From 17 October 2017 to 16 January 2018, Tasneem Dairywala, a professional artist, held Light Painting Workshops every Tuesday at lunch in the photography room. Over a period of twelve weeks, participants explored their cultural identities through drawings that were then turned into light paintings.

From October to January, students participated in Tasneem Dairywala’s light painting workshop organized by Art Council. Photo: Alex You

Tasneem is an award-winning visual artist, the Executive Director of Art Ignite, and a graduate of OCAD University’s 2015 drawing and painting program. To host these workshops, she received a grant from Art Reach, an initiative  funded by the Toronto Arts Council. She has been doing light painting workshops in Flemingdon for two years, and the workshops also provide paid opportunities for youth, such as marketing and photography.

When asked what inspired her to pursue a career in art, Tasneem said, “My passion for art grew during high school, especially in Grade 11 and 12, and my teachers were encouraging me to go to art school. My parents were opposed to it, but my teachers convinced my parents to let me go to art school. That is why I feel so deeply connected to [Marc Garneau]”

The reason she is holding these workshops is because “[She] likes connecting with diverse populations. [Her] work stems from the belief that art has the power to overcome cultural boundaries that divide us.”

The students participating in these workshops earn money from doing so, to teach them the value of art and to show that art is not just a hobby, but also a way to make a living. As an added bonus, the proceeds from their artwork will be donated to a charity of their choice.

During the first three weeks of the workshops, Tasneem did presentations explaining the process of light painting as well as the importance of art. She taught the group about Canadian art history, and the idea that art brings social change. She emphasized the fact that art has power, and can break stereotypes and biases, as well as express who we are. In the workshops, students discussed their identities, along with major influences for their art—like literature and culture. She was very enthusiastic and passionate, and said, “I feel like the content I’m going to get from you guys and the artwork is going to be awesome so I’m really excited.”

They started drawing in the fourth workshop, and Tasneem encouraged them to think deeply about what they would draw, saying, “Everything comes from somewhere. Think about what inspires you.” The next few weeks involved redoing the drawings multiple times, adding and removing elements, and even restarting if necessary. This phase was the most essential, as the drawings had to be perfect so the final light painting would be a true representation of the students’ identities.

After the drawings were complete, they were uploaded onto Photoshop to fill in the areas that would then be cut out onto a piece of wood to create a stencil. During the final two weeks, participants put colored cellophane behind their stencils. Finally, in the coming weeks Tasneem will take pictures of the colored stencils – which will appear painted – in different locations around Toronto. Visit her website here

The workshops were a success, and really helped students think more deeply about themselves through art. According to Joshua Baltazar, a participant in the workshop, it taught them that “there is more to art than a typical paper and pencil.” Another student,Haiqa Mahmood added “If you like to be creative, it helps you express your ideas. It was a nice experience to learn something new.”