ABOUT THE BOOKAmbadas Khobragade felt utterly free while doodling and painting. His Dancing Brush made time and space, sky and earth quiver with movement. He was like a mystic in a trance when he played with colours on the canvas. Come, immerse yourself in Ambadas’s vibrant art. Let his story remind you that some childhood memories remain with you as powerful sources of inspiration. Allow your paintbrush to dance without any rules, as you try out the exercises in the book.
- Ambadas’ Dancing Brush is a picture book-cum-activity book that teaches children about the life and work of the modern Indian artist Ambadas Khobragade. Its focus is less on specific aspects of his biography and more on how the environment around him might have shaped his artistic imagination. The book is an inspiring take on the mind of the artist, and makes his work and his thinking accessible to young readers.
- The book’s stunning visual reimagining of Ambadas’ world, and its focus on how he interpreted what he saw around him, whether it be the night sky or a landscape, will encourage children to pay attention to and make meaning of their own surroundings in creative ways. The narrative is open-ended, and geared towards allowing children to create their own impressions of the world, rather than fixing how objects should be seen and understood. The illustrations, which are at once vibrant and abstract, also prompt this creative interpretation and exploration from the reader.
- The worksheets and questions included in the book have a similar effect. They allow readers to explore their own creative styles and ways of thinking. The book uses reproductions of Ambadas’ original paintings and engages readers by asking them to find shapes in the paintings, or guess the way in which his brush might have moved across the canvas. The worksheets suggest a series of colourful hands-on painting activities that readers will definitely enjoy.
- The note to parents at the beginning of the book is a good primer in how to let a child experience the book. It emphasises the idea that art is process-based rather than oriented towards a particular “correct” goal, and suggests that parents allow for mistakes and encourage free interpretation.
- The book is handsomely produced. Its thick pages, rich colours, and a surprise pull-out page in the middle, will make it a delightful reading experience for children.
- On every page, one or two words of the text are highlighted, seemingly at random. The words don’t appear to have anything in common, or have any special meaning, but the consistent highlighting is something of a distraction, and makes it a bit difficult to pay attention to the narrative itself.
- As has been mentioned, the book is not heavy on biographical information and chooses to stick to the workings of Ambadas’ mind. It would, however, have been enriched by a small biographical note that gave readers a little more context on who the artist was, and why he chose to develop his style in opposition to existing Western traditions. While some ideas are fleetingly mentioned, they could have been fleshed out for the benefit of a curious reader.