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close this bookCreative Training - A User's Guide (IIRR, 1998)
close this folderSelf-expression through pictures
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentVariation 1: Printing from objects
View the documentVariation 2: Printing from erasers/vegetables
View the documentVariation 3: Collage


· any time during the training
· Needs space and tables

A means by which participants any kind of training explore, express and share their personal perspective by crystallizing this in a picture.



This can be done:

· at the beginning of a training so that participants and facilitators gain an early understanding of their own and each others' perspectives, and of the issues that are important to them. This can then be explored in greater depth in the training.

· whenever a new 'theme' is introduced as an energizer.

· at the end of a training for participants and facilitators to reflect on what they have learnt from the training. (If this had been also done at the beginning, it is interesting to compare their pictures to see if and how the participants' perspective has changed).


· pencils (Hb and/or B)
· paper
· erasers
· colored crayons (optional)


· best with up to 20 participants
· Facilitators - ideally with some flair for art and design.

Suggested approach (using drawing techniques)

1. Ask the participants to fill a piece of paper with wild, bold lines and squiggles. The aim of this is to 'loosen up' their hands, as inexperienced drawers tend to draw in a cramped way. Encourage them to hold the pencil at different angles in order to explore different thicknesses of lines.

2. Let the participants take 10 minutes to produce a drawing on a particular theme (see example 1). Encourage them to draw big and not to worry about their "artistic skill'; this is about their ideas and expression. Discourage them from using the erasers too much. Do a drawing yourself.

3. Ask each participant to explain their picture to the rest of the group, and encourage the others to give feedback after each one. (If the participants are hesitant to start, 'break the ice' by going first yourself.)

4. Once everyone has described their own pictures, ask the group if they can see any links or contrasts in the various pictures.

5. Pin the pictures up on the wall to liven up the surroundings for the rest of the training, and for reviewing later.


Variation 1: Printing from objects


· stamp pads of different colored ink
· paper
· objects from the surrounding environment
· cutters

Suggested approach

Ask the participants to make their picture by printing from objects that they find around them. They can use leaves, stones, bark, flowers, parts of their body, paper, bottle tops, fabric, etc. Tell them to press these into the stamp pads and print them onto the paper. Allow 20 minutes for them to make their prints. Then follow steps 3-5 in the main method.

Explore printing effects, e.g.:


· by observing the patterns found in natural objects such as what you find if you cut through banana plants;


· by dragging an object across the paper;


· by printing one object over the print of another;


· By repeatedly printing from the same object. If they do not re-ink the object, they can achieve fading effects.

Variation 2: Printing from erasers/vegetables


· erasers and/or 2 cm thick slices of potatoes or any other vegetable that can be cut to give a hard, smooth surface.
· cutters
· paper
· stamp pads of different colored ink


Printing from natural objects is particularly effective when the theme you want to explore is how participants perceive the natural environment.

Suggested approach

1. Ask the participants to cut designs out of erasers or potatoes. If using erasers, all six sides can be used. Encourage participants to explore using different widths of cut. Tell them to press the eraser/potato into the ink and print from it.

2. Allow 30 minutes for this variation, because practising how to make the cuts takes time.

3. Then follow steps 3-5 in the main method.


Variation 3: Collage


· paper and/or card
· glue
· scissors
· knives
· a pile of 'un-needed' objects, e.g., flowers, feathers, leaves, twigs, silver foil, from collection of cigarette cartons, string, magazine and newspaper pictures, fabric.


Suggested approach

1. Ask the participants to choose materials from the pile or from whatever they find around them and glue them onto the paper to make a picture. They might want to try making a three-dimensional collage by using a card.

2. Allow 30 minutes.

3. Then follow steps 3-5 in the main method.

Group work

You can also ask participants to work in small groups to discuss their different perspectives on a theme, and put these together in one picture. This works particularly well with collage, as this medium can combine different elements. Stress that everyone should participate.


· A visual record of the perspectives of the participants and facilitators.

· The participants learn basic art and printing skills that they can use for information sharing and advocacy materials or for decoration in their own communities and homes.


· Effective in drawing out the perspectives of even the quieter participants, particularly if individual pictures are made.

· Effective in encouraging reflection.

· A practical activity that provides a break and 'wakes up' participants.

· If you take photos of these pictures, the photos can communicate visually the content of the training, e.g., to show to potential participants, funding agencies, etc.


· It is hard to communicate complex perspectives in one drawing. This can lead to misleading pictures or pictures that fall back on clich

· Variations 1-3 take up quite a lot of time - including clearing up time - and participants can get very absorbed in their work - so these are unsuitable if you are simply looking for a quick energizer or 'scene setter'.

· Some participants may be very self-conscious about producing pictures. It is best to sound out participants during pre-training discussions on what they are willing to try, particularly if art is going to be a large component of the training. The following 'starter activity' can help build people's confidence.

Starter activity

Inexperienced artists may find a blank piece of paper fills them with dread; here is a way to get over this:

· Prepare sheets of paper, each with a small piece or 'starter' torn from a magazine stuck on it (in any position). The starter piece should be abstract, rather than showing any recognisable form. Offer a choice of starter papers to the participants and ask them to create their own picture around the starter piece, using any of the materials available.


Example 1

At an art and printing workshop in Baguio City, Philippines, participants were asked as a 'getting to know each other' exercise to draw a picture of an object that symbolized themselves. For example, a fisherfolk drew a bed and explained that was because he liked to have time on his own to daydream; another man drew a hammer as that was port of his work; a young man drew a picture of flowers because he said he was romantic; a woman farmer drew a river with many bends symbolizing her life journey, and an urban woman drew a wilted flower as she felt that just as the flower faded because it did not have enough water, so she had also faded because she had not had enough love and support.


This exercise requires some soul bearing and can produce emotional responses. The woman who drew the wilting flower began to cry as she was describing this. Also the young man who drew the flowers came in for some teasing from the other men and the women. If this kind of exercise is done, it is best to discuss first how each other's expressions should be treated in confidence and respect. Also, if things do get emotional, you may need to talk this through with the group before moving on, or perhaps have a one-on-one chat with the person involved, while the others carry on with the activity. Ask him or her: 'How did you feel about the exercise?'. 'Are you OK now?. 'Is there anything else you want to talk about now?'

Example 2

At a gender workshop in Baguio City, Nortern Philippines, participants produced collages by group, on the theme of what they perceived as the main problems for their communities.


A group of vegetable vendors did a three-dimensional collage of a man hitting a woman, by using rolled up Manila paper glued to a large piece of paper to represent their bodies. They used purple leaves to show the woman's bruised eyes, and star-shaped silver foil to symbolize the punching.


A group of farmers showed the effect of drought by having one side of the picture lush with leaves and the other with just bare sticks and the words DRY cut from a magazine.


Another group of farmers stuck a fish bone in a river made of blue paper, and used a cigarette end as a smoking factory chimney, with the background paper burnt brown, to show a polluted environment.


A group of fishers stuck cutouts of people on to a three-dimensional base made of magazine pictures of food to show the importance of food.

In the two examples above, art played a major part in the workshops, and so artists from local arts guild acted as facilitators in partnership with the NGO facilitators. This gave the artist a chance to do outreach work in the communities. Because of the friendships formed, a community-based organization in Ifugao is now trying to set up its own arts guild. Perhaps you can network with local arts groups to enhance your trainings.

Example 3

During waste management trainings in Samar, Philippines, participants were asked to draw their answer to the following question:

'What is waste to me? Why is it waste to me and where does it come from?'

Making pictures has also been used as a visioning tool, representing how the participants would like their natural environment to be in the future. An action plan can be made from the group's visions.