As French artist Amandine Rufin set out paintbrushes and lined up miniature chairs at Roncesvalles’ Smock Café last Saturday morning, the clamour of tiny feet could be heard on the stairs to the basement studio.
Moms and dads sat upstairs, sipping Americanos in the four-month-old coffee shop (and “wonder workshop”), designed to accommodate both kids’ need for entertainment and parents’ need for caffeine.
Last Saturday was the first of the café’s “Let’s Be an Artist” classes, bringing great art to four- to seven-year-olds. And not just any art—the 11-week curriculum includes Antoni Gaudí and Piet Mondrian, while Saturday’s class was centred on the work of 19th-century impressionists. To the bafflement of most students, it was also taught entirely in French.
About half of the small class sat gingerly dabbing within the lines of a pencil-drawn tree, attempting to recreate impressionist short-stippling techniques. Others, like Addie Sadler, aged “four-and-three-quarters,” preferred a more Pollock-inspired free-form technique. She swiped large globs of teal, peach, and red across her sheet, occasionally dabbing off the excess.
“C’est pas comme ça” (“not like this”), said Rufin, gently re-directing her young student’s heavy strokes to the lighter method preferred by Claude Monet and Degas. “Touche et touche et touche.” (“Just touch, touch, touch.”)
Sadler managed to finish two paintings while cheekily mugging in the tableside mirror. She danced over to her classmates in her sock feet to offer words of artistic encouragement. “That’s okay,” she reassured them. “We can do what we want.”