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Dear Parents, This is your Art Teacher Speaking (Part 1)

Ravi Rijo Joseph | 6 years old

Family Portraits-Dad, Mom,Grandad & Grandma with swirly hair

Yes. The very same teacher you are least bothered to meet at the PTAs.

Because you are all far too busy queuing up to meet the science or math teacher first and the others after that before rushing back off to work.


Well…No offence meant all.Those 'subjects 'are always considered 'more important' for a 'successful career' tomorrow.

Chill! I've no complaints about that! Because as an Artist, I'm also always a curious and acute observer who zooms into the fine detail and zooms out just as soon to place them in their larger context.

...Which here is the hallmark of the system we have in place by which we live our life - An attitude of war , rivalry & onemanship that runs like a continuous low grade fever…In one word it is called COMPETITION.

Another word we grimly wave like a storm flag under the noses of our children, who being children have the gift of living right here, right now in the present* are these words redolent with panic struck anxiety:THE FUTURE!!!

Ranks! Entrance examination! Ranks again… Then campus placements. The corporate workplace or the government office,the armed forces , the myriad private establishments, Research areas in Science,Tech… Design, journalism, languages, businesses & entrepreunerships… It gets murkier as we go lower in the "what do I want to be when I grow up " list. The choice of 'Artist' lurks somewhere at the muddy baseline ...

"Artists?Ha! Losers all the way anyway!"

Except the few who hobnob with millionaires,sweep up starry sums at glam auctions and flash funky designer wear on Page 3…You don't need all the fingers of your palms to count them yet it is they who count and in their dazzle quotient all else fade to oblivion…

Let's come back to me… And You… And the business that binds us together.

What's a School Art Teacher for?

I understand.Why is he/she even appointed at all is a pretty good question!

One answer is that It's mandatory to have one.

So you have one. Just one usually.

Catering from sometimes class 1 right up to class 10. Sometimes 11&12 too.

We are the popular substitution teachers who are often called on to mind the class when the 'mainstream' (read 'serious') subject teachers are absent.

We are the speed breakers in the full time competitiveness that is normalised in school. Marks,exams, tests, grades, ranks, failures… It's in the very air we breathe in.

Sufi at 4 years old

Sufi at 4 years old

Sufi at 5 years old

In that entire arid expanse of spirit-desertifying curriculum (which interestingly, literally means 'a race'), even the miniscule ration of the Art period ,if taken correctly and handled with care, can become a refreshing green & breathing lung that relaxes, helps restore the kids to their original soul factory settings.

But then, no!

You want these structured too…

You want the kids to "learn this", " learn that". Copy from the blackboard where I'm expected to draw stuff which they need to replicate, Teach them to copy from photographs,Copy from other people's artworks, Replicate cartoons from the digital universes they are perpetually immersed in for a host of reasons...

"Copycat !Copy that!" is perfectly alright a motto for Art. Is it?

Do you really believe that attitudes are water-tight compartments and that a certain attitude in one domain or practise does not spill into and color all our attitudes in general?

6yr old girl's drawing of her garden. Observe the emphasis on the Bluebells creeper over and above all the other plants. It's clearly a much appreciated and loved favorite!

Our kids must draw "perfectly". Shade "perfectly" . Just like photographs

That acme,that penultimate peak of visual "perfection"... That copy and replica of just one kind of version of "reality"-The Photograph indeed !

(This is while the best photographs aspire to the qualities and values of painting...Ha!)

Isn't that what most expect private art tuition to do for your kids?

Oh definitely you do come to see me, the Art Teacher.

Only in the competition season.Usually around the second term .It's come to this that most folks can't say the word "Art" without adding "competition" to it in the very next breath.

And the sad & funny part is this…Art is anything but 'competitive'.

If we once bothered to look up the origin of the word 'compete' in the etymological dictionary,we'd all hang our heads in shame : "Is this what we are actually teaching our children?"

compete (v.)

1610s, " to enter or be put in rivalry with," from Middle French compéter "be in rivalry with" (14c.), or directly from Late Latin competere "strive in common, strive after something in company with or together," in classical Latin "to meet or come together; agree or coincide; to be qualified," from com "with, together" (see com-) + petere "to strive, seek, fall upon, rush at, attack" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly").

What are we raising?

Gladiators? Mercenary Foot cavalry? Cut-throats?

Competition is based on Comparison.

Why do we compare?

Because we are insecure and not content with ourselves ...A grievous spiritual error.

In Comparing,our ideal of what's good or perfect is always positioned OUTSIDE of ourself.

NEVER inside.

So we end up constantly anxiously restlessly comparing ourselves with others looking around for shortcomings, lacunae, gaps. We lose our capacity to experience ourselves for and as what we are...

But that is Us! Adults who have already been grossly corrupted... Not our kids! They weren't born this way!

In the entire process of raising them in this ethos of 'the competition' we are recasting them in our own perpetually stressed, anxious,sad ,fretful ,discontented image.

We do this to make them 'fit' in by breaking their healthy self-centricity, their natural confidence to rely on their own judgement, their freedom to get to their self-set goals through trial & error, to learn from the intense pleasure of accidents & surprises that lead to making new connections between seemingly disparate things-be they forms,feelings,entities,colors,hues ...

Teresa Melvin at 7 years old | Title : Moms and Babies

The more we turn the practise of Art into some sort of competitive, judgmental arena , the more we lose out on the liberating potential that Art has to offer us:

A certain magical something we were all born with in our wiring as children, a birthright that a vast majority of us end up abandoning at the onset of adolescence or at the threshold of young adulthood because the pressure of the so-called normal world is such.

If we gave it up in our growing up years without even realising sometimes that we were giving up something so life affirming on a conscious level , come mid- life... and we find ourselves suffering the impact as a kind of floating stress,an unnameable sense of claustrophobia or suffocation and an irreplaceable feeling of anxiety.

Why make of our children the 'misfits' they need to be in order to fit into a skewed-up system?

Let's leave them some breathing space that we can still afford as the world is blunders today to saner , more sustainable solutions through the debris that is mounting of our own ignorance that once masqueraded as sheer high handed hubris.

Let's figure out as best as we fumblingly can as to how to keep-safe that inborn quality of Art in our children and in the process perhaps even awaken our own !


* "No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now" -Alan W Watts


Article written by

Radha Gomaty

Artist(Curator-Coordinator with EkaRasa)



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