Artist Jacob Jebaraj who introduced art to differently-abled students says it helps improve motor co-ordination skills

In 2007, after visiting Vidya Sagar that works towards empowering the differently-abled with education, artist Jacob Jebaraj decided to work with them. He has since helped bring art to the lives of a number of students of the school. “I saw that they had a lot of potential and interest,” Jacob begins.

Down to the basics

He teaches these students all about form, texture, background and the basics of art. “Once you begin to love someone for who they are, you establish a unique communication pattern with them. It’s almost like a secret language that only you and they can understand.”

A smile, a nod, a pat on the back or just the stroke of a brush is enough to get his point across to students, according to Jacob. “I am happy teaching them especially because when they are in a session their focus is on the work,” he adds.

Once his sessions picked momentum, Jacob’s students had many admirers. Ashok Leyland’s office in Guindy, for instance, has paintings by Vidya Sagar’s in-house student artists on all its floors. “They commissioned all the work. And all the students worked on a canvas from a size of minimum three-ft-by-three-ft to a maximum of six-ft by four-ft,” he explains. Jacob insists on larger canvases for these students so as to allow for the work to gain from the full extent of their hand movement and co-ordination.

After the successful commissioning at Ashok Leyland, Royal Bank of Scotland came knocking with an offer for its Ambattur office. “For RBS, our largest canvas was six-ft by 10-ft,” he adds. Today, Jacob’s students from the school are able to produce canvases that range up to six-ft by 15-ft.

Free reign

Art, Jacob believes, has brought the essence of meditation and stress management to their lives while also helping them concentrate and improve their motor co-ordination skills. “Apart from basic education, I believe that art, in anyone’s life, is important so as to give them a sense of self-expression,” he says. Jacob gives his students free reign. “Artists need freedom. I don’t try and impose any structure on them. Every morning whichever student feels like painting comes to my art class while others attend regular classes,” he says.

Besides visiting the school several times in a week — some weeks even on all days — and working on his own art, Jacob also travels extensively across rural India to bring about an appreciation for fine arts in villages. “Through our work for rural India, we are also aiming to create awareness about issues such as global warming,” he says.