Monday, December 24, 2012

Clay Christmas Decorations -Holiday Art Activity

Suitable for: Age 3-12
Difficultly: Easy
Time: Part A = 15-30mins plus + overnight drying time, Part B = 30mins

  • Baking Paper (non stick)
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutter shapes, use scone cutters, egg rings
  • Air-dry clay (I have used Mont Marte brand -500g for approx $10-$15)
  • Clay tool set (can be found in discount store that sell art supplies for approx $9.95) includes; 
    • Wire toggles -to cut clay
    • knife
    • needle
    • and other tools not required for this activity
  • Non toxic paint (I have used Finger paint) for older kids Acrylic will be fine too
  • Water pot
  • fine synthetic brushes
  • Glitter
  • Ribbon 
Part A: Creating the Christmas Decoration Shapes
  1. Cut the clay by using the toggles or the clay knife (Adult supervision)
  2. Between two sheets of non-stick baking paper roll out the clay to desired thickness -I have made it about 0.5cm
  3. Choose your cookie cutter shape and push down using the palm of your hand
  4. Lift and pull away excess clay. Shape with finger if necessary to smooth edges. Scratch into with the needle to create patterns if desired.
  5. Place all the shapes on the non-stick baking paper and allow to dry -approx 24-48 hrs. 
Step 1
Step 2

Step 3
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5

Note: As clay is drying it still appears wet and cold to touch. 
Wet Clay half dry


Part B: Painting the Christmas Decoration Shapes
  1. Set out paint on a palette (I have used a lid of a takeaway container. Ice-cream lids work well too). Put an apron on. Set down newspaper or a plastic sheet to cover the table. Get water pot ready and brushes.
  2. Start painting.
  3. While the decoration is still wet, shake glitter over and allow the shape to dry
  4. Spray a light covering of hair spray or fixative (art product) or spray varnish to help seal the decoration.
  5. Cut ribbon to size and put on the tree or give as a gift
Step 2

Step 3


Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to write an Artist Biography

When asked for an Artist Bio or Biography, too often Artists provide an 'Artist Statement'. Aspects about an artist statement can be a sentence or two in your artist bio to describe your artwork, medium, style and/or inspiration but an artist bio is basically a written paragraph of your CV. It should be written in third person. It should be 5-7 sentences or 100-150 words. Include dates if necessary.

What to include in your artist bio:
  • name and location, type of Artist
  • qualifications/education/training/volunteer experience
  • arts practice experience
  • exhibition history
  • awards/publications
Chrissy Dwyer is a contemporary Acrylic Painter living in Brisbane Australia. She is a qualified Visual Arts Teacher with a Graduate Diploma of Education and currently works in an Arts Organisation. She completed her Bachelor of Creative Industries in 2009 and Diploma of Visual Arts in 2007. During this time of study she volunteered at an Artist-run-initiative, Cell Arts Space, and arts organisation, Arts Nexus. Chrissy has received a grant for a solo exhibition and she exhibits frequently in group exhibitions and competitions. Dwyer has had a few demonstration and feature articles published in Artist Palette and Australian Artist Magazine.
                                                                                                                                                  (100 words)

Be vague but detailed at the same time. I have deliberately kept some information general for privacy reasons on the net.

Think about your audience for this bio, you may have to tweak it. Is it an Artist Bio for a gallery or as a member on a committee? Is it an Artist Bio for a job or university presentation? Your audience will determine what should be included. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Collage old artworks with littlies

If you love doing art and crafts with your kids then you probably have the same problem I have...what to do with the dozen or so artworks created in each session. If you are like me then you probably sneek a few in the bin and keep a few good ones...or if you are one of 'those' people who can't bring yourself to throw anything away your child does and keeps everything?

Then I have a great solution for you, two in fact:

1. Create another artwork -Collage the old drawings, prints and paintings. This is a great exercise for them to tear up paper or cut it up, use a glue stick (those purple or blue clear drying a great). What kid doesn't love playing with a glue stick! Ideal for toddlers and yound children.

 Create interesting abstract art...Henri Matisse was an Artist who used paper collage in his later life when he was ill.

2. Use it for wrapping up children's presents or other family members presents.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Scraffito Printing with Kids

A simple twist to painting with children is to try scraffito printing. I did this technique with my nearly 3 year old but could be used up to age 8-10. This is great for fine motor skills and getting children to use their finger for writing. Have a purpose by getting the child to draw lines, swirls, circles, squares and other shapes and geographic images. For example, my example below of a bunch of grapes is great for younger children to practice circles.For older children, get them to write their name or draw images of things.
Scraffito is a design technique where a thick layer of paint is 'scratched' into or incised to leave the negative impressionism. To use this idea for painting with children simple and easy. 


