Inspired by Paul Klee

German watercolourist, painter and etcher, Paul Klee, (1879-1940) is the inspiration behind our current art project with the street children.

Klee is one of the most inventive artists of the 20th century and a very great favourite of mine.  His careful and seemingly carefree compositions are useful as a teaching tool to develop student’s imagination as well as skills in colour mixing and composition.

In 1914, Klee visited Tunisia where the light of North Africa awakened his sense of color. He detached color from physical description and used it independently, which gave him the final needed push toward abstraction.[1]  Later Klee was invited to join the Bauhaus, the radical and famous college that combined elements of both fine arts and design education where he taught at the school of art, design and architecture.  I was showing the children Klee’s paintings that have this strong architectural flavor.

As most of the young people have a very limited education, we are drawing on Klee’s work to help them understand about shape and colour and to start them observing architecture in their local environment, their houses, temples, the shapes of the doors, windows and paving.  They will then take these concepts into their own, unique works of art.

We started our project with very simple drawings of shapes : circle, triangle, square and rectangle.  For some, the characteristic of each shape was new knowledge.  Part of the aim of our arts project is to further the children’s education in a broad sense, so we help them learn the structure of each shape and we all learn their names using English and Nepali words.

It is a slow process, and a gentle one.  These children are eager to learn, but the discipline of learning does not always come easily.  We discuss size of the shapes, big, small etc as well as concepts of inside/outside, drawing for example, a small circle inside big square, or two squares outside one rectangle.  I have chosen the warm colours for this project, as I also want to teach them about colours, their names and how to mix them.

The last stage of this part of the project was to introduce the theme of pattern, for example, two triangles, one square, two triangles one square etc.  Most of the children in the group are between 8-12 years and can grasp these ideas once they have been taught.  The sense of pattern seems to be an innate human trait and is easily embraced by the children.

We take the theme into movement, creating patterns in rhythm and sound.  It’s great to get up from the ground, move the body, and have a laugh.

Over the next few sessions, we will be working on larger drawings onto fabric.  More to come.

Thank you to the many people who have made this project, MAKE DO TELL possible.


Paul Klee images from Tate Gallery, London catalogue of Paul Klee exhibition (mid-1980’s).  Details to follow.

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