When I was recently asked whether I would like to review Pitter Painter’s art classes for Sassy Mama, I jumped at the chance. I love most things crafty, and having seen some of the lovely articles that Pitter Painter has recently written with ideas for kid-friendly projects that you can try out at home, I was all enthusiasm. This was going to be fun! And then, with that same terrible sinking feeling that you get when you are boarding a flight and remember that you have left the iron on at home, I realised that I was probably expected to take my gorgeous whirlwind of a 3-year old son along with me. Eek.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, it isn’t that my son isn’t an enthusiastic artist. In fact, quite the opposite, it is just that his work is… well, somewhat avant garde. When painting, he finds it difficult to be constrained by paper, preferring instead to daub body parts, pieces of expensive furniture and slow-moving cats. He is also fairly consistently stuck in his ‘brown period’, unable to resist the temptation of mixing the palette until he has created a shade that most closely resembles bodily matter. No doubt, he would be the toast of contemporary art circles, and may well be nominated for the Turner Prize, it was just that I wasn’t sure he was ready for a structured art class, or indeed, that they were ready for him…
And so, it was with a slight sense of foreboding that we arrived at the YWCA on Macdonnell Road, ready to join their afternoon 3-5 year old class. The room was light and airy, and all appeared to be going well, as Pitter Painter founder and teacher Grace, alongside her assistant Andrea, warmly welcomed all seven children and helped them on with their aprons. White canvases, pencils and water pots were handed out, and then, it began. As all the other children sat patiently waiting for instructions, I watched in growing horror, as my little lad started scrawling across the pristine canvas using dark, thick pencil lines. Oh dear.
Whilst Andrea kindly dissuaded my son from emptying the water pot onto the floor, Grace showed the class what they would be working on during the hour-long class– a cityscape with fireworks, as a nod to the soon approaching New Year. As I looked at the example picture, I couldn’t help a slight wry smile to myself – the very idea of my son being able to produce anything so detailed and elaborate seemed ridiculous. They were going to have their work cut out for them today…
But bit by bit, my cynicism began to crumble, as slowly – using a series of easy-to-follow steps, a lot of patience, direction and praise – Grace and Andrea helped my little boy focus, and a colourful cityscape began to emerge from the previously smudged and scribbled on canvas.
Grace had the knack of being encouraging but firm, and was obviously adept at helping little people channel their energy, allowing creative freedom but also challenging her class to try new techniques and develop new skills. If I was gobsmacked that my little one wasn’t just creating a big brown smudge, then I was equally impressed by the skills of his more experienced classmates who were creating rows of beautiful, well-arranged buildings, with their well-honed fine motor skills.
As Grace started pouring out the black paint for the night sky, I thought that was going to be officially game over. Surely, my lad couldn’t resist swishing that about everywhere? But experience of small, messy children was on Grace’s side, and in a stroke of teacher-genius, she explained that she was going to paint a ‘force-field’ around the buildings to protect them from the black paint, which my son thought was just brilliant. And thus, against the odds, his buildings weren’t obliterated into a big, gloomy puddle. Little short of a miracle.
And so things progressed. Every time I sensed things were about to go terribly wrong, it was skillfully avoided, until my son had created a painting that was, yes, exuberant, and a little impressionistic, but did actually resemble a city-scape on New Year’s Eve. A definite landmark in my son’s artistic career.
And, despite me being obviously biased and always thinking that my son’s work is, of course, the best, it was true that his classmates did a pretty good job too. And to think this was just the pre-schooler class!
And so, although I had arrived at the class feeling apprehensive, both my lad and I came away not only having had a good time and feeling quite proud, but also with a proper picture on canvas that we can hang on his wall.
Pitter Painter offers unaccompanied classes for 3 year olds up to tweens, at a variety of locations around Hong Kong, including the YWCA and the HKFC. Most painting projects are created over the course of two or more lessons, to allow the children a real sense of development and accomplishment. Check out the website for more details, and to sign up for a free trial class.
Pitter Painter, classes available at YWCA, Aberdeen Marina Club, Clearwater Bay G&CC and the Hong Kong Football Club, 6273 6764, [email protected]