1. Meditation first, and then they just got started with painting (the students are moving at different paces so I want to save any extra assignments for the end.
Tips to give while students are sketching with pencil and painting:
- Don’t need to sketch everything (just a helpful guide) – but they really wanted to sketch everything with pencil and pen – it’s a hard transition to make away from pencil and to painting!)
- Transfer it so it’s bigger than on the paper – the mural is a lot bigger than your sketch, and it will make it easier to paint.
- Mix the paint away from your painting (ideally you would have a paint station, but there wasn’t enough tables).
2. When each group finished, we had the whole group come and stand at least 5 feet away and look at the mural. First we had the audience ask the artists any questions they had, and then the artists could speak a little (Usually this meant criticizing something that was “wrong” – ie pink mountains). After the “critique” the students usually went back and finished their murals.
They finished the murals by 10:30 am!
3. We played a game called Imaginary Toss.
4. Because they finished so quickly, we transitioned into painting a new mural – this time their vision of Laos without UXO. I wanted to mix the groups up though it was hard to create dynamics that got everyone working together and making different things – somehow both groups started drawing roads and trucks with an ATM.
5. After lunch they wanted to draw so much we had free time with the materials (pencils, oil pastels, etc). I forget the value of free time. It’s amazing how they all want to draw/make the same art….they copy each other so perfectly!
6. We continued to sketch for a new mural – but this time I re-broke them up into two groups – girls and boys. They worked together a bit better, and I figure you can only climb so many mountains in a week (they’ve already completed their first mural in 2 days!). This time, I tried to make the assignment clear: talk, and then sketch, a drawing of what you think Xieng Khouang would look like without UXO, and put yourself in the picture (what are you doing? What is around you? Who is with you? Is it city, fields, streets, etc?).
To make sure they understood (this was a very abstract concept), we sat in a group and I told them twice what the activity was. When I asked if anyone could repeat it back, no one could, so I told them that if they couldn’t repeat it back, they would have to do a chicken dance. I explained twice more, and then asked a Hmong artist and then a Lao artist to explain back what they were going to do. They got it!
They don’t do much discussion – mostly, they draw their own pictures and then talk when they get one big piece. It’s been a struggle still though to have everyone draw their own pictures, and not just copy each other, but the results when we mixed up the groups and had them draw themselves into the picture really missed things up and created more interesting ideas.
- It was good to try to mix up the groups, but it’s a tough balance – the groups were working together really well before getting mixed up, with everyone participating.
- When working with more abstract ideas, try to have the students repeat back to you what the activity is, and check in with them throughout (ie where are you? What are you doing?)
- Some of the students are a lot more passive than others, and get kind of bullied – generally they can handle themselves but I definitely had to step in a little!
It helped to remind them, in mixed language groups, to speak both, and elect someone who speaks both languages well to help.