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Blake Street Mural
At the Berkeley Child Art Studio there was one project that by size and scale required more intensive communal learning than the regular structured classes. This 40 ft. mural was painted on the back wall of the building where the classes were held. In order to develop technique to paint a landscape of California, a topic the group of 15 students agreed on, a specialized mural artist instructed the children ages 8 to 12 teaching them how to paint perspective. This included formal instruction in color, how to paint shadow, and how to make things look smaller as if in the distance. Although the instructor was present in the studio, he encouraged interactive learning.

children drawing The children were encouraged to discuss the results of their paintings, how they liked them, what they wanted to change, and to engage with the instructor as a group. He, in turn, treated them with respect, as he would colleagues, helping them to use the correct terminology, and feel the importance of the project they had undertaken. He showed them simple perspective, had them each paint a 22” X 28” painting that used the techniques, and then had them make a drawing together on an 8 ft. sheet of paper of the composition for the mural. The children working together had to solve placement of trees, rivers, log cabins, deer, people, castles, beaches, and negotiate an ice cream barge that one young artist wanted to paint floating down the river.

Once the children had developed the composition, they were taken to the site where the mural would be painted on a wall that had been prepared with a light blue background. Using ladders, rollers, large brushes, the children then painted the hills, the rivers, and the details of the landscape. During the entire process the children were engaged as young artists. They used the language of art, talking together about how to mix colors, how to apply them, discussing how to paint different textures, learning from each other, from actually doing the painting. Each child had a different area of the mural he or she had sketched out in the drawing before hand. They adjusted their subject matter to the scale of the whole mural wall. They negotiated with one another about overlapping areas and supported each others work with positive comments.

The instructor was always present, discussing the painting, acting as a resource and game coach by answering questions, discussing placement and composition, opening cans of latex paint, preparing and cleaning brushes, and moving ladders. The whole experience took four weeks of working twice a week on the mural during the one and a half hour classes. The communal process was celebrated when the mural was finished with an party for the students, their parents and friends at the site.

Developing composition for a mural together, Berkeley Child Art Studio.