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Look, Learn, Do- An interactive book about Indian artists by Purnima Sampat

Every Child is an artist” the great artist Picasso has famously said. Over three decades of experience of indulging in art with children, and being involved in designing art curriculums, Purnima Sampat understands well how children perceive art. While there are so many books on foreign artists, and many young children know about Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso, there is a dearth of interesting literature on Indian art for children. This is a sad state of affairs since the Indian art scene is actually quite bustling! People all over the world have an interest in Indian art. However, recently there have been many attempts to bring Indian art to children in a fun and engaging way. Look, Learn, Do- An interactive book about Indian artists by Purnima Sampat is another addition to this worthy cause!

“In my extensive experience of teaching art to children, I realized that when we ask them about Indian artists, more often than not, they only know about MF Hussain! They must know about contemporary Indian art as well, since art is a response to things that are happening all around us,” she says. Hence, the book looks at addressing this basic issue of presenting contemporary Indian artists to children. 

The book covers contemporary Indian artists who are currently in their prime as well as legends like MF Hussain. It is a book that talks about Indian artists in such a child friendly manner.

Children perceive art quite differently and look for meaning in it in a very different manner. The book demystifies the paintings by describing the artist and the works in a simple and accessible format.

The variety is commendable. I was fascinated to see explanations for Jitish Kallat’s sculptures and their connections to Society; Dhruvi Acharya’s strong voice emerged through her paintings that were produced in the book; the chapter on Anju Dodiya gave an insight into how an artist expresses her inner self; L N Tallur’s interactive works showed how traditional thoughts can combine with contemporary ideas and lead to something entirely new; That MF Hussain also created toys was a revelation; how being a radiologist influenced Sudhir Patwardhan’s work was an interesting angle; the motifs that keep recurring in Tyeb Mehta’s works….all these nuggets are very fascinating. 

“Children are naturally highly creative in nature. Parents must provide a non-judgmental atmosphere to them. Provide the exposure, but don’t interfere with the process. We often expect children to come up to and live up to adult standards of art. Tell me, would you introduce Shakespeare to a child who has just learnt to read? We need to accept child art as a category on its own, and give it the respect it deserves!”

Purnima Sampat, Art educator and author of Look, Learn, Do- An interactive book about Indian artists

A lot of thought went behind selecting the artists chronicled in the book. “I was looking at artists whose works would resonate strongly with children. For example, Dhruvi Acharya’s works talk about the environment. As you know, this is an issue that the young people of today are very passionate about. They talk about it in schools in a huge way. Choosing Anju Dodiya’s works also has a motive behind it. Her anxiety related to self-expression is something that children can identify with. And if a successful artist can also have self-doubt, it makes children hopeful that despite the anxieties they would be able to produce great work. L N Tallur’s juxtapositions and combinations of things echo the natural creativity in children,” says Sampat, outlining the thinking behind the inclusion of these names in the book. 

Along with the information provided there are questions, space for the child to try out some of his or her own art, as well as creative tips and suggestions derived from the artist in question. 

There are a lot of questions that propel the reader to really think about the painting or work from a different perspective. The information is just right in terms of quality. It is comprehensive enough, and yet does not overwhelm the child. In fact, I think it’s a good pick for adults who want an introduction to art as well! 

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Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a Counselling Psychologist and a freelance writer. She is the Founder of Bookedforlife.