I've always been in two minds about art classes. On one hand, I am a little cautious about sending the kids for art classes, since some seem to restrict creativity, as the kids work towards painting a pre-planned end product. One wonders how much of the kid's "masterpiece" is actually done by the kid, and how much of it is the teacher's work. However, on the other hand, I've also been wanting to send Junior J for some art classes for him to pick up useful techniques. We've been dabbling a fair bit in art at home (you can read about all our activities here, and books to read about art and artists here), but I feel sometimes the boy is limited, since there is only this much his science-trained Mama can teach him about painting.
Junior J really loves to draw and create, and it is one thing that helps to calm him down when he is stressed or angry. But try as I might, he has not shown any interest in attending art classes, so I didn't push for them. Recently, I came across the holiday art programme offered by Artgrain Studio when a fellow blogger mum, Evelyn, shared about them. I was quite intrigued by the huge range of classes they were offering for December, and showed Junior J their website. Junior J, to my surprise, showed some interest in their Panda watercolour painting class, so I thought I would sign him up. However, the class we were hoping to attend was not scheduled in the end, and he chose to attend a food art in clay class instead. The boy loves drawing food, and is constantly taking photos of food in menus when we dine out so he can draw them, so he enjoyed this class immensely!
Artgrain Studio has two studios, of which one is located at Thomson Ridge. That studio is cosy and cheery, and the walls are dotted with many students' creations. We spotted many creations in progress as well, such as clay models all laid out to air-dry, and it was lovely seeing so many works of art scattered about.
The kids were given pictures of various food to kickstart their lesson in food art.
They were then asked to plan and sketch the cookies they wanted to make. I thought that was great, since that meant that they would actually make cookies of their own design, and not something that was planned by the teacher! Junior J, as usual, decided he wanted cookies with dinosaurs on them:
They were then taught how to mold and shape the clay using various tools, and also taught various terms such as rolling and scoring.
The kids got down and busied themselves making their cookie bases and then learnt how to decorate the cookies according to their sketches, by pinching off smaller pieces of clay and rolling and using them to make pictures on their cookies.
I was quite surprised with the amount of detail in Junior J's cookies! As this class is meant for children ages 4-16, Junior J could follow the instructions easily and was able to work independently for most of the time, while his two younger classmates (who were 4) had to get more assistance. Teacher Iqbal was really patient and engaging, and managed to keep up with the constant stream of chatter from the kids as he kept them on task. Junior J, who is usually reserved, warmed up quite quickly to him. After they were done with the cookies, they moved on to learn about how to make cake slices, with frosting included.
The workshop spans three days, so the kids spent the next day working on their cupcakes. Junior J's (those on the right) turned out looking like overloaded froyos, since his were so tall and overladen with chocolate chips!
I think what impressed me about the class was how the students had room to exercise their creativity, while learning various clay-modeling techniques. This way, the kids do not just bring home a pretty piece of craft, but also skills that can be used in future projects. I also liked how Teacher Iqbal gently insisted on letting the children be as independent as they could for their projects, instead of taking over in order to let the projects be more presentable. Once, one of the four year olds got distracted and started playing with her clay. She asked the teacher to help her to make her cake instead, but Teacher Iqbal firmly told her that it was her project and she had to do it herself. He did lend a hand since the younger ones had more difficulty with molding the clay, but he ensured that most of the work was done by them.
From our experience in this class, I think the Artgrain programmes are pretty good in teaching children useful art techniques, and there is a whole range of programmes that children can choose from. Of course, the kids would learn better if they are older and more able to follow instructions. We are now looking forward to his next class on watercolour painting, so stay tuned for updates!
For more information on Artgrain Studio, please visit their website, and like their FB page for more updates on classes and promotions. If you would like to sign up for any classes, the contact details for the two studios can be found here.
[Oh yes, just a side point for parents who are wondering what to do while waiting for your child to finish classes: The Thomson Ridge branch is nestled amidst many good cafes such as Habitat Coffee and One Man Coffee, and is within walking distance to Thomson Plaza. If you'd prefer local fare, the coffeeshop Meng's Kitchen that is located on the opposite side of the road (behind the bus-stop) serves really good minced meat noodles!]
Disclaimer: Junior J was sponsored this class for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions (and overloaded cupcakes) are our own.