ART WORKSHOPS at KUMF Gallery in Toronto


by Christina Senkiw

Artist/author Christina Senkiw and art educator Halyna Dmytryshyn volunteered their time and talent to prepare and conduct art workshops at the KUMF Gallery last spring. The workshops were inspired by the publication of Christina Senkiw’s 6th illustrated children’s book titled “Mother Nature’s Pets”. Christina launched her new book during the opening of her solo exhibition of drawings at the KUMF Gallery, April 10 – 27, 2005. This exhibit included the original drawings for “Mother Nature’s Pets”, which served as an inspirational background for the workshops.

Two hundred and twenty two (222) students from four schools and one youth organization attended the workshops. In addition, a total of 14 teachers and 40 parents came to help with the supervision. George Senkiw, who was in charge of logistics, booked 5 groups for the following dates in April; 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 23rd. The workshops lasted about 3 hours and included presentations by Halyna Dmytryshyn and Christina Senkiw with one hour of drawing time. Luda Pawliw, Executive Director of the KUMF Gallery, was on hand to help with the set up and other logistics. The workshops were conducted in English or Ukrainian depending on the preference of the attending group.

Halyna Dmytryshyn gave an excellent talk about children’s literature, explaining in detail the basic elements of writing and drawing that are required for creating books for children. After 30 years of teaching art to children, Halyna has developed an endearing and approachable technique, with an exceptional ability to connect and engage the children in new topics. She prepared two large colourful display boards that served as teaching aids, visually reinforcing her presentations. In a very short time, children who were intimidated or bored were totally focused and participating in a dynamic way.

Christina Senkiw’s presentation focused on her own work. She explained how she began to draw and write quite spontaneously in her childhood, and the spark of her creativity, once lit, has continued to inspire her throughout her life. She showed her six illustrated books, some of which were already familiar to the students. Christina gave the children a guided tour of her exhibit, which consisted of several groups of drawings: illustrations for “Mother Nature’s Pets”, “The Ukrainian Alphabet – numbers 1 to 10”, “Ukrainian Folk Costumes – drawings for children”, Icons for children, and a selection of illustrations from the “History of Ukrainian Costumes”, “Timmy Kitten”, “I Want to Dance”, “Luba Lesyk’s Magic Wand” and “Sonja’s First Camp”. She also prepared a display of all the research and background sketches for the first illustration in “Mother Nature’s Pets – Snake scares the Children”, so that the students could see all the preparatory work that led up to the finished drawing. Christina then read a few pages from “Mother Nature’s Pets” using the original art hanging on the walls to illustrate the text as she read.

When speaking to older students, Christina expanded her talk to include information about the business of writing, illustrating and publishing. She described how books are created, and mentioned the various careers which are part of the book industry. The students listened carefully and responded with many thoughtful questions. Some got so excited about bookmaking that they promised to publish their own books one day.

After the presentations, the students had an opportunity to paint for about one hour. Christina Senkiw introduced them to a new medium called watercolour crayons which she had used in her drawings for “Mother Nature’s Pets”. She prepared step-by-step diagrams showing the layering technique which produced the rich, vibrant colours they could see in her work on the walls around them. Halyna Dmytryshyn, experienced in managing large groups of children, gave detailed instructions on the procedures for the art classes, the selection of the board for drawing, sharing the watercolour crayons and the brushes. The children settled themselves throughout the gallery, finding comfortable places to draw. Halyna and Christina circulated among the students offering encouragement and helpful hints where required.

The children were excited to use a new medium to express their ideas, especially as it was the exact medium used by Christina. Everyone put in a good effort and many excellent drawings were created. We hope we have inspired many budding artists and writers to continue pursuing their passion, and encouraged others not to be afraid of trying something new.

An overwhelming amount of art supplies was required for 222 students. Christina provided the 222 art boards; Halyna supplied the excellent brushes and water cans; and KUMF Gallery sponsored the watercolour crayons that the children shared.

After they finished drawing, the students were invited, like all guests who visit the gallery, to sign their names and write a few remarks in the special gallery guest book. Here is a sampling of some of their comments:

Thank you for an inspiring class! Roxoliana Radejewsky
This was an extraordinary experienceJ! Kosta Derbish
I hope to get published too! Virlana Shchuka
Thanks for inspiring me! Julia Rabko
Wow, amazing! Evan Sheremeta
I love drawing and you have inspired me to become better! David L.
Great crayons! Mark Charak
This was an amazing experience! Matt Durawec
A very enjoyable alternative to regular Saturday school! Kateryna Mazur
This was an awesome experience! Olena Polubyalchova
This was the best! Ivanna Iwasykiw
Thank you very much! Great work. Very much inspirational!! Natalia Kardash
Very inspiring! Natalie Zyla
It was fun with the water crayons. Kateryna Chikh
Thanks for having me here. Olga Hrynko
I loved your art. Nicholas Kolos
I love these pictures. There so cool! Orest K.
You have influenced my drawings! D.
Good job! Your art is awesome! Olena Bojchuk

Judging from the responses, the workshops were a great success and we hope the students will never forget this special event in their lives. Since art education is almost non-existent in the current regular school curriculum, the workshops were not just an interesting treat, but they fulfilled a definite educational need.

KUMF Gallery does plan to hold similar art workshops for students in the future in conjunction with art exhibits, but it is all a question of funding. Most artists love to talk about their work and they are a valuable, readily available source of inspiration and information. Workshops also support the gallery’s mandate to create community outreach programmes. By opening its doors to new people, the gallery expands its audience and secures its future. For many who attended these workshops it was the first time they ever visited an art gallery. We hope there will be many more visits in the future. Mrs. Iryna Kostruba, leader of the SUM Youth Group, wrote in the guest book:Thank you very much! Excellent exhibit, wonderful presentation for the children!

The following groups attended the workshops:
SCHOOL OF C. PALIJIW, grades 5 to 7 – 16 students with Mrs. Lydia Bortnyk and Mrs. Lesia Turetsky, April 9.
ST. DEMETRIUS CATHOLIC SCHOOL, grades 4 and 5 – 58 students with Mr. Brega and Mr. Walters, April 12.
CARDINAL JOSEF SLIPIJ CATHOLIC SCHOOL, grade 8 – 60 students with Mrs. Luba Sargeant and Mrs. Lada Ostafijchuk, April 14.
ST. ANDREWS SCHOOL, grades 7 to 12 – 40 students with Mrs. Marika Paquin, Mrs. Marika Pelech and Mrs. Ulana Jaciw-Zurakiwsky, April 16.
SUM UKRAINIAN YOUTH ORGANIZATION, grades 8 and 9 – 40 students with Mrs. Iryna Kostruba, April 23.