Dirty Painting


“How is my painting? Is it beautiful? Am I doing it fine? Can you tell me which color to fill? I am not good at painting, do it for me? You finish for me…we often hear this ANXIETY in children.

Last week asked kids to make ‘dirty painting’. Initially they rejected my idea. As we talked more about it, they realized I meant it and was not joking. They also expressed “yes, we want to make beautiful painting and are under stress to make it beautiful, If we make dirty painting people will not like”. I encouraged them to make it dirty, play with paints, come out of their own apprehensions and images….they began with no fear of failure, they were not worried if a line was out of place, they painted with freedom. I prompted them to ‘mess up’, with initial hesitation they smudged their hands in paints and then on walls.

Soon it became a dirty play – throwing paint on each other, messing up others wall….and that turned into a huge cleaning task of 2 hrs.

Kids shared in reflection that initially they were fearless and painting with freedom. But the throwing paint and other actions shifted the whole focus to make other’s painting dirty and that lead to waste of time (cleaning took 2hrs), waste of material (all paint was over) and water ( buckets of water to clean the paint fallen on the floor).

My purpose was only to break their hesitation and give them experience of fearless painting but the whole experience also gave understanding of freedom and its responsibility.

We went back to the wall next day – looked at the beauty within the mess. Kids started again – this time they first drew on paper and shared their composition – they wanted to use flat colours to hide the mess. Encouraged them to see some more composition to use mess (mix of colors) – they began again. This time they also planned a visit to paint shops to understand different paints. They worked even on weekends to see ‘their’ composition coming alive.


I was available when they needed, I was a mute spectator of when they were messing up, I was with them they were losing hope, I was there to give feedback when they needed or even sometimes did not want, they rejected me sometimes, they welcomed me sometimes, I looked for resources when I wanted them to come out of their current skills and look beyond what they already knew…I played various role including teaching them how to use brushes and use appropriate paints.

One of the days, when they were painting, I was passing by andOne of the child asked me “how is this painting?”

I said “Very dirty, I feel like vomiting”.
She said “This is too much, you have crossed your limits”.
She turned to her partner and said “We only can decide how is the painting looking, we can use our mind”.

We laughed at each other and continued with our work.

We enjoyed each other in various forms – sometimes peers, sometimes learners, sometimes facilitating…sometimes giving feedback, sometimes fighting, sometims joking (as above), sometimes apologizing for our own actions.

Well, I began somewhere, it took us somewhere else. The beauty of learning!

Looking at our wall from a different angels