If you’ve ever secretly wanted to paint your child as a monster, last Tuesday was your chance. At a high-energy, fun-filled art workshop led by visiting New York City artist Stephen Bennett, participants of all ages got to practice painting each other’s faces. “It was really, really, really, really fun,” said Tahsis Fairley, an eight-year old student at PRS. “I got to paint people in all kinds of different ways.”
The session kicked off with a physical warm-up, followed by an “art warm-up” that involved drawing the person across from you – in ten seconds. The results provoked a lot of laughter, a common thread throughout the two-hour class held at The Phoenix Rising School. “It was a great day,” said David Fairley, Tahsis’ father. “Very cool. It was fun to experiment and evolve the inner artist. Stephen was great – funny, engaging, inspiring and encouraging.”
The monster painting came about half an hour into the workshop and was a big hit. “Just look at your partner,” said Bennett, “and imagine what they would look like as a monster.” Children painted parents, husbands painted wives, parents painted their children, and friends painted friends, much to everyone’s delight. “Look at this one,” said Bennett, holding up a painting Ayelet Yedidia had created of her husband Gil. “It looks just like him!”
Bennett repeatedly emphasized the importance of fun, creativity and freedom. In his own paintings, huge wall size portraits of indigenous people from around the world, he uses color to express the essence of the person rather than to replicate reality. “It was delightful,” says parent Jenny Bossick. “It was really nice to get a little bit of insight into how a world-renowned artist sees and applies color and to get a bit of instruction on that was amazing. Besides his exuberance for what he loved to do, it changed my way of looking at faces.”
He has done similar workshops all over the globe, including a multi-week tour of Australia, and clearly enjoys working with kids – even the ones with gray hair. Bennett frequently interrupted the painting process so that everyone could pause and admire a particularly striking painting or aspect of a painting. “Look at this!” he’d say. “Notice what she did here.” By the end of the workshop, paintings were hanging from every available space.
Bennett plans to return to the area next year and expand his participation to include other local schools. Until then, everyone who attended this year’s workshop will remember the joy of painting – and look forward to the next time they get to turn their best friend into a monster.
To view a complete photo gallery of the workshop, click here: