Above: Tracy McGuiness and her son Roy, at work on a mural at Roy’s school in the U.K.

Eight years ago when I was first in Nepal volunteering at Sunshine School, the students and I created a 60′ mural in their playground on a brick wall. I didn’t have any paint supplies and ALL that was available was big pales of white paint and teeny dyes of primary colors. Still, we did our best and had a really fun time. And it was the perfect activity to practice English. Sadly, the dyes were no better than food coloring, and the mural slowly washed away with the monsoon rains. :)

Kid art has always been a HUGE inspiration to me. They are so free spirited and see no rules or boundaries. When Tulsi started coloring, I gave her a 3’x4′ sheet of foam core and she would sit in the middle and twirl around, coloring with two crayons at once. She seemed to be sculpting her world as she felt it. It was amazing to watch.

Have you ever heard Picasso’s quote, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” It’s such a huge responsibility to ‘let them be’ with their art, don’t you think? To inspire without drowning their spirits. They are such sacred years.

I’ll never forget when I first sat in on an “art class” in Nepal. The 4th graders were at their desks copying exactly what the teacher was ‘attempting’ to draw on the large black board: Mickey Mouse. My heart literally sunk. I had never “taught” art before then, so I looked to my favorite instructors for inspiration. The first thing I did with them was to leave the school grounds. The rooms were small, stuffy and dark and way too small to stretch out. We walked around their ancient village and just looked at the intricate, wood carvings on the temples and the old palace and all its sculptures. And we drew “on location” — my FAVORITE painting class in art school. I honestly don’t think the kids had ever drawn from their own eyes before because they stared blankly at their paper and pencils and asked, “How should we draw the temple?” I don’t remember what I said, but I’m thankful I didn’t say too much. And truly beautiful, unique interpretations came to life that were ALL different. I’ll never forget Bina’s temple that reminded me of an ornate wedding cake and Niraj’s very circus-like houses and temples patterned with jester-type clothing. Watching these kids discover how they saw and find joy in expressing themselves was just awesome. I’ll never forget it.

Whew. I didn’t know I was going to write about that when I started this post, but my friend Tracy‘s mural photos brought up those memories. Tracy is a painter/illustrator/mother in the U.K. who I knew from way back at Hallmark. I liked her instantly, especially her free spirit and vision. She has sent me quite a few quirky photo shoots with her son in hand-made costumes and his drawings of robots and monsters that always get my own imagination going. Sometimes she sends her illustrations inspired by his drawings. She recently sent me these photos of a mural project she created at her son Roy’s school (which she and her own mum also went to as kids). The coolest thing about this mural is how she collaborated with the kids, collaging their art with her’s. Check out all the photos of the process and details on her site here. She explained how they “coated local newspapers with translucent paint (to reveal words/names from the surrounding area) and cut out shapes to create the characters to collage onto the background, very much as a homage to the Henri Matisse ‘paper cut outs’ style.”

I just LOVE it! Tracy obviously inspired the students to PLAY in their art, and she did such a cool job of integrating it all with her own art. It makes me want to collaborate more with Tulsi. And HOPEFULLY one day return to Nepal, and create another mural at Sunshine School with the kids and Tulsi — a mural inspired by Tracy’s!!