Creative approach

In Austria, an artist encourages children to use their creativity.

Story by Jack Brockley

Put a blank canvas in front of a second-grader, and what will happen?

Artist Ralf Röll has learned that kids usually will fall back on their traditional art training, where houses have square windows and roof lines and dogs and cats have round eyes. So when Röll teaches children about abstract art, he needs to assess his young students’ familiarity with the unfamiliar.

That’s where he started when the Kiwanis Club of Wolfsberg, Austria, asked him — a well-known jewelry designer and caricaturist — to teach an art workshop for 8-year-olds.

“First, I explain my personal approach,” Röll says. “To paint spontaneously and intuitively, not to think, to let the imagination flow, not to correct, not to make adjustments.”


The children enthusiastically welcomed this open approach, agreeing to use the term kritzi-kratzi (scribble-scrabble) to define their style.

“I avoided giving them subject ideas,” Röll says. “A plain canvas presented the only challenge. Furthermore, I avoided talking beforehand about techniques. From my experience, the children would figure out their own technique to achieve the various effects.”

And they did.

“It was a mix of everything,” Röll says of the students’ results. “From spontaneous color explosions, calm controlled surfaces with subtle or strong graphic elements, to vigorous gestural brush strokes and finger paint. They used dripping techniques like Jackson Pollock. Some students got caught up in a regular euphoria and used all colors simultaneously, creating artwork resembling those of Mark Rothko.”

The Kiwanis club and children sold most of the 40 paintings for donations. Four selected pieces were reserved for auction.

“The project is not yet completed,” says Wolfsberg Kiwanis Club President Peter Thelian. “It is expected to total about €5,000.”

This story originally appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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