|Drawing with an English 7 year-old to help remove her severe fear of imaginary wolves|
The images are designed and made by the children as much as possible, with words too if they wish. First they make a small sketch of their idea, and once we have understood each other, they draw or paint their picture, then I put their portrait into it according to their instructions. Sometimes I do their portrait then they draw around it. They choose the pose, facial expression, colour and feeling. It is a collaborative process, but they are the boss. I try and help them realise their idea, and do what they tell me. Parents are welcome to contribute words, and sometimes they join in the drawing with very young children.
Although it is in some senses therapeutic, the fact that it is a purposeful public project is centrally important - we are trying to make high quality communication and exchange with adults, policy-makers and other children, locally and around the world. The structure of the project means that each child's individual contribution becomes part of, and influences, the whole - it is a 'community of enquiry'. For example children sometimes extend and modify ideas they have seen in previous drawings and influence each other when working in groups. Seen together, the drawings seem to comment on and play with each other. Apparently simple images offer multiple meanings to the viewer. They interact both with our sense of ourselves as children, and with what we imagine that we know about the events the children are living through.
Drawing with Martin, a homeless boy in Mexico City. He wanted to reinforce his determination to return to schooling.
|Drawing with a 9 year old English boy in a family homeless hostel of his imaginary ideal bedroom. |
The drawing was part of a report for policy makers commissioned by local government.
I also want to create a channel for them to reach the world and get feedback, and to affect the policies that shape and limit their living conditions, health and happiness. This completes a positive circle they can feel proud of and empowered by. Of course children are practically speaking almost completely powerless, but it is important they have an alternative to the passive reception of information and instructions.
Finally, no record of important historical events, or thinking about policy choices or ethics for that matter, can be complete without including children - even if it is just seeing the marks they make, and looking into their eyes as they gaze from a portrait.