At the time of getting into the later part of the stage of realism, the child starts feeling the need to introduce a sense of depth in his pictures. He is no longer satisfied with the two-dimensional character of his pictures, he needs to show that the objects in his picture are also placed in depth. If the social atmosphere indicates an understanding of child art and children are bold enough to experiment, some of them will overcome this problem by their own efforts (illus. nos. 13 & 18). Others would need help. If adequate help is not given at that time, it is likely that some children will feel disheartened and may even become disinterested in art activities. At this juncture, the teacher's responsibility is to help the child in developing the skill of observation.
Children have come to me and said: "I can see the side of the room quite well but I'm unable to draw it"; "it seems that the hill is on the top of the tree, but I know that in reality the tree is on the hill. How do I draw it?" What can, or should, the teacher do at such a time? Should he actually draw the scene and make the child copy it? Should the child be shown paintings that depict a correct sense of perspective? My experience has convinced me that such solutions make the child's path of learning weak. Our task here is to help the child in learning to observe more and more closely and with an analytical approach. The principle I discovered and tried to expound is: Help the artist in the child not by showing how to draw a picture, but by encouragement to discover the basic drawing rudimentary principles of perspective by careful observation".
At the age of about twelve or thirteen, when there is a need to learn the principles of perspective drawing, it is advisable to introduce the child to its simple rules. Such an advice may be given to children who ask for it. There are some simple observations which, if explained to those children, can make things easier for them. For instance, an object kept nearer looks larger than what it would if kept at a distance. The railway line is a good example. If you stand in the middle of the two rails and see them going towards the horizon, you feel as if the distance between the two is gradually diminishing, although we know that the distance is equal throughout. The distant roadside trees look smaller from a distance, whereas the trees nearer to you look much taller.
The teacher can find many occasions when he can draw the child's attention to this phenomenon in nature and explain the principle of the "vanishing point" of two parallel lines. If a child makes the side walls of a cubical object at an angle to show depth and does not think it to be "wrong", he is not yet ready for learning the principles of perspective drawing. When he starts having doubts about its correctness, he needs help. He has to learn to see that all the corners of a cubical object, room, box, cupboard, etc. are and, for practical purposes, look, perpendicular to the ground from whichever angle you see them.
One always comes across some children who may never feel the need to show the perspective aspect in their pictures, even at the time of entering adolescence. I do not consider them backward. Probably they belong to the type of individuals who, by nature, have the spirit and potential of becoming artists. Acharya Nandalal Bose wrote in his book Shilpa Katha: "Great works of art have been created both in East and West, in defiance of the rules of perspective, the spirit of which is self-evident. The reason behind it can briefly be stated as follows: In those cases an integration/identification between the subject and the object, the artist and the contents of his art has taken place. They have become one." When a child artist reaches adulthood and enters or is on the way to enter that state of mind, he has become an artist who does not have to follow the rules of perspective.
Handicrafts are equally important. Some children have a special liking for crafts. At some stage, they prefer handicrafts to drawing and painting or modelling or for that matter, some other medium. To let children find out something about their own taste and likes and dislikes, it is important that they are given all the possible opportunities to make their own choices.
There are activities which require both the skills—painting as well as crafts. For instance, lino-cut and wood-cut printing, montage with various kinds of material, coloured paper, cloth, old newspaper, etc. are interesting activities that generate a good degree of interest in children. The use of such mediums has an additional advantage. It helps children to clarify their understanding of form. (See the lino prints at the beginning of each chapter and illus. nos. 45 & 46)
Later, after entering the stage of realism, the child should have the opportunity to fulfil his need for self-expression through other crafts; especially when the child starts feeling somewhat hesitant to draw and paint. Some even tend to give them up, a tendency which we have already mentioned. At that moment, handicrafts provide children with incentives for self-expression. It can be any meaningful craft, but the choice has to be of the child concerned and the basis of the choice should be creativity and aesthetics.
Decoration and ornamentation is a basic need of human beings, as individuals as well as a community. It simply cannot be left out from our educational programming. Every item, be it a painting, sculpture, handicraft or any other thing that requires "making", has to be designed. Questions about rhythm, symmetry, balance, etc. are essential for making an object beautiful and functionally acceptable. R.R. Tomlinson wrote: "The most notable development in art education that has taken place in recent years is about teaching to make patterns. Pattern making is a form of self-expression and its importance is related to the design aspect of painting pictures. For some people, pattern making, like many Western schools of painting, can be a complete language by itself for visual expression... The kind of awareness that has been growing in our schools (in the United Kingdom) has made a very useful impact on children's potential for painting actualities. It will create and enhance the understanding about art in children as well as adolescents..."
