Art contests: discovering talent in Laos
Drawing is a popular pastime for Lao children, but while many learn to copy pictures well, creating original images from one's own imagination is less common. Big Brother Mouse has held creative drawing contests at the Luang Prabang Children's Cultural Center, a place where children have the chance to learn traditional dance, music, art, acting, and English, as well as at high schools.
In addition to encouraging imaginative visual thinking, the contests have offered talented young artists the chance to see their work published, as many winners have gone on to illustrate books for Big Brother Mouse.
Illustrating an entire book is an opportunity to work on a sustained, collaborative art project with professional standards, and to learn more about the skills needed to pursue an artistic career. Each art contest had three age divisions – 8 years and younger, 9-12, and 13 and up. Prizes were awarded to first, second, and third place winners for each division at a public celebration.
First art challenge:
Draw a scared monkey
It's common, and culturally acceptable in Laos, to copy another artist's work. But for our books, we wanted to find young artists who could do original work, and who could draw interesting expressions. The theme of our first contest was "Draw a scared monkey." The winner, Tha Thao (at left) has since illustrated The Cat that Meditated, The Big Chicken, and a 96-page Picture Dictionary for children, for which he drew 550 pictures. The second-place winner, Teng Thaotueheu, illustrated Bangkok Bob.
Second art challenge:
A chicken's egg has just hatched, and the chicken is surprised by what is inside. Please draw the chicken and show what was in the egg.
Again, we wanted to encourage creative thinking, and to see how the artists showed that the chicken was surprised. Over 350 young people submitted art. They showed, among other things, eggs containing bunnies and turtles, an egg split open by a dragon, and an egg with a musical serenade bursting forth to startle its newspaper-reading mother. The winner of this contest, 14-year-old Chittakone, was then asked to draw the art for Dinosaurs! He continued with New, Improved Buffalo, Funny Letters, and The Story of Dr. Dolittle. Chittakone's next book, Jong, Jong, Jong, uses humorous pictures to help Lao children understand how tone marks work in the Lao alphabet. He wrote it as well as illustrating it.