Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5763 - December 18, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Non-Pressured Times

by Devora Piha

Goals and accomplishments are part of our often too high- pressured schedule. Perhaps we should enjoy non- pressured times as well. The benefits may be subtle but they are quietly enormous. The following applies to both our children and us.

Time to be introspective takes different forms. Some need time to meander around the house or take a walk through the garden and consider the path of a butterfly or the growth pattern of a seed becoming a flower. Others pick up a comfortable book and get lost between the pages. The world is vast and endless. Excitement and new discoveries in simple quiet moments are as available as the air. Must we have an excuse to relax and enjoy the breathing and vibrating sensations of being alive and their roots to the greater picture of life and creation?

Home recuperating from minor surgery with a few days of no major responsibilities, I picked up a handful of bright oil- wax crayons and a few special drawing pencils that I had ordered for my art students. I myself had not sat down and drawn intentionally in what felt like months without end. Now I was going to sneak in some pleasure for myself or better yet, pleasure to unwind and speak to myself through the sensations of color and line. Drawing and color always spoke to me like music and sound do to someone else. It is the spice of life for me, but time and again, for the sake of almost everything else that is more important in life, it had been put aside. But now at home recuperating, I had an excuse.

Every teacher needs to actually do what she teaches. I coerced myself: let's draw a landscape and use exhilirating colors to bring it to life. A soft- mood- filled sunset over a glistening river of five shades of blue will inspire me as if I had viewed this majestic sight from the balcony of a four star hotel in the bucolic mountains of Switzerland. Give myself thirty- five minutes to indulge, phone disconnected.

One hour later, our dining room table was surrounded by three happy relaxed children drawing. In their hands were motivational and brilliant colors. With names like violet, lilac, purple and periwinkle blue, one had no choice but to be carried away into a flurry of controlled inner excitement. The gift of color in a colorless world. There are no words to describe the munificent variety of Hashem.

If adults need a dash and sprinkle of a non-pressured time, all the more so children.

Tehilla is a girl in the sixth grade. After school she has a ceramics group. Tehilla knows herself and recognizes that she requires time to unwind after the academic pressures of school. In this case, the place was around a lump of clay with her groups of friends. A small, highly motivated group, they explore the properties of the clay and make dishes, bowls, plaques, decorated boxes and the like. Gifts for family and friends. Tehilla made a stunning fruit bowl on a tall base. A simple project that took two months. It received six coats of yellow acrylic paint. So many layers of paint that we can no longer realize that there is clay under the paint. Until she got the opaqueness of the color just so and until she got the shape of the bowl right, two months passed.

While other girls made more bowls and dishes and platters and plates, Tehilla worked gradually and conscientiously towards her goal. She had the intuitive wisdom of one who recognizes that eight hours of sleep at night are necessary for optimum performance during the remaining sixteen hours of the day. Every moment of shaping, sanding and painting was a realizing gesture for Tehilla. The inherent properties and the rhythms of the clay spoke to her. She worked along with the clay. Funny how unspoken conversations with clay direct from the earth can relax someone. She wasn't in a rush. She could afford to be relaxed. One afternoon there was nothing left to adjust on the bowl and it was declared completed.

Later she made stocky doll-size clay furniture: a couch and coffee table complete with tissue dispenser. Thick and heavily painted in stage production colors, she took her time. The ideas came slowly and were fruitful. From a photo of a beautiful shell, more inspiration came. She worked out the proportions of the shell until she had a life-size shell coiled out of clay. Stunning! The ideas came slowly as they matured in her mind with the give and take of the clay's natural properties.

Tehilla sounds like a creative and imaginative girl. But what if she never had that particular ceramics class with non- pressured guided time? Yes, it would show itself in other ways. But the dynamics of one thought building on another would be somehow weaker.

Unscheduled, spontaneous time can be thought of as playtime. Seemingly meaningless play can help release the inner time clock in a person, whatever his age. This releases the stages of thought and action that drive a child to accomplishing a series of goals that refine and define his personality. Goals and accomplishments are measures of achievement because they mark time. Building bases for the future.

We are goal oriented and want to see results, sometimes too fast for the sake of the child. He is not on our time schedule, mentally, emotionally or physically. We want results and to make sure he fits in or to impress others. Often, early school age teachers worry about the parents' reaction to immature art and crafts work. They send home work obviously of the teacher's hand and not that of the child. This unfortunately cheats the child of an opportunity to create and use his voice as whatever level he happens to be on.

No-Pressure Project

Drawing and Coloring Hour Around the Table

Put out a stack of white paper and drawing materials on the kitchen table. Take a pencil in hand and begin. You are the leader. Mommy is drawing. This arouses attention. It is infectious and soothing.

Soon the little ones and some of the older ones will be gathered around the table, trying out their hand. If Mommy can do this, all the more so can they. They take their clues from you. Show your excitement and wonder at the results on the paper. Self confidence doesn't have to mean perfection.


Any "HOW TO DRAW" book you like

A variety of pencils and erasers

A stack of copy paper or drawing paper

A variety of colors: markers, oil, wax or paints and brush

Scissors and glue


Look through a "How to Draw" book and copy whatever appeals to you. Consider yourself looking through a catalogue and choosing what you would like to draw. Sketchbooks and drawing and painting supplies often come with a drawing or illustration to copy. The difference between this and computer clip art is that we will actually do the drawing with our hands. We touch, we direct, we feel and we think. Follow the step by step instructions or copy as your eye sees it.

The main value from these books is that objects and people are pre-drawn and arranged in a pleasing composition for us. We don't have to set up a still life or go outside and choose a view and make decisions. As we begin to draw, our own hand takes over. Our style comes through.

Soft pressure, strong pressure? Do we choose to draw in one corner of the paper or in the center? To which direction do we gravitate? Take your time and above all, relax and try not to worry how it comes out. You might notice your child's personality coming through. Or catch a look at his level of mastery with small motor skill control and his talents. Encourage attention to details, movement and variety of line pressure. Don't try to analyze. Enjoy the time together.

Talk about pencils. Explain that there are many types of this seemingly elementary tool. Pencils come in all grades from very hard to very soft. There are graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, layout and watercolor pencils. They all serve different purposes and all make their marks for you.

Have colors on hand to use as desired. Oil pastels, colored pencils, markers, crayons or a high quality wax- oil stick will add just the right amount of color and vibrancy to the pencil drawing. Offer a variety with something to suit everyone. Call out the names of the colors to acquaint everyone with their presence and differences. Make light conversation and point out familiar objects of the same hue. We all know about red, blue and yellow. But how many of us have noted the differences between light olive green and yellow green or malachite green?

Scissors and glue are useful for rearranging and eliminating sections of a drawing. Cut unwanted areas away and reglue remaining sections of the picture onto new paper and continue to draw in new areas. An example from a landscape would be to cut off a scene of rolling hills from the top of the paper and glue it to a new position on the bottom of the paper. A new view and perspective of the landscape is the result of this operation.

When it is time to clean up, hang the finished work (including yours) on the wall as a memory of the closeness you shared drawing and coloring together.


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