'From the point of view of the statement of R.R. Tomlinson, it is interesting to note that in every state and region of India, there are traditions of ornamental decoration, e.g. alpana in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa; maandani in UP and Rajasthan; and in the South rangoli, muggoo and kolam. These traditions have a high level of aesthetic value, which can be most useful for the furthering of children's as well as adolescents' creative activities. In the contemporary context, it will be advisable to encourage children also to create their own patterns, based on the study of natural forms and rhythm. This principle should be applicable to everything they make, e.g. pictures, models, crafts and floral decoration.
If a child is unable to conceptualize the idea of discovering patterns from nature, the teacher can make basic suggestions to the child to start from simple forms. For example: Take two leaves from two different plants and arrange them alternatively— shape and/or direction wise—to make a border; arrange one or more simple form(s) in a symmetrical order; choose, some geometrical shapes and make an orderly arrangement out of them to suit the purpose. There can be a number of ideas, which can give the child a conceptual grasp of the pattern-making processes. Such a contact with and understanding of nature is helpful not only in the mechanical aspect of pattern-making but also other activities in life, and more importantly, in creating a sympathetic closeness with nature.
A teacher who has taken trouble in developing such skills himself, will also be an inspiration to children for growing up as resourceful individuals. Nature provides an extraordinarily rich treasure of material, which only a well-versed person can utilize, even in a situation where he may not have been quite prepared. While organizing school picnics, teachers should always plan the aesthetic side of the occasion. They are always fully equipped with the arrangement for food and games, but may not have thought of making the place of picnic ritually a little beautiful. There may be a well rehearsed programme of group or solo dances, but they would in all likelihood have forgotten the decorative aspect of the programme. In such situations, it can be exciting for children to go around and collect various objects from nature—leaves, flowers, earth of different colours and textures—for floral and overhead decoration. The main points I am making here are: Developing resourcefulness and discovering the basic principles of pattern making, "in other words the grammar of rhythm, balance and harmony, which are also the essential elements of all creativity and good living.
Let us now discuss some of the important principles related to pattern-making. Two of the important aspects of pattern-making are: rhythm and repetition. Patterns for borders involve repetitive forms. Symmetry, almost always, requires repetition. Where there is very little repetitive work, rhythm becomes the major objective. It is very much like music. In Indian music, for example, there is always a rhythmic cycle. After improvising the musical form, within the rhythmic cycle, the musician returns to the first beat of the cycle. For dealing with the early adolescence period, the teacher should be fully prepared, technically as well as intellectually, so as to be able to help the child to understand the importance of the principles in the art of pattern making, which is similar to that of grammar in learning and practising a language.
Several mediums and techniques can be used to give the students a good grounding in pattern-making for various purposes. Cutting stencils on paper or thin metal sheets and printing them with brushes, roller or spray gun, for older children; cutting blocks on potatoes and printing them on paper or cloth with the help of an ink pad made with old cloth, for younger children. It is simple enough to work with the spirit of "do-it-yourself".
The next principle I want to mention is the aspect of space management. It concerns the relationship between the space and the form drawn on it, their character and proportion. It would look awkward if some components of the pattern or one or more of its sections were made with natural forms and the other with symbolic or ornamental forms. In other words, it is essential to have a harmonious relationship and similarity of character between forms in a pattern. The same principle should be applied to its spatial aspect also. It is only then that the pattern would be pleasing to the eye.
Another principle about which the teacher ought to be clear in his or her mind is the functional aspect of the design. It should be appropriate for its usage. For instance, if a pattern is made for a border of a sari it cannot be applied on a material meant to be for a shirt. Similarly, an alpana made in a room, parallel to the walls as a border, will not look nice if it is made in front of a dais or a ceremonial spot. Patterns characteristic of alpana do not give the same rhythmic feeling if used in making rangoli. Engraved pattern on wood is not suited for cloth printing. In short, the principle of suitability is also an important factor in pattern-making, which should be brought home to the students who are inclined toward this activity.
There is a need to give special attention to the art of pattern-making, precisely because, today, in almost every activity, designing has become an essential element. It is an inseparable part of art education, particularly of the adolescent. Ignoring it would only mean that the teacher does not understand the value and importance of art education in contemporary life. Nor is he or she able to appreciate art in its various forms.