  • Children's Paint (Crayola Gel Paint, Finger Paintings, Cheap Acrylic)
  • Non porous surface (laminate a sheet of paper, use an Over Head Transparency (OHT), Plastic, Glass)
  • Paper
  • Children's Paintbrushes
  • Apron/ Table cloth
  • Wipes or paper towel for clean up 
  • Clothes Air Dryer to hang prints to dry
To print the scraffito painting, paint onto a non porous service such as glass, perspex (acrylic sheeting) or even something such as an OHT (Over Head Transparency) OR like what I used a laminated sheet.

1. Paint onto a laminated sheet or OHT (Over Head Transparency)
2. Use your finger to draw designs or write (remember if you are writing words they have to be spelt backwards)
3. Lay the paper over the top of the painting. 

4.Smooth over with a clean hand peel back and voila!


Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4: Left is the print, Right is the painted surface

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Australian Curriculum & The Arts: What it means to you.

The Australian National Curriculum is what we have been waiting for for a long time. The meshing up of all current state and territory curriculums is a wonderful leap forward which will unify education across Australian schools. Also the national benefit for assessing and reporting the nation's students  will provide a fair analysis for comparisons. All Australian children should be learning at the same level and of similar content. That is the benefit of having a National Curricuulm.

In terms of the propsed curriculum, the draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum is not proposing any dramtic shift in ability or level of content in terms of learning from what currently exists in Queensland. The draft is a document that has been consulted on by a number of different bodies; teachers, schools, educators, educational organisations, and other key people who have collated the existing state and territory curriculums into one inclusive document. This draft has included the most benefical aspects of each curriculum from the states and territories into one.

To give you a better idea of educating in the 21st century, the shift is from rote learning in independent subjects to multidisciplinary cross-curriculum and participation based learning. In English....content is encouraged to be taught where suitable through other subjects so students experience a rich and diverse learning environment. Students are now the centre of learning rather than a teacher centered approach.  Subjects are banding together to deliver content rather than seperately. This approach is beneficial as a wider scope of learning can occur without being 'watered down' and content can be reinforced or revisited in other learning styles through other subjects. So where are we at now?

The National Australian Curriculum is being delivered in sections with each section being consulted on by the people as listed above and the public. Phase one has already been implemented; History, science , english and geography. Phase two, the Arts, is in draft mode and is open for feedback from the public until 23 Sep 2012.

As I am biased in my interest in the National Curriculum ( I only care about the visual arts!)... I do however see merit in other subject areas and the benefit and potential for improved learning and pedgogoy across all curriculum subject delivery. The beauty about the Arts, specially visual arts, is that it can deliver other subject area content really successfully. The Shape paper talks in terms of 'interrelationhips' and 'interdisciplinary' into other subjects; think in terms of the Arts as the centre of the curriculum by integrating other subjects into  the Arts or by merging the Arts into other subjects.

In a primary school setting, a thematic approach to learning could work really well to integrate a number of subject areas surrouding the one theme. For example. A unit on Dinosaurs will look at the subjects; History, Geography, Science, and Visual Arts.

In secondary, a duality approach to teaching with and through another subject to deliver skills or knowledge is the key to covering the curriculum. For example; a Unit on War in a History subject can not not look at the Art produced at the time of war, as posters and propaganda and  was a huge part of communiticating about the issue at the time. This idea of a duality approach though does not mean all facets of the school curriculum or subject syllabus will be covered nor will all teachers in all subject areas feel the same way about delivering the National curriculum in this way. This approach is a contemporary way of delivery education for today's children (and some older Teachers get stuck in their way of ONLY teaching their subject and their subject ONLY).

I hope this sheds some light on those parents out there who wish to understand better what this new National Curriculum will mean for their child.

Please feel free comment any of your concerns. Please bare in mind this is my interpretation and other edcuator's opinions may differ. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Watercolour painting for children

Watercolour is the most accessible and easiest form of painting for children. Quick results and less prone to soiling cloths. All you need is a small bucket for water, some soft watercolour brushes (synthetic round/pointed tip), cartridge paper and the watercolour paint. You can buy watercolour paint in small tubes or the blocks/cakes of paint.

A quick and simple method I have used  to teach my toddler how to paint with watercolours is a 3 step process. Depending on their dexterity (are they left or right handed?) set up your materials accordingly, so in order from the right or left.This method is good for instruction, patience and the child getting the best result with least frustration. Teach them the process of:

Get the child to make finger prints with watercolour paint cakes
Toddlers -Draw some lines and get your child to follow the lines; teach them zig-zag, curves, spirls

Friday, August 17, 2012

Art improves behaviour management

Often as an Artist or Visual Arts Teacher you have to justify the value of the arts. Research to support the benefit of visual arts activity for children in particular is the effect it has on positive engagement in classrooms specifically improved behaviour in disengaged children. Not only is art making accessible to all students, all children find a sense of self actualisation in their ability to achieve results. This sense of improved self esteem leads to better socialisation, better behaviour and in turn increases retention.

