More than just crayons
BENITA FERNANDO WHILE Soham Kapadia is yet to pin down his ‘favourite’, there are two artists whose works have resonated with him. “I like the Mona Lisa for its brush strokes and MF Husain’s Horse series for his use of warm colours,” says the nine-year-old. At his Nepean Sea Road residence, we are flipping through his most recent art book, in which he has painted pieces inspired by Edvard Munch and SH Raza. His six-and-a-half-year-old twin sisters, Vihana and Vedita, potter around excitedly with their art books and lead us to a painting hanging near their dining table. “The women are playing Holi in this pichwai and, if you look really closely, you can see the threads of the cloth,” says Vihana.
Beyond school and playground activities, the three Kapadia children attend select art appreciation sessions across the city; they have recently finished classes with Aashika Cunha, assistant curator with the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation and an independent art educator. Their mother, Manjari Garodia Kapadia, a former strategy consultant, says, “I wanted to enrol them in an art class that went beyond the ‘kunji’ — a Delhi term for exam study guides — method. They have learnt how to draw shapes and use colours. But, what’s next?” Looking out for classes that lead children to better appreciate the visual arts, Manjari has now enrolled Soham in a ‘Meet the Master’ series by The Art1st Foundation, an art education platform. The first workshop in the series, to be conducted in conjunction with exhibitions at contemporary art gallery Tarq in Colaba, took off yesterday.
The art hobby class is no longer as we knew it — an hour long, drawing playgrounds and butterflies. It has become more sophisticated but retains the flavour of what a hobby is supposed to be. Cunha, who mentors about five children in each batch at her Malabar Hill residence, says that these sessions sit somewhere between the regular after-school drawing classes and the professional art ones. “It is not a copy-draw class; I teach children about artists, their techniques and themes. And, I never give homework, which ceases to make such classes fun,” she says.
One of her students is eight-yearold Anjani Lakhani, who proudly shows us an oil pastel creation of two aliens under a starry sky. It is not hard to guess which Vincent van Gogh masterpiece has inspired the piece. Anjani offers us trivia that goes well beyond name-dropping — how Husain spent money on art materials rather than shoes, how van Gogh’s black was a deep blue, and why Georgia O’Keeffe’s Red Canna is her all-time pick. “We found that most drawing classes aren’t child driven and do not allow them the freedom of expression. Why does an elephant always have to be grey? Why can’t it be pink?” says Anjani’s mother, a Montessori schoolteacher. Sonal Sancheti and Rahul Gore, practising architects in Kalina, have similarly enrolled their teenage daughters in art sessions, such as those conducted by The Pomegranate Workshop. A couple of weeks ago, Sonal hosted a bunch of her friends and their children for an Indian art history session by Ritu Khoda, founder of The Art1st Foundation. Khoda has co-authored two books — Raza’s Bindu and Eye Spy Indian Art. Using the latter, Khoda led the participants through a two-hour-long session that led them through Indian art movements, right from Raja Ravi However, is the new-age art appreciation class a luxury? All the parents strongly disagree. Manjari, for instance, rations pocket money for her children every week and asks them to buy art supplies they like. Anjani’s mother believes that children just need the opportunity to go wild on paper and canvas, so why not indulge them? Sonal says, “Workshops in museums are free most of the time. And, as parents, we keep in mind that enrolling them in these art classes costs less than two hours spent at the mall.”
The one thing that parents and mentors keep in mind is dealing with nudes and controversies. The children are kept safe from all the hullabaloo surrounding Husain’s more controversial pieces; they will learn, of them eventually, say the parents. Nudes pose a special problem, but one that Anjani’s mother isn’t too worried about. “We were at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA, New York) earlier this year and Anjani saw some nudes by Edgar Degas. She just went, ‘Oh, that’s not nice.’ We’ll talk about it at some point,” she says.