Alien Landscapes



My Grade 3/4 and 5/6 classes both created ‘Alien landscapes’. First, we brainstormed movies we had seen that included an alien landscape (for younger students we unpacked the idea of ‘alien’, that it can have some features of earth, but different). Students  came up with movies such as Green Lantern, Star Wars, Avatar and Planet 51. I wanted children to use a horizon line to map out where the sky and land meet, and encouraged them to think of the different landscape features on planet earth (such as cityscapes, deserts, rainforests), and how they could be altered. Students made preliminary thumbnail sketches, then lightly drew their designs using pencil. For their final piece, the older group used dry pastel and the younger ones used watercolour. This provided another teaching opportunity, in the characteristics  and possibilities of the materials. Both provide good colour saturation with a fair amount of control.

Most important, though, I think this project inspired their wonderful creativity and they really expressed their imaginations.

Acrylics vs Oils

After using exclusively acrylic paint for several years, I was recently inspired to take up the oils once more. I have only done a handful of paintings with oils, and my reason for ditching them was due to impatience. I reasoned that acrylics dry faster, so you can paint over the top creating layers of colour for interest. Oil paints are far more sumptuous colour wise in my opinion, however. For some reason I never realised that you can simply wipe away areas with a turpsy rag or brush, making paintings easy to renovate just like in acrylics (one of my reasons for turning to acrylics).
Oil paints seem to cover large areas of canvas more easily and you feel a bit like a sculptor when using thick paint (note to self: buy a pallet knife, a very useful tool for scraping back paint, adding sharp areas and cleaning the pallet!)

For those colourists who are concerned with detailed accuracy ( that’s me only sometimes), acrylic colours flatten off and change to be slightly lighter. I have noticed this when doing skies or faces, but because my style is somewhat expressionistic, this factor has not really bothered me. I often work on textured recycled canvas anyway, so I see it as part of the overall effect akin to varied brush strokes. The flattened effect of acrylics is something I address using loads of glossy varnish. The reason oil paints don’t change in their colour or consistency is because oil paint doesn’t actually dry, it cures.

I was confused about the mediums to use to thin oil paint down, but after asking a few knowledgable people, I decided to keep it simple: odourless artist quality turps to was brushes and wipe back areas of paint, and the Art Spectrum no.1 medium for mixing. The mediums are a mixture of linseed oil and artist quality turps, so it’s just more convenient than doing it yourself. The no.1 medium is the thinnest (paint will crack later if you apply to much linseed oil under thinner applications).

So… The verdict? At the moment I am in love with oils but not inclined to give up acrylics either. If I do plein air work, I will go for oils because you don’t need water, and you don’t have the problem of paint wastage due to speedy drying. Acrylics are wonderful when I want to paint lots of layers quickly… And just when the mood takes me, they lend themselves to different marks, and are great in mixed media operations.

Acrylic paint. I use atelier interactive, usually. At times it’s anything I can afford. I bought some cheapies recently (global) which were not very opaque, so a bit frustrating to use. I’ll probably use them with my kids.




My oil paints. They are art spectrum mostly.


image a close-up of an acrylic painting. You can see how it ‘flattens’ when it dries (especially in the darker areas)

image a close-up of an oil. I used heavy brush-strokes. Colour and shine holds. Although I will probably still varnish, because I love shine!

So last year

Last year I resolved to post art lesson ideas and photos. I was so busy getting to know my new school (I work at two different schools) that it didn’t happen!

By far the biggest highlight of 2014 was the Alice in wonderland project I did with my upper primary students. They exhibited their artwork at the local library, and the exhibition ‘Journey into Wonderland’ got into the local paper.



imageI also enjoyed teaching students about the sumptuous, lush, bold work of Henri Rousseau, the whimsical work of Chagall and the quirky fabulousness of Perth born artist and author, Shaun Tan.





The biggest challenge last year was teaching art to kindergarten and pre-primary students. I found this to be difficult because of short attention spans, and also the speed at which they work. A year 5 project may drag on for four weeks, but for the little ones I had to constantly come up with new ideas. We used a lot of mixed media, and I tended to run three activities at a time for kindy students.

I am excited to see what 2015 holds for me, what a privilege it is to be able to teach art! 😃🎨😃

Anthropomorphic Portraits

I have finally begun working on my art programmes for this term, after a very long break from teaching over the summer holidays. I stumbled upon the idea of creating ‘anthrophomorpic portraits’, which led me to explore the concept of human-like animals in art and literature in general. The initial idea sprung from funky yet comical portraits by photographer, Yago Partal (right).image
My idea is to get students to choose an animal, brainstorm what kind of clothing they will wear and create anthropomorphic portraits using paint or watercolour.

This project links really well into art history. The word ‘anthropomorphic’ simply means attributing human qualities to non human subjects; be it animals, forces of nature, plants or insects.

Humans have a long history of using animals to express personality traits, supernatural abilities, describe the attributes of mythical deities (such as the case in Greek mythology). image
Examples of anthropomorphic art and literature popular in today’s culture is overwhelmingly rich. Think teenage mutant ninja turtles, superheroes like Spider-Man and batman, stories like C.S Lewis’ ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’, Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. All of these tales use personification of animals, insects and in the case of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, inanimate objects (remember the talking door and the opinionated flowers?) Examples abound across cultures, too. In aboriginal dreamtime stories and fables from Korea and Japan (not to mention anime-a big obsession with my year 6 group).


I’m excited to see what my talented students come up with on this theme.

Unearthing Old Stuff

My latest goal is to convert our bedraggled old caravan into an art studio. I spent a couple of hours today getting rid of some of the clutter that had been stored in it. Amongst the rubble was some artwork from 5 or so years back..not so long ago, I know, but long enough to bring a bit of nostalgia. I particularly love the Lino print I did, with the words “productivity kills art” scrawled on it with an artliner. This was part of an inner protest against the industrial world’s way of mass producing everything, including “art”. I believed then, and still do, that our creativity is borne more from ‘being’ rather than frantic ‘doing’. Creativity will flourish when we slow down enough to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Looking at my old, and I guess ‘rejected’ artworks helps me appreciate even more my inner yearnings to be the person who can see the amazing, the divine, amongst the ordinary things (I’m not there yet). It makes me realise once again how much I long to create and to ‘be’ an artist. This is a desire that has been in me ever since I can remember. The motives may have been differentiation or perhaps passive rebellion at some point. But whatever…the dream has clung tenaciously all these years, and I must give it credence as I meander along my way. The endless flurry of ‘activity’ is the enemy to my dream.

I read something recently that said that successful people say “no” a lot. I guess that’s because they have certain objectives, and they guard it as precious….they will not agree to anything that does not further their goal or vision. food for thought, I can hear an echo in that famous old Shakespearian adage “this Above all : to thine own self be true”