Petroglyph carvings by the ancient Nabatean civilization in the desert valley of Wadi Rum.
Colorful glass bead necklaces made by the Bedouin at Petra.
The historic casbah of Ait Benhadou in eastern Morocco, a great place to find shade and paint the scene. Painting by Dave Platford
The alluring crafts of Morocco.
Tile mosaic from the craftsmen of Fez.
Smiles are the common response to the reception of art supplies. These kids in Machakos, Kenya were grateful for the gifts, and despite little previous art experience they had fun, and some even surprised themselves with their drawings. We were joined by a group of high school students from Oakland, California who were doing a community service project to build an extension to the local school. The art supplies were a fun way to unwind from the hard work in the sun.
Learning to draw the shapes that make up an object takes attentive hand eye coordination. Some kids made strong efforts towards accuracy of form, while others thoroughly enjoyed the good old fashion scribble scrabble.
The drawings below were created by elementary and high school students in the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya environmental art contest. The organization has an active program to encourage and facilitate class field trips into the National Parks to learn about the native ecology as well as practical conservation practices that can benefit the communities.
We joined Wildlife Clubs of Kenya on their visits to schools in the villages outside of Machakos. They talk to the children about the amazing qualities of the wildlife and what they can do as individuals to protect the wellfare of animals and increase their own knowledge of the environment. Typically, they do video projected documentaries about the local East African wildlife and environment. To learn more about the program, visit: www.wildlifeclubsofkenya.org
At the Oriya Basti Community Center school in Bhopal, we used a laptop to show a slideshow of kid's art from around the world. The parents of these children were victims of the devastating gas explosion of the Union Carbide pesticide factory tragedy, and continue to be affected by a contaminated water source. After the slideshow, the kids were excited to do their own art using the supplies we donated to the school. The school itself is supported by donations from the royalties of Dominique Lapierre's book about the gas tragedy, Five Minutes Past Midnight in Bhopal.
March for Justice: Bhopal to Delhi 800 km!
In support of the courageous people of Bhopal, we created this logo which was printed on backpacks for the 2008 Bhopal to Delhi Padyatra March for Justice. More than 60 survivors and victims of Union Carbide's 1984 factory explosion and subsequent water contamination disaster set foot on a 35 day, 800 kilometer march for Justice. To see the full journal with photographs, click here:
Though we were not able to join the march, we were pleased to lend a creative hand to their efforts.
The marchers aim was to meet the Prime Minister to remind him of his unkept promises regarding the rehabilitation of the survivors, clean-up of the environment, provision of clean water and punishment of the guilty corporations. On March 28, they reached their destination. "We were forced to undertake this grueling walk because the Prime Minister failed to keep his word. This time, we are not going back until we get a public declaration from him that he will deliver on his promise," said Hazra Bee, a survivor and one of the padayatris.
Datta, age 10 (left) experimenting with the spiral drawing mechanism. This simple gadget besides being fun and full of surprises also requires a very steady hand and concentrated mind.
In Phey village, Ladakh, we presented the slideshow of children's art from around the world to the students at SECMOL (Student Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh). Using a digital projector we were able to do the presentation to 120 students at a time. The purpose of the slideshow was to open their eyes to the creative visions of other children in neighboring and far away countries, as well as to inspire them to create their own works of art. In the following days, we stayed with the school conducting a drawing workshop where the students drew their visions of life in Ladakh. At SECMOL the students learn about various curriculur subjects including solar energy technology, a crucial facet of the ecologically sustainable development movement in Ladakh.
Solar Cooker with mirrors on a 12 ft.diameter concave disc directing sunlight onto cooking stove. Two of these are able to cook for over 150 people a day.
A typical house in the mountains of Ladakh.
Kunga Lundhup, age 11
Stanzin Mutup, age 12
The four brother artists with their mother at their house in Shey, Ladakh.
Stanzin Rabjam, age 8
We met a group of four brothers who were exceptional artists for their age. Their drawings of historical Tibetan Buddhist dieties reflects their own culture; however, drawings such as Stanzin Mutup's of the Muslim Jama Masjid (left) show their openness and respect for other cultures. Aside from the dramatic conceptual quality of their drawings, you can see the remarkable attention to detail and accuracy, as exemplified by Stanzin Rabjam (age 8, below) as he puts on the details of a Kingfisher's tail feathers. Each of them had already filled up numerous sketchbooks by the time we met, and so I felt confident they would make good use of the stack of art supplies we gave them, such as watercolor sets, extra brushes, pens, drawing paper, acrylic paints, and technical art instruction books.
