Grade Threes see the Taj Mahal Through Their Own Window

I saw the beautifully illustrated books lining the window sill of the grade three class room and knew that we needed to paint something in the jeweled colours of India.  HOW WONDERFUL!  One illustration, in particular, struck me and so, with this as my inspiration, we began our journey from the soft sculpted forms of the outdoor Taj Mahal, to the highly decorated interior.

DSC_1826This activity was designed for two distinct art experiences.  I didn’t wish the paint to cross over into the delicate pencil crayon drawings.  We spoke about different shapes that make up architecture and I projected an image of the Taj Mahal on the Smart board.  I turned on the Bollywood music and the drawings began.  Of course, the question soon surfaced about how you make things look “NOT FLAT”.  Turning off the music, I gave a basic lesson in how to show light and shadow, to be followed, once colouring, with how colouring practices the same muscles as hand writing does.

“My muscles for handwriting don’t work very well.”

“Well, colouring your Taj Mahal will be like hand writing practice then.”

Reflection and Depiction are so often abandoned for the sake of plowing on through that ‘make an art project’ mindset.

DSC_1817DSC_1821 DSC_1820 DSC_1819The boys started dancing, so the Bollywood music was turned off.

I demonstrated adequate pressure (back and forth, back and forth in small amounts, rather than long airy strokes…not hard…but not soft, either) for the students as they began to colour with their pencil crayons.  And this is when we explored weather, atmosphere…beautiful light.  The students, at this point, told me all about monsoon season.  I always act like I know absolutely nothing about these topics and I become learner and they are the teachers.

“How do I do a white Taj Mahal if I don’t have a white pencil crayon?”

This is where we looked at twenty or so photographs on line…different times of day and different weather changed the colour of the Taj Mahal…so basically, any colour families would do once you, the artist, decided what kind of day it was. I showed the students how they could use yellow to show the light on a purple dome…or how they could use green on a blue dome.  The colouring began!

DSC_1840 DSC_1839 DSC_1838 DSC_1837 DSC_1834 DSC_1832 DSC_1831Once completed, these were cut out and traced, with chalk onto their large composition, then set aside.  Chalk is used to break the entire composition into borders, a window sill and a flower box.


The palette I set up was a mixture of ‘spice’ colours…cumin, cinnamon.  We talked about the spices that get mixed up…we talked about curry and yellow food.  I gave half of the class purple paper and half brown.  The students with purple paper worked with the six buckets of warm colours first for background.  The students with brown paper traveled back and forth from the cool palette for their background.  After lunch and drying time, they would switch palettes for their interior patterns.  There were 22 students in this class, so 11 pods of 2 students. I explain how to do all of this in previous painting lessons.

Backgrounds before lunch…patterns after lunch.  We were sooo busy that I didn’t grab photos for these two steps, but only photographed the end results, after gluing the Taj Mahals into the windows.  Let your paintings dry before the gluing!  We did Math families and agendas before that step!

DSC_1896 ??????????The artist who created the following painting was so intent on her Taj Mahal colouring that she is not quite finished, but she can do that on her large piece…amazing work!   ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_1889 DSC_1888 ?????????? DSC_1885 ?????????? DSC_1883 ?????????? DSC_1881 ?????????? DSC_1879 ?????????? DSC_1876 ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????These are beautiful, unpredictable and richly coloured.  I totally enjoyed the openness of the students, their excitement, commitment and knowledge.  We can’t all travel to far off place, but we can explore them through books, learning, art and we can open our souls to their colours, textures, sights, smells and sounds.  I am grateful for their teacher.




Shantaram: An Epic Summer Read?

I thought because of its density (936 pages), Greg David Robert’s Shantaram might keep me busy for all of the humid summer evenings of Ontario.  Surprisingly, it lasted only two weeks. Shantaram is a narrative packed with exotic and hugely foreign events, names and crises of every sort.  As I breathed the humid air of Belleville, I felt that I came to know Bombay and its slums through the colour and honesty of Robert’s words.

Reviews on this book vary tremendously.  I’d have to agree with the worst and say that the protagonist/writer is self-serving and egocentric.  At times this made me weary.  On the other hand, the exotic nature of the setting and events, and the step into the completely unfamiliar territory of Bombay mafia and slum life, was very rich. Subsequently, my peeked curiosity about India has caused me to pick up Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.

At times, Shantaram tries to give us broad lessons about life, suffering and love, and even God, but the nature of these lessons and the context (sometimes shared within the circle of killers and mafia lords) create a challenge for the reader.  Similar to all of life’s circumstances, though, the reader is responsible to be discerning.

On page 132, I found a paragraph that works for me.

“And there was a sense of certainty, in the village, that no city I’ve ever known provides: the certainty that emerges when the soil, and the generations who work it, become  interchangeable; when the identities of the human beings and the nature of the place are one and the same.  Cities are centres of constant and irreversible change.  The definitive sound of a city is the rattlesnake chatter of a jackhammer – the warning sound you hear as the business reptile strikes.  But change in the village is perennial.  What changes in nature is restored with one wheel of the seasons.  What comes from the earth always returns.  What flourishes, dies away to bloom again.” s.i.c.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This weekend was a blessing-weekend.  The weather was warm.  The leaves were a vibrant yellow.  Autumn is my favourite season of the year and in some ways each and every year, autumn surprises me.  Max and I spent time together at the parks and down at the river.  He likes the redundant fetching of a big stick again and again.  Sometimes I find it hard to believe that he is a border collie.  He has the heart of a lab.  He would not have survived a sheep farm.  I saved him.

Apart from having time with Max, I was really proud to put my nose to the grindstone (just where did any of us come up with THAT particular idiom?)…anyway, I DID…and created a website that will be developed over time in order to make connections around my art and a few different services that I hope to explore during my retirement.  You can take a peek here.  It was an intense and focused activity, but just what I needed for my particular head space.

Saturday evening my sister-cousin-friend suggested that we visit the local ‘burb-Wal-Mart and we picked up the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (spoiler).  Back at home, we popped a big bowl of popcorn and poured ourselves some lemon water, then parking our butts on a comfy bed, we settled in for a great movie!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those movies, jam-packed with life lessons.  The colours, atmosphere and sound track, work together to create such a beautiful setting.  The actors are superb.  The story is a story about every person who faces a big transition, enters into their ‘golden’ years OR watches someone who is special to them experience any, some or all of these. (My father always says, “I would like to find the person who decided to call these the golden years!”)

If you have opportunity, catch this one.

“Everything will be alright in the end, so if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.”

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. Phyllis Theroux