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Big art unfurls from little fingers Summer Kids Workshop “LITTLE FINGERS BIG ART 2018” 〈Tokyo Arts and Space〉

  • 2018.11.20

Children cheerfully apply green paint using their whole bodies


Tokyo Arts and Residency covered with lush green

A Summer Kids Workshop called “LITTLE FINGERS BIG ART 2018” was held at the Tokyo Arts and Space Residency (TOKAS Residency) in Tatekawa, Sumida City, on a Sunday near the end of August. The renowned illustrator Atsushi Toyama was invited as facilitator at the workshop, where the participants used a giant sheet of paper as a canvas and their bodies as brushes to create a painting of a huge jungle.


Approximately 30 elementary and junior high school children and adults participated in the workshop. Together, they used their fingertips, palms, and feet to paint a single huge drawing of a forest. The finished artwork was displayed in the windows of the TOKAS Residency.
The facilitator, Mr. Atsushi Toyama, is a multifaceted creator known for his drawings on textiles used in the making of umbrellas and dresses. He also works in the fields of logo design, book design, and illustrations for picture books.


Mr. Toyama and the children stood barefooted on a huge sheet spread at the venue. Together, they rolled out a large piece of black drawing paper, covering the entire floor.


Rolling out the paper


“This is syrup for shaved ice.” Standing in front of the audience of children who observed him with anxious anticipation, wondering what would happen next, Mr. Toyama held out a container with a picture of a polar bear on it. “I’m just joking,” he went on. “This is green paint. Today, we will play with paint using our hands and feet.” The children took the paint and proceeded to apply it to the drawing paper on the floor


Left: The paint is cool and pleasant to the touch   Right: The large sheet of paper is gradually turning green


“You can pat the paint, scratch it, spread it. Don’t have to try to apply it neatly.” Following this advice from Mr. Toyama, the children started to freely roam over the drawing paper. Patting, slapping, spinning, and stomping. Before anyone knew it, some of the children had paint all over their arms and faces, and were jumping around like frogs.


“Mom, look!” 


Once the drawing paper was entirely covered with green, Mr. Toyama took out yellow-green paint, and the children applied it over the green. Next, they applied yellow. “How does this taste?” asked Mr. Toyama, and the children responded cheerfully: “Like banana!” “Huh? More like lemon!” The older children, just like the younger ones, were fascinated with the paints Mr. Toyama had brought. “What will the next color be?”


“What taste is that?” “What color is next?”


A forest wall brings coolness to the summer

After the yellow paint, the children applied pink, blue, red, brown, and white. The completed artwork was a drawing of a wildly colorful and deep jungle.


Various colors are added to the green forest


The drawing was cut into smaller rectangles that matched the shape of the TOKAS Residency windows. Then, after attaching the rectangles to the glass panes, the children went to check how their work looked from outside.
It appeared as if the large glass panes facing the street were covered with an expanse of lush green forest. Next, the children used their fingertips to draw animals living in this forest.
Using white paint, they freely drew on the glass panes birds, mice, cats and various other animals.


Left: The artwork is cut in the shapes of the glass panes Right: Children apply white paint on the glass panes


A boy in fifth grade of elementary school, who explained that recently he had been into fishing, drew a fish. As for his impressions from the workshop, he said: “I don’t like drawing because I cannot be bothered to take out my drawing set, but painting with my hands was fun!” According to the boy’s mother, “He was unusually focused. I was impressed by the acrobatic moves of the children on top of the drawing.”


Finally, the participants took a commemorative photo in front of the finished artwork, and that concluded the workshop.

The forest the children drew together changed drastically the scenery of the residential area. It was put on display for about a week after the workshop.


Tokyo Arts and Space Residency where the artwork is displayed


Looking back at the experience, Mr. Toyama says: “In the beginning, they all looked a bit stiff, but they gradually relaxed, which was nice.” The reason for using black drawing paper was apparently a desire to create an extraordinary atmosphere. According to another mother, the experience of participating in such an unusual play gave her an opportunity to discover new sides of her child.


The TOKAS Residency hosted the Summer Kids Workshop for a second summer in a row. Workshops designed for a broad-ranging audience—from children to adults—are held on an occasional basis at the Tokyo Arts and Space.


Summer Kids Workshop “Little Fingers Big Art 2018”: Outline

Date: Sun, Aug 19, 2018

session1  10:30 – 12:30 / session2 14:30 – 16:30

The period of display of the artwork created by the participants:
Tue, Aug 21 – Tue, Aug 28

Facilitator: Atsushi Toyama

Participants: Elementary school children or older (adults also welcome)

Capacity: 15 people per session (advance reservations, on a first called basis)

Admission: free

Venue: Tokyo Arts and Space Residency




Atsushi Toyama (Illustrator)

Born in 1970 in Gifu Prefecture. After working at a design office, Toyama became a self-taught artist. He is known for his numerous artworks featuring birds, and has published the collections Bird Book and Colored Bird Book. Toyama plans and carries out workshops for drawing while having fun in various locations throughout Japan.



 Photos: Shu Nakagawa