Georgia College art students create watercolor prints for kids in Cameroon

Georgia College art students create watercolor prints for kids in Cameroon

Junior Maya Whipple applies ink for a print.
Junior Maya Whipple applies ink for a print.
Y ou can learn a lot from a simple sketch. And, sometimes a small effort can make a big difference.

Georgia College art students are making that kind of impact on a classroom in Cameroon, where students share one box of crayons.

Georgia College was one of 30 schools and universities nationwide to participate in the Cameroon effort through the international nonprofit, “The Memory Project.” Fourteen students in Matt Forrest’s advanced printmaking class received photos of artwork from 9th graders in the Central African country. Through interpretation and research, they reimagined the art into something new. Water-colored ink prints will soon be shipped back to Cameroon for students there to keep.

Once the package arrives, young artists in Cameroon will send their original work for Georgia College students to keep. Junior studio art major Maya Whipple of Gordon already knows where she’s going to keep hers on a wall in her bedroom.

“Things you create have a longer-lasting impact than you think,” Whipple said, “It’s been a very rewarding experience to have an impact on these children, who we’ve never even seen before. It’s just amazing to think about bringing somebody else joy and happiness through a simple picture.”

The drawing Whipple received from a student in Cameroon.
The drawing Whipple received from a student in Cameroon.
The project was a little like detective work—trying to find clues in a drawing to discover the artist’s intention. All Whipple received was a drawing of a man, woman and two children standing near what looked like a shield. She also got a photo of the boy who drew the picture. He wasn’t smiling.

To understand why, Whipple researched and discovered Cameroon was recently involved in war. She thought the boy might’ve experienced hardships. His shield may have been his way of showing strength. Aside from yellow boots people were wearing, Whipple said the boy’s drawing wasn’t colorful.

To show him she’d noticed his workmanship, Whipple incorporated the yellow boots into her watercolor print. To help him find hope and peace, she drew four adorable children holding up the world against the flag colors of his country.

Whipple's interpretive watercolor prints.
Whipple's interpretive watercolor prints.

It’s just amazing to think about bringing somebody else joy and happiness through a simple picture.
– Maya Whipple

Through this, Whipple learned art has meaning—not only for the artist but also their viewers. From now on, she intends to put more thought into what’s happening in her life and how that’s conveyed in her work. She also plans to apply for a Fulbright scholarship and someday teach English in Cameroon.

Her classmate, Laurie Gentry of Trion, Georgia, was profoundly moved by this project. As a studio art major with a minor in psychology, Gentry wants to help others through art therapy. She believes art is a powerful tool for community service.

Senior Laurie Gentry paints her print.
Senior Laurie Gentry paints her print.
She was struck by the photo of her Cameroon student, an unsmiling girl. She thought about the one box of crayons the girl shared and how few colors were used in the flower drawing. Gentry wanted to make the girl smile. She decided to use more colors and flowers in her variation of the picture.

“People say you can never get back the creativity and optimism you once had as a child,” Gentry said. “Doing this allowed me to capture that back for myself and make something whimsical enough for a child to enjoy.”

“This was an opportunity to reach out to someone I’d never be able to connect with by myself,” she said. “It’s really great to help people in any way you can, especially children. They deserve the most, and they need to be encouraged. It’s great we were put in touch with an obscure place and got the chance to help be a part of that community.”

It’s a huge project that requires a very small effort. It doesn’t take a lot—but it’s something that will last forever.
– Matt Forrest
Forrest said he’s proud of his students’ work. They had only three class sessions to work on their pieces for the art exchange. He chose prints and watercolors, because The Memory Project only ships lightweight paper—no canvas, wood or clay. Due to time constraints, printmaking is relatively quick and nontoxic too.

No contact information was given for students in Cameroon. To make the project more personal, Forrest had his students trace their hand on the back and sign their names. The children will feel respected and valued, he said, knowing people in the United States saw their art and were inspired to produce their own.

“The idea that art can impact an international community through something they’ve done here in Milledgeville is incredibly vital,” he said. “What my students in the advanced screen-printing class did will basically impact the lives of others for the rest of their lives. It’s a huge project that requires a very small effort. It doesn’t take a lot—but it’s something that will last forever.”

Senior Emily Sabonis-Chafee examines her print.
Senior Emily Sabonis-Chafee examines her print.
Senior art studio major Emily Sabonis-Chafee of Rowell said the project made her realize how art can be used to improve lives. She noticed her Cameroon student loved colors. She incorporated his use of a scroll and flowers into her print, turning his hearts into heart-shaped leaves.

“I love just being able to interpret this my own way and imagine his reaction,” Sabonis-Chafee said. “I think he’ll really enjoy that an artist is replicating his drawing. I like to think he’ll be excited to have that piece, because it’s from something he drew.”

I'm so glad we got this opportunity. The thought that this is going to make someone’s day and make them happy is really cool and inspiring.
– Emily Sabonis-Chafee

Whipple making her print.
Whipple making her print.