We were recently invited to The Ark to participate in The Colour of Stories, one of the Early Years Workshops they are offering as part of their summer exhibition, Colour. I was a bit unsure as to whether I should accept as I have been having pretty mixed experiences with my 3.5 year old Milo when it comes to art. He went through an art refusal period at Montessori, – ‘I don’t want to paint today thanks’ – and our arts and crafts at home typically last about 5 minutes. Still, when I told him about it, he said ‘workshop please’, and off we went into town (running off excess energy on the way with a quick scoot into the maze in the gardens of Chester Beatty.


I was glad we made the effort. Facilitated by artist Paula henehan, this was a really well structured introduction to the emotional impact of colour. It began with a story, as Paula opened a small suitcase filled with original characters sculpted from the most common artist’s tool: paintbrushes , which had been coloured and styled as individuals. There was bright and light Yellow, who loves playing in the sun; slow moving blue, who loves the sea; bold Red, who is always in a hurry; party-animal Purple; and fun-loving Green. The story was short and to the point. The children were then guided to a large canvas to explore art materials and colour. The use of watercolours and water was inspired, as even for reluctant painters like Milo (who refused to even put on a smock), the spraying alone was enough to pique their interest. It was also a good lesson in chemistry; too much water and, yes, and the paper will tear.

When the kids lost interest, their parent could guide them to a long bench laid out with individual blank sheets, where we re-told the story to our children: using quick old brush strokes for red etc. When we ran out of steam, it was off to a third station, to stick our paintings to a backing board and creating a ‘frame’ for the picture that we decorated with stickers, sequins, and other shiny things. Finally, Paula gave us the materials to create our own paintbrush people, though I felt this final task stretched attention spans a little.

Overall, however, I thought this was a terrific workshop. Milo was proud of the picture he took home, particularly when two of his little friends, notorious magpies, were ogling the shiny bits the following day.


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