painting? A: Little ones (under 7 or so) may not want to paint for the whole 90 minutes, but their parents might! So for that reason, I provide other safe activities, such as books, blocks and blackboard/whiteboard or simple paper drawing in the adjacent space. My job is to serve you all, so that you can all enjoy the space and the creative process equally.Q2: Attention spans differ from person to person and little ones are likely to have short ones! Hopefully with my attentive facilitation, you will be able to focus on your painting and Elliot will be able to focus on his for a while, maybe take a break and come back. We can play it by ear.
Q4: Why do you want us to sign up for 5 sessions? A: The first time can feel a little odd for a person to not get the usual kind of teacher-student/parent-child feedback but it doesn’t usually take long to settle into the new paradigm. This is why I encourage you to commit to a series of sessions. Arno Stern is so famous in France and beyond that he has no trouble getting people to commit to an entire year and he would insist on no trial or short courses, as he has seen with his own eyes how difficult it can be for people to adjust to the lack of direction or feedback, especially if they are older and have been more “schooled”. He has also seen the remarkable “progress” made by painting-players (or “les enfants du closlieu” – children of the closlieu) over time. Some have become artist. Others have simply become happy, balanced people! I am hoping to gently acclimatise Singapore to the concept of long-term practice.
Q5: If we aren’t allowed to take the paintings away, is there another takeaway? A: I hold on to the paintings carefully, so they can be viewed or revisited by participants in the closlieu at any time, either during a session or by appointment. With your permission, I can also compile a digital portfolio. Both the actual paintings and the digital portfolio will be offered to you at the end of December 2020. The reason we don’t let the paintings leave the room is to safeguard the non-judgemental values of the space. The paintings are made in good faith that there will be no comments, so there is a contract of trust that must be honoured. If a child or adult took a painting home, and it was admired or criticised by someone else, then the purity of the process and the sanctity of the space is destroyed. A closlieu is a space unlike any other and has to be carefully preserved, both physically and metaphorically in the heart and mind of participants even when they are not in it. They know that this safe space is waiting to welcome them again. The takeaways in Painting-Play may be intangible, but nevertheless valuable: creativity, confidence, self-actualisation, an ability to be both autonomous and collaborate with others. The list goes on.
Q6: How will I know if my child is making progress? A: That all depends on what you mean by progress. Painting skills will undoubtedly develop with practice, but this is not an observational drawing class. Painters will be able to gradually access their own innate visual language (la formulation) and this naturally brings pleasure to people of all ages. Creativity will develop exponentially as they naturally explore their imaginations free of instruction and judgement. As a result, their confidence and sense of self will grow.