Monday, April 18, 2011

Call of the Tingatinga

Although by and large I avoid surfing the Internet with my little boy, preferring that he scour books and newspapers for any information he needs, there are some exceptions.

Recently, he watched an episode of the programme Art Attack where an African painting was featured, but the programme was too fast-paced for him to understand the style. The thing with him is that he never forgets his creative pastimes checklist and sure enough, the first free day he got, he piped up that he wanted to paint in “the African style”. We scanned some websites, and soon enough he saw something like what had appeared on the television programme - it happened to be a website on the Tingatinga school of painting.

Even if the boy hadn’t already been inspired enough, the tuneful name and the vivid paintings would have inspired him all over again. In a few minutes he decided that he’d seen enough and wanted to make his own “Tingatinga”. Instead of the trademark enamel paints on board, we went for acrylics on canvas.

First he drew a rough sketch on paper. I’m amazed at his spontaneous dexterity at sketching - this was done freehand and without looking at any book. I wonder what I'd do if someone gives me a blank sheet of paper !

Next, he sketched with pencil on  the canvas, and began filling it in with acrylic colours. Acrylics are not as easy to handle as poster colours, and undoubtedly it takes some time to gain control over the brush, not to mention figuring out how to use paints that have thickened over time. While it’s not perfect, what’s good is that the Tingatinga style seems to be particularly forgiving because it is all about colours and filling up the canvas with a lot of details, sometimes disproportionate figures, almost like something out of an animation movie.[It struck me later that the distinct cover illustrations of the Alexander McCall Smith Mme Ramotswe series might just be Tingatinga paintings].

Work in progress. Some work still remains, the magenta needs to be filled out more evenly, and he’s thinking of adding more touches like flowers and leaves to fill up the spaces (OK, I'm kidding, he isn't thinking of anything of the sort, the artist-as-a-young-man seems to have moved on, but it's just that I feel it may help cover up the patchy background).

This first Tingatinga will be presented to a special someone tomorrow....Happy Birthday Appa!

Tingatinga school of painting inspired acrylic on canvas by Anant (April 2011)


  1. Hi Namitha,

    Loved the update...and the painting! and I am now inspired to pick up the brush and do something (doesnt matter what...and however amateurish)..

  2. It looks lovely--magenta skies and orange suns, gorgeous!

  3. Hi Shubhs, GB, thanks as always for stopping by and giving your comments. It's a lot of fun to see the way he latches on to a new idea, does what he wants to do, and moves on without a second thought, and easily gifts something away (at least to people he's close to!). This spontaneity, speed and detachment is something I could do with...

  4. Nami - that was beautiful. He really is very artistic. He draws better than most adults - at least this one!

  5. Thanks Kams. He's always been drawing/sketching for as long as I remember and our house always had paper and crayons all over the living room in those early years. A lot of kids in his class are that way, and they spend their free time drawing and making their own comic books etc. I really hate it when I have to to put this delicately...dIEJEJEe of some of these drawings because of space constraints.


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