It is common for those disruptive kids to respond better to creative activity as generally they perform lower in analyical subjects resulting in a failure complex thus become disruptive to mask their perceived inabilty to achieve results. These students tend to perform and respond well to visual arts and given the access to the subject in school, find purpose.

What has prompted this blog post is two articles I have recently read. One a news article, "Guards must be consulted over prision changes" by the Brisbane times, 17 August 2012, reporting 5 Queenland prisions may be decreasing the prisioners' workshop time (access to activities such as sewing, metal work and painting for instance) due to budget cuts. In protest, Prision Guards striked emphasising the benefits as I have outlined above and the ripple effect in decreased educational activity. With the descrease of activity time, prision inmates are likely to become disengaged (effectively bored) and are likely to exhibit bahaviour issues, dissocialisation and increased violence. 

Some comments by the public in response to the descrease in activity time have scoffed at the thought gaurds would protest this. This isn't about providing luxaries for inmates, it is about educating; providing not only trade skills but socialisation skills, not to mention the emotional benefit and positive impact this can have for rehabilitation. Why wouldnt anyone want better people living with us in society? As some of these inmates will be released into the community again. The goal is to have them not reoffend.

The other article was in Australian Artist magazine #338 (aug 2012) on the inspiration, motivation and purpose of art making as a result of reading the magazine and creating art. Comments by an inmate quoted the positive effects of art making as emphasised above.

So how does this relate to children learning art in school?  If children become disengaged with school and end up dropping out, they are less likely to successfully support themselves. If participation in visual arts (for some) has proven to successfully retain and reengage children then that is evidence in itself of the value of the arts.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lino Printing with Kids

The printing of lino printing would be another good art technique to try with young children (aged 3 +). I tried it with my 2.5yr old and she is not quite ready yet.

  • Buy a piece of lino (blue one side and green the other) from your local art store. 
  • Buy a lino cutting tool or set
  • Hard or soft roller
  • Brayer or use the back of a spoon
  • Printing ink (works best as it needs to be thick -you could try acrylic if it's thick)
  • Paper or fabric
  • Palette
  • Apron
  • Spatular /Paint scrapper

 1. Choose design and transfer to lino, I outlined mine in nicko -Remember, the carved out lino areas will remain white and the raised lino will be the printed area.

2. Ink up your lino using your hard or soft roller -If you hear the sound of velco and your paint looks like velcro you have it right.

3. Roll ink into lino -get your child to help with this. Do a test on newspaper or cartridge.

4. Get your child to place the paper on top of the lino and smooth over with brayer (alternatively get them to use their palm...this isn't going to be a masterpiece it is all about the interaction).

5. Print as many as you like and try different surfaces e.g. fabric like cotton or calico, print onto a pillow or library bag etc.

6. Here is the finished piece your child has helped with. Get your child to colour in the background with pencils or watercolour pencils or watercolour if on paper.
Copyright (c.) Chrissy Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Butterfly Lifecycle Colouring Sheet

Brisbane Art Expo 2012 -Review

A creative enthusists dream hub for inspiration. To see as a collective what Brissie artists are creating -painting. For an art expo 95% of the art was paintings. A mix of oil and acrylic. The trend was medium to large contemporary textured paintigs of semi realistic imagery. There were a mix of genres, not one stood out more from the rest (cityscapes, amimals portraits, whimiscal fantasy etc). The colours were vivid and exaggerated in saturation.

This expo was an affordable art fair. Only a few extra large paintings were over the $1000 mark and small to medium paintings ranged from $200-$500.

Some stalls tried attention grabbing tactics by placing bowls of lollies on their stand. Another had  kiddies corner and others were selling merchandise or products.

The expo was a bit smaller than expected however a good range of exhibits. And the love vintgage show was on too which you had the benefit of seeing too.

The art expo is definately for well defined artists in their practice. It was like having a mini gallery exhibition. And with all the art, those showing bodies of work stood out stronger than random pieces.

(Sorry for the sideways pics -upload from phone)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Australian Art Competitions, Awards & Prizes

I came across this awesome directory of Australian art competitions, awards and prizes created by Art Prizes Australia website. They also have a full calendar to download -never miss a competition again...if only you could be these calendars, I sure would!!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Public Art at the traffic Lights

Located on the corner of Bedivere St & Meadowlands Rd, Carindale, Brisbane

Urban Smarts Project is an initiative of Brisbane City Council where the purpose is to beautiful the city and minimise vandalism by painting the sterile grey green steel traffic signal boxes. Artists are commissioned to paint the council's traffic signal boxes upon submission of their proposal and design. This is a great form of public art, where the community can experience 'street art' for free and enjoy how it brightens up their city making it interesting. 

I lived in Cairns for 6 years and while there, my art was inspired by the tropical rainforest paradise. I had the pