Kishani's unique art of teaching art:
Child artists in a delightful brush with fun
The best things in life are often impromptu. Indeed, there are times
when delightful surprises are sprung on you when you least expect them.
But then it could also depend on your timing and the venue. No matter
when you happen to visit the swank Park Street Hotel it seems there is
always something going on. The exclusive boutique hotel which is a haven
for well-heeled tourists and affluent locals has become a popular
setting for its cuisine and various events.
I happened to stroll in quite by chance recently to observe that the
entire hostelry had been transformed into an art gallery and a
delightful one at that. While sauntering in I could not fail to observe
that the place had been transformed into an enchanting showcase of
children's compositions. There were works of art displayed everywhere
from its posh lobby and spilling over into its expansive outer verandas.
Some 1500 exhibits adorned the walls and specially set tables. Almost
every niche of the venue, which has retained its old-world colonial
charm, was replete with paintings and objets d'art. I had unwittingly
strayed into the debut exhibition of Kishani Wikramanayake's art
academy. Christened 'Studio K' and established some 18 months' ago it
provides innovative concepts in teaching. The students' ages range from
three to 16 years. Wikramanayake conjured up the apt theme title 'Dreams
in Colour' for her exhibition. Apt because the dreams became a reality
for her talented little innovators when hundreds of guests visited the
two day display
The hotel turned art gallery with paintings
at the gallery
Wikramanayake emphasises that her teaching technique encourages each
student to develop his or her own individuality bringing out the
innermost ideas and expressions into colour and form. The 1500 works of
art all blending in vibrant colours were displayed in the images of
butterflies, flowers, spoon puppets, paper dolls, paper masks, wood
craft, mosaics, handloom appliqués, coconut fibre creations and
paintings ranging from water colours and pastels and tin foil art to
caricatures among others. The assorted works of art clearly displayed
the intricate details which Wikramanayake encourages in each of her
Wikramanayake says: "Special talents and skills are recognized
anywhere in the world. They hardly see racial, national or geographical
barriers on their way." Clearly, the artistic talents of Sri Lankan born
Kishani Wikramanayake seem to have transcended all such barriers.
Hailing from an artistic family Wikramanayake was born virtually with
a paintbrush in her hand. Her talents developed when she was in Kenya
with her parents where she attended school. It was in Nairobi where her
artistic talents were first recognised and nurtured. She benefitted
immensely from the instructions in art she received both at primary and
secondary school at the Nairobi Academy where she got the opportunity to
specialise in art and craft.
On her return to Sri Lanka, Wikramanayake established an art school
for both children and adults which she ran successfully for several
years. After her marriage she left to the United Kingdom to continue her
She attended the Open College of Arts in Barnsley to study (Art and
Design) and Cardiff Open University to study (Two and Three Dimensional
Design). While in the United Kingdom she also resumed her teaching
career. She held her own exhibition in Cardiff in 1994.
Having both academic and practical experience in the subject of
artistic endeavour, Wikramanayake opened her own art school 'Studio K'
exclusively for children. She has devised a curriculum that teaches
tangible and useful skills to students in a way that is understandable
and fun. Wikramanayake says: "These skills enable students to both
improve the quality of their work and to gain confidence in their
abilities. Ultimately, these skills increase their self-esteem and guide
them down a road to an enjoyable, creative and expressive pastime for
the rest of their lives."
More encouraging is the fact that Wikramanayake insists that children
must be guided in art, not forced to follow set patterns and rules. It
seems so very apparent that being quite familiar with all kinds of art,
Wikramanayake has a significantly broader view of what constitutes art
than most teachers of the old school. The work of her students amply
suggests that she does not place any such constricting values on either
realism or the metaphor of symbolism.
Clearly, the work on display had encouraged an eclectic mixture of
realism as well as the abstract artwork, which has allowed the child to
learn about art without simply being intimidated about drawing ability.
Wikramanayake instead encourages them to use their imagination and
creativity by allowing them to explore with different mediums and see
which ones they gravitate towards, and most importantly, have fun with.
Astonishingly diverse types of media are offered, so that kids have
been given latitude to explore all kinds of options, and find their own
connection with art. Doubtless, it augurs well for the future because
the teaching techniques will be certain to carry children from
experimental beginnings as artists to full-fledged, deep expressive
competency in art. Wikramanayake's perception of developmental growth is
matched by her inspired motivational methods for teaching skills. Above
all, she never loses sight of each child's personal view.
I was struck by the realisation that the exhibition smacked of the
highest type of dedication to opening impressionable young minds to the
greatest of gifts - creativity. Studio K emphatically provides kids with
the opportunity to explore the arts hands-on through drawing, painting,
and a mind-boggling mixed media of inventive techniques employing the
simplest of available materials.
It was quite evident by the exhibits on display that she makes her
art lessons entertaining and exciting. She has inspired the inner-artist
in her charges by creating splendid ideas that motivate and get the
inventive juices of the children going. One cannot but fail to observe
that the finished products have certainly helped these tender minds
present projects that encourage communication, that stimulate
inventiveness, that invite a child to have enjoyment with art.
But most of all, Wikramanayake's unique art of teaching art has led a
child to the heady realisation that he or she is indeed an artist in the