Stanzin Rabjam (age 8) at work on his drawing.
Here are some of the neighborhood kids in Leh, Ladakh, who hung out with me as I worked on my own painting (to the right). They had a great time experimenting with their new joy in life: art!
This young fellow was a tenacious little guy, just moments before he received his set of pencils and paper, he was beating up on two other boys double his size. His fearlessness was exceptional for his age, yet completely uncontrollable. Until of course, he got hold of his new set of art materials. I look forward to seeing what this guy will create, with the wise council of his Grandmother, a Tibetan Buddhist keeping it real in Alchi, a small village in Ladakh.
After giving this young boy art materials, we were told that this was the first time in his life he had ever had any colored pencils of his own. He struggled at first, but gained inspiration from the animal coloring book (right side is his rendering, left side is the example to follow). He was fascinated by the process of placing the animals in their habitats and including the local food plants of the creatures.
On our way towards Mt. Kanchenjunga (the 3rd tallest mountain in the world!), we stopped to visit a small school near the town of Darjeeling. There, at Maneybhanjyang Primary School, we distributed gifts of colored pencils, blank drawing paper, and pencil sharpeners to over sixty children from rural laboring families. The teachers, principal, and members of the community helped us distribute the materials in an orderly manner. Simple as our offering was, it was much appreciated, as the school receives no extra funds for textbooks or any special items from the government.
Joel Gildersleeve helping out the kids on his way into the Himalayas.
The kids in the Angkor Wat area proved to be remarkable in exercising their creative potential, a very real echo from the ancient civilization that built these temples over a thousand years ago.
N.H. Puthy, age 17
I met this young girl, Sophia (age 10) who was sitting in the entrance hallway to the Angkor Wat Temple. She had already done many drawings, and I was immediately impressed by her skill and passion for drawing. She told me that her art supplies had been given to her by a Japanese tourist, but that she had nearly used up what she had, without any money to buy any additional art materials. We arranged to meet the next day and I brought her and a group of her friends some sketchbooks and colored pencils that I was able to buy in the small nearby town.
Local youths sketching in the ruins of Angkor Wat, and the surrounding countryside.
In the village of Ping'An in the Longshen mountains of China, we met a group of very eager kids who got right to work the moment we started to pass out paper and pastels. Though we couldn't properly speak to them with any common language, they understood what to do with the art supplies, and we shared alot of smiles and laughs. Being so remote in the mountains, the kids of the village do not have much access to art supplies. That's Sai Thongvanh (below) doing his magic for the kids who look on astounded.
Upon starting to do a quick study painting of the village houses (below), a group of kids gathered around to watch (right). I didn't mind them watching; however, I did challenge them to try making their own pictures. So after we passed out the materials they diligently sat down and had fun creating their own drawings.
We visited an orphange where we brought boxes of art supplies as gifts to the kids, who responded very enthusiastically as they are not used to receiving special things to entertain themselves. Again the language gap was a barrier that we crossed with art.
Painting by Sai Thongvanh
In the ancient villages of Xidi and Honcun of China's Anhui Province there were an incredible number of art students doing exactly what we were doing: painting and drawing, creating impressions inspired by the ancient construction of the village. The artists had come in groups from Universities all over China. Perhaps what I will remember most about China is that there is an incredible amount of art appreciation throughout the culture, and the young people are working hard to develop their talents.
Painting in the ancient village of Honcun. This small lake was featured in the famous film 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'.
Drawing on location has been a great way to interact with the local people in the communities that I've visited. On the right are drawings done by the children that I met in Lallibela, Ethiopia. I coached them on basic drawing techniques using a pencil and eraser to create the textures of rock and foliage, as well as how to convey volume, depth, and perspective. Later, further art supplies and books were sent to them, and they continued to develop their artistic talents.
The above drawings were done by Smatchew Mesfin (age 10) in Lallibela, Ethiopia. 1999.
The mural painting project created at Mwakigwenu Primary School in Ukunda, Kenya. The banner in the mural translates as "Knowledge is Light." We used a chalk line grid system to transfer our sketch to the wall. The planning and painting process lasted one week, involving the student artists of the school. After the project was completed, the students and teachers were inspired to create additional art projects and murals.