Dec 1, 2014

Australian Icons


When I ran this lesson with year 3 and 4 students, they were in the middle of an Australian theme —including a focus on Aboriginal Australia (I was lucky enough to be with the class on an excursion featuring a guided and very inspirational tour through the bush, where we were taught about the many types of bush tucker and medicine surrounding us). Another focus was Australia’s natural and man-made landmarks, so this art lesson was a way of bringing these two aspects together. 

First, we talked about things that were widely recognised as being Australian cultural icons. Together we made a list (some will be obvious to readers far from Australia, and others may not), which I trimmed down to those that could be easily drawn and identified in a simple silhouette. 

We also spent some time appreciating the work of Indigenous artist Bronwyn Bancroft. Looking at her children’s book Why I Love Australia, we especially noted the bright and often non-traditional colours she uses. 


Then, the children chose their icon and drew it with lead pencil. Next, they painted it and the background in a different single colour. The children then used cotton buds to finish their icons with repeated dot patterns as used by many Aboriginal artists, but also using bright colours inspired by Bronywn’s art. It was quite a process from start to finish, but the children did a great job and the results are stunning.

The most popular icon turned out to be Ned Kelly, as inspired by Sidney Nolan’s famous paintings of him. For those further afield, Ned is our most infamous bushranger. Probably his most lasting legacy is the home-made helmet and armour that he sported, although as it transpired, without much success. He’s a controversial figure in our history — loved and loathed in equal measure. He was convicted of three murders, and hung in 1880 at the ripe old age of 25. Our other, less controversial icons featured here include an emu, a kangaroo, the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Uluru and the Three Sisters. 

As well as enjoying the fine efforts of these students, I hope I may have captured the imagination of any of you viewing from abroad, and you're planning a trip here soon!

Nov 27, 2014

50/50 Silhouettes II


These 50/50 silhouettes from year 5 are more graphic than fine art. I think a lot of graphic art often appears deceptively simple. I showed these students the same lesson as undertaken by a previous class who I first tried this lesson with (it's over here). Quite a few of these students took direct inspiration from my previous class, while others found their own ideas.

We drew in pencil and then painted all the black parts in acrylic. Once dry, I decided to add a step this time and paint the white/negative space a single colour of their choosing. We used watercolour paint for that final step – much quicker to work with and far easier to clean up : )


Nov 20, 2014

5 Really Good Art Blogs


The internet's a big place. There's a lot to see and be inspired by (and a lot to run away from shielding your eyes!). Blogs specifically about art and education are no different, there is so much out there and so little time.

I imagine at least some of you are like me and keep returning to the same sources for inspiration, but sometimes I find it's good to find a fresh perspective. Below are five blogs that inspire me from around the world. There are a bunch more that inspire me, but keeping both our attention spans in mind... five is plenty for now! : )

I would love to hear about any art blogs you highly recommend - please comment away and share your personal favourites. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are five really good art blogs:

Gretchen's Art Blog - Hailing from Wellington in New Zealand, Gretchen is prolific. Her lessons utilise a large variety of media and there is so much to soak in. See for yourself!

Creativity First - Gabriela's blog title perfectly surmises the strong philosophy that underpins her art lessons. Creativity is a precious commodity and too-often undervalued. Get a direct injection now!

Shine Brite Zamorano - Don highlights a lot of contemporary artists and succinctly teaches the real nuts and bolts of making art. I think I learn something new every time I visit his blog. Do yourself a favour!

A Faithful Attempt - "Miss" is another very experienced art teacher who also uses a lot of different media. The lessons are diverse and very clearly explained. Teach one this week!

Artescuola - Representing Europe and more specifically Italy, is Miriam and her eccellente blog! Featuring beautifully presented art from her middle school students, it's a feast of visual inspiration. Treat yourself!

Nov 1, 2014

Fantastic Fauvist Foxes


"Fantastic Fauvist Foxes" says it all really... This 3/4 composite class were mid way through Roald Dahl's classic Fantastic Mr Fox. We began by following a guided drawing lesson from Kathy at Art Projects For Kids. After starting in pencil we then traced in permanent marker. Taking inspiration from the bold and non realistic colours of Fauvism, students completed their foxes with water-colour paints.


Oct 21, 2014

Music With Mr Hall


Australian Playground is a compilation album from the Putumayo Kids record label. It features Loose Change, a song I wrote and recorded way back when. It was well before I was a parent, when there seemed to be many more hours in the day! The song celebrates being a kid and the small but important, and very memorable ways we occupy ourselves in those special years : )

A percentage of sales goes to the Australian Children's Music Foundation. So if some diverse Aussie children songs sounds like your thing, the physical album's available from Putumayo (depending where abouts you are in the world), otherwise it's on iTunes as a download, and it's probably at good record stores too — remember those places?!

Oct 6, 2014

Serape Fiesta


Preparation for this lesson is nice and easy with the only requirements being coloured pencils and regular A4 paper. These colourful designs inspired by Mexican serapes were created by a composite year 2 and 3 class. Each pattern begins from a line of symmetry in the centre. To read more about serapes pop over to my previous year 5 and 6 post.


Sep 28, 2014

The Good Ship Endeavour


The HMS Endeavour was sailed to Australia by Captain James Cook and his crew well over 200 years ago now. The ship and the intercontinental mode of transport in general were featured in these year 4 students’ studies. Together we embarked on the challenge of sketching this tall ship. I initially lead a guided drawing lesson which the students then completed themselves and later embellished with some simple watercolour ocean and sky.


Sep 21, 2014

Unruly Mondrians


Year 1 made these wavy Mondrian-inspired abstractions with black oil pastels and watercolour paints. It's a straightforward lesson but the students enjoyed it, which has to remain a priority — not a lot of learning happens when there's no joy! I've previously tried more regular, ruled Mondrians with year 2 and recoloured Mondrians with Year 5.


Aug 21, 2014

Geometric Sculpture



This isn't exactly an 'art' post... it's more the genesis of an idea inspired by an exercise I did with a year 6 maths class. We were working on 3D shapes, and made these suspended sculptures using rolled up sheets of newspaper and masking tape. If time and chance allow, this idea could be extended to become an art lesson in itself—I'll let you know if I find the opportunity! But for the moment, here are some 'accidental' art pieces—rectangular, hexagonal and triangular pyramids.



Aug 6, 2014

Manly Men


Men with facial hair, as illustrated by year one students with charcoal. Some of the technical terms in this very cultured art lesson included beard, goatee and moustache.

This is the first time I can recall ever using or having students use charcoal... Gasps of shock horror from the real art teachers out there - Who is this impostor?! I'm just a regular classroom teacher who likes making art in class, keen but naive : ) So any sagely words of wisdom, must dos and don'ts or other secret tips that you know about using charcoal please let me know in the comments below!