Nel trained as a photographer and graduated (BA) from Lasalle in 2011. Since then, Nel has been exploring many other avenues, from food photography to plant rearing. In fact, Nel was one of the pioneer artists-in-residence in 2012.
But Nel also loves teaching art and crafts to children. From air-clay to recycled art and watercolour, Nel tries many project with his young students. Within the course of the last 4 years, Nel has collected a large number of children’s
drawings, or as he likes to call them, “Doodle”. He does not teach drawing but encourages children to draw out their ideas before getting started on their large-scale or 3-D project. Once the project is done, the sketches, or preliminary ideas on paper, often get discarded. And Nel picks them up. He is even known to have picked up drawings from the bin!
Now, for the first time, Nel will take out his carefully organised collection and will display it on the walls, the windows and the ceiling of the Observatoire, for your enjoyment and inspiration.
In February 2019, Nel came back with his collection, now part of Nel's Doodle Museum, the first online Doodle Museum. Check out below for the story of his 2 residencies>
When Nel walked into the studio pushing cartloads of drawings, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We had been speaking about this installation for a while and I knew that Nel had a fondness for children’s drawings. I had also seen how he had filled one of his walls at home with some of his favorites. But I wasn't too sure about how he wanted to show his collection off.
During the 2 weeks preceding the hanging of the pictures, we had many discussions ahead of anticipating how these drawings, collected through art and craft lessons, could be used to inspire even more children’s drawings. What I enjoyed most was Nel’s naïve enthusiasm about each of the drawings. As he was be sorting through his piles of drawings, he would suddenly call out: “Look at this one! Look at that detail in the corner”, “What do you think the he meant in this drawing?” or “Look at how she drew this elephant”. Strictly no judgement means that every single drawing that passes through Nel’s hands has a chance to be looked at again, and marvelled at.
THE First RESIDENCY (February 2017)
We wondered if it would be possible to sort out which drawings had been made by boys and which by girls. We agreed that while we often can, we could also be wrong, and sometimes there is no way of knowing – as expected the stereotypes often work but are not foolproof. We could also easily detect the young artists from the older ones – but many in the middle left us confused too. Nel had stories for many of the drawings, reminiscing how they had been drawn or the stories that went with them. In the end, the pictures were sorted by categories and hung up accordingly.
We had prepared a booklet of challenges – in case walking into such a full room would leave the visitors intimidated and overwhelmed. There were details to look for, and specific drawings to decipher. Visitors were asked to look for their portrait from the wall, many of them finding the picture spot on!
The small visitors came from Blue House pre-school and then from La Petite Ecole, with their teachers. Some came after school, with their parents. Usually, they were awed by the pictures: “Oh look, even on the ceiling!”. It usually took a while for them to finally look at individual pictures, and finally to realise there was an order to how the pictures were placed. Some children took their drawings home, while others insisted on sticking theirs among the exhibition.
We had questions for them:
– “Who did the drawings?” -“Children! Because children can draw!”
-“How do you know it’s an elephant?” – “It’s got a trunk!” -“And this one?” -“It’s a mouse, with a sock in front”.
-“Oh look, they are all tigers here, and fish on the ceiling”.
Adult visitors came too, curious to see children’s pictures and ready to discuss. The main question was: How do you draw like a child?
We were ready to discuss, with my own Picasso/child drawing installation for taller people to engage with. We collected many “children’s drawings” from adult visitors and many stories/memories from parents reminiscing about their own children’s drawing period.
OPEN STUDIO - Exhibited artworks and studio installation
The Second residency (February 2019):
NEL'S DOODLE MUSEUM - THE POP-UP GALLERY
What happens when you collect children's drawings daily as an art and craft instructor? Very quickly, you might be drowning in them! Eventually, Nel went and bought a high-speed scanner and started scanning his entire collection, with the intention of making it available online.
After the success of his first experiment Many Many Anyhow Anyhow, which asked "How to children (and adults) react to an exhibition of drawings by their peers... on a large scale?", we wanted to experiment further with methods for accessing and using this large-scale collection.
So for this iteration, Nel Lim and Isabelle Desjeux are collaborating again, this time trying to engage the public actively into "using" the images for story-telling; or to identify with portraits and for doodling along. The questions we are asking relate to the environment as we try to create a space inductive to spending time with the individual drawings; What is the right way to present the drawings to tell a story? What happens when my drawing gets shown among the other drawings? And of course, can I find a matching portrait of myself among the gallery of hanging portraits?
We are also planning on using the collection to inspire book-making and to to create simple drawn T-shirts as two different ways of putting the drawings forward. Those special workshops will be announced later and will likely happen at the end of February.
Let's see how far a simple child's doodle can take us!