A joyous canvas of colour and creativity
By Renu Warnasuriya
The red brick building adjacent to a peaceful paddy field seems the ideal place to create. The house itself bears signs of the extraordinary work that takes place within. Beautiful paintings plaster the walls, while clay crocodiles occupy the staircase. The floor of the airy " art room" is scattered with colourful crayons, pencils, paints and all kinds of knick-knacks.

Situated in Thalawathugoda, Shyamala Pinto - Jayawardena's Art School was opened two years ago with two students. Shyamala now has 45. They range from five years to 18 and are fitted into three two-hour classes, which are held thrice a week.

Having completed her education at Methodist College, Shyamala pursued a Fine Arts degree at the University of Kelaniya. A past student of the Cora Abrahams Art Class, Shyamala was trained as an art teacher and began her career when she was just 17. She was the art teacher at Ladies College and also coached art students for London O/L's and A/L's. Following her dream Shyamala moved on to open her own art school.

Talking and getting to know the child individually is an essential part of Shyamala's work. This according to her is the best way to know their capabilities, likes and dislikes. “You have to talk to them until you see a twinkle in their eyes," she smiles explaining that a teacher has to work with a child until they make this connection.

" I have a plan for every child," says Shyamala admitting however that she does not cover a certain lesson on a certain day, as art is simply something that cannot be taught that way. This does not mean that the children are not given any kind of formal guidance. Shyamala explained that when a child is being trained in the field of aesthetics there are certain aspects, which have to be taught. "There is balance, colour, form, texture, light, shade, depth, …" she says adding that these lessons are are taught according to a well-planned schedule.

She explained however that she never gives her students strict topics to draw. “Sometimes they walk in bubbling with enthusiasm and other days they are absolutely blank," she says, adding that as a teacher it is easy to read the child. "I don't spell it out and say draw this," she says.

“Children should not be asked to draw hacked topics. After Vesak the general thinking is that the children should be told to draw Vesak lanterns," she says adding that a child must be allowed to work on whatever he/she is enthusiastic about.

One thing Shyamala does not allow in her class is copying. Under no circumstances are the students allowed to copy pictures. "I divert their attention to what is around them," says Shyamala who feels that it is the best way to learn because they are forced to create their own pictures. Another one of her techniques is to teach the children to make comparisons between people and objects. "When they are looking at a bark of a tree, I ask them to compare its characteristics to the characteristics of someone in their lives," she explains. This kind of exercise evokes enthusiasm in the child, which is essential when working on a piece of art.

Shyamala explained that she does not believe in training a child only in what he is good at.“There comes a time in every child's life when he/she is ready to make that switch," she says mentioning several instances where her students have surprised themselves by doing something they never thought they could do.

To Shyamala, art is a strong method of communication. " You can study people through art," she says. This is why it is so important to give children a free hand to communicate, to express their thoughts and feelings. Shyamala's students are also taught sculpture and craft work using different types of material.

" Parents think they can send their children for an art class only if they are talented," says Shyamala who feels that every child should be given the chance to express himself through creative activity.

Shyamala's aim is not just to create artists but people who can appreciate and value art from all over the world. As part of this plan Shyamala has an ‘Art appreciation day’ twice a month, where the students are shown works of other artists.

Stressing the importance of encouraging children to take up art as an O/L and A/L subject, Shyamala says that she hopes to start a special class for these students. With 20 years of teaching experience Shyamala is also able to cover London O/L and A/L syllabi.

After two years of preparation Shyamala and her students are finally ready to display their work to the public. "It's a sharing of their joy with the public and a sharing of my joy, seeing how happy they are," says Shyamala. Shyamala explained that she felt she had to work with the children for at least two years before they would be ready for an exhibition. "

"The joy within" will feature about 130 items including paintings, sculpture, glasswork and mirror work. Shyamala is also planning to introduce painting on parchment icing.

Other than the items the children have done specially for the exhibition, Shyamala revealed that she has been collecting various special pieces throughout the years. "The selection is really good because they are not merely things they have been working on purely for the exhibition, there are many spontaneous pieces," she says.

"Every painting, every piece of sculpture is different because no two children do the same thing," says Shyamala. Some of the miniature drawings have also been developed into postcards, which will be sold at the exhibition.Part of the funds will go towards the welfare of women and children, under the new projects carried out by the Soroptimists. "I want the children to learn some social responsibility," says Shyamala. “The joy within" will be held at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery on June 15 and 16 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Back to Top  Back to Plus  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.