Recently I’ve been changing my way of working a bit. I am a very organised person, who plans a lot and wants to know what’s to come. When I’m teaching, I prepare a lesson with a theme or a particular technique. I create a step by step programme. Although there’s enough space for everyone, I plan a lot. In my art I am often the opposite. I just work with no idea in mind and I stimulate others as much as I can to do the same.

I’ve been wondering for a long time if I could incorporate this way of working in my teaching, too. There’s a wonderful group of young students I am working with weekly. A couple of weeks ago I thought: Let’s do it, let them paint without a plan and just see what’ll happen. The theme was ‘music’. I lend a cello from a friend, it should be the theme. The children came in, in the studio ‘The Four Seasons’ was playing in the background. The children put on an apron and chose a canvas. Then they just started, painting on music. It was like a gift. Everything was allowed. They made no sound, it was just the music and the painting. One girl asked: “Can I use my fingers?” and I replied: “Of course, do anything you like!”

After that first part I gave them some information about the cello, and I told them some things about cubism and making collages. They all sketched the cello from different points of view, and there was even one girl that painted it from different views in one drawing at once, just like a Picasso face.

In the second lesson I moved on with the collage paintings. I had no idea what to do next, but I wanted to introduce some printing techniques. There was one table with Gelli plates, stamps and stencils. On another table were magazines, books and old book pages and sheet music pages. The children selected what they would love to use for their collage. Some of them had already a theme in mind, for some it was still unclear. They just picked out everything they wanted. I thought the kids would really enjoy the Gelli printing. Well, of course they did. But they loved creating their own collage even more. They browsed through magazines and helped each other. For example, one girl was looking for things with the theme ‘The Netherlands’. Other girls (yes, no boys in the group at the moment) found mills, tulips and so on and gave that to this grill. That turned out to be one of their favourite things ever.

So, this week I was preparing myself for the third lesson… I was really curious how we could manage to get all into one piece. I started with the cello and cubist theme. But wasn’t that my own theme? Yes. Why choose for the kids? I completely decided to let go all that I had in mind for them. It needed to be their collage after all. So, I told them now to choose the theme, and work on their painting. They could glue all they wanted on the canvas, including the gelli prints. The most important thing, they had to paint large, in the middle of the painting. I wondered if that wasn’t too much. But the opposite was true. There was a girl with the theme of birds and she went outside to look for some feathers for in her painting. Every girl had a different style and a different way of working. It was great to see them doing new things and mixing all the things they already collected.

One of the greatest things in this process, was my own experience. of letting go and intuitively feel what will be the next step. Here, my art is an important guide. I can work without a plan, teach without a plan and live without any plans at all…