I’m not sure how many years have passed since Sara, Evelyn, Hannah and I participated in iMadonnari but I will never forget the experience. We packed a picnic, slathered on the sunscreen, and set out with our bucket of chalk into the unknown. When we arrived at our designated rectangle of road, Sara and I exchanged blank stares, caught our breath. The reality of our lofty goal to transform asphalt to canvas, translate a Renoir to chalk pastel was coming into focus.
We prepped our surface by painting a layer of crushed pastel mixed to a loose paste with water. We chose a pale blue-green value to begin. The pavement was warm so the pastel base dried quickly. Next we gridded off the area to match the grid lines we made on the laminated color copy of the Renoir that the girls would have to work from—preparation is key. These two steps made the process so easy for our girls. Laying the base coat of pastel paste smoothed the surface and helped the subsequent layers of color pop. Helping the girls break the painting down to gridded off parts made the drawing manageable.
The street painting took around five hours to complete. I am pretty sure Hannah and Evelyn never complained once, never uttered the dreaded “B” phrase (“I’m BORED”) because this activity was academic in the true sense… yes, academic. During all those hours I watched the girls merrily engage in scholarship, watched them navigate geometric spatial relationships, engage in complex problem solving, learn about color theory, and make intricate observations. All these years later I can say with certainty that participating in iMadonnari was one of those rare bird’s eye perspective experiences that gave Hannah and Evelyn a hands-on opportunity to be mentored by a creative thinker, Renoir himself.
It has been great this summer focusing on the life work of Leonardo da Vinci with my children and trying to bring something of the Renaissance Man’s philosophy of education into our realm of reality. Looking back on summer and reminiscing gives me an idea. Today school resumes. I’ve decided to begin the year with Leonardo. Why does Leonardo da Vinci have to be limited to summer? After all he reminds me, “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
My favorite phrase comes to mind, “I have an idea.” What about transitioning from Da Vinci Summer to school by celebrating Leonard iMadonnari style? Yes!
Coming soon: Mona Lisa!