Aug 04, 2011|
Children don’t paint by the numbers during these outdoor art classes.
Some children here are careful painters who like to apply pigments by brush; some just splash paint of different colors, randomly and happily. A few young kids don’t pay attention, preferring to laugh and run around. Oddly, no one stops or yells at the little ones—they are free to do whatever they want. This is not your average art class: instead of a confining classroom, these children are actually drawing and painting all over the terrace of a building in Sai Ying Pun. Amid the skylines of the nearby high-rise buildings, children are covering hard concrete floors and walls with their colorful dreams and fantasies.
In 2004 Wilson Law quit his job in advertising and, with his partner Molly Li, founded Moonbear Creative Workshop, a studio that offers art classes for children. Three years later, they moved to their current location in Sai Ying Pun and found a terrace at their disposal. At first, Law just used it for storing his pottery kiln and other equipment. But one student’s parent urged Law to take advantage of the space in a more innovative way. Law later came up with the brilliant idea to turn the terrace into an outdoor drawing room. “A lot of children just stay home to study, do homework and play computer games. I notice that they don’t pay much attention to their surroundings,” Law says. During rooftop painting classes, children have the chance to observe the city’s landscapes—and produce artwork at the same time.
For every terrace painting class, Law first brainstorms a theme to give the children some general guidance and inspiration. Free to go beyond the prompt, kids can draw whatever pops into their heads. Law once asked his students to draw whatever came to mind when they thought of animals living in the city. Rooftop painting classes have a downside, though—they take more effort to organize: Law and Li have to scrub hard to wash away the paint on the ground after the children are done, so that it can be a blank slate for the next round of students.
Apart from the setting, the spirit of terrace painting classes are largely different from the regular ones—it emphasizes freedom and uninhibited expression. Most children are used to drawing on a piece of paper while sitting quietly in a classroom. Many of them are trained to be cautious, if not fussy, when drawing: drafting is a must; they have to apply colors very carefully; mistakes are intolerable and they are too quick to wipe it all off and start over again. Children today tend to forget that art can be spontaneous and fun. But terrace painting is quite a different matter. Drawing is no longer limited to a static canvas. And, out on the terrace, it’s impossible to erase what you’ve created. So kids become more daring, learning to enjoy the free flow of art. Brushes, in Law’s opinion, are not necessary. Some little ones pour paint directly onto the floor; others use their hands to paint.
During his classes, Law observes, a lot of young children create art that might be incomprehensible to adults. Some parents urge children to draw things that are representative, or based on reality. But Law argues otherwise: “A lot of parents think that kids are just drawing randomly. In fact, they are not. Young children are just trying to express themselves.” Nontraditional places, like Law’s terrace, are valuable precisely because they’re the kinds of open spaces that encourage children to unleash their imaginations.
Check out Moonbear Creative Workshop, Shop 1, G/F, 88 Second St., Sai Ying Pun, 2116-0053, moonbear-hk.blogspot.com. Terrace painting classes will resume in the fall because the building is currently undergoing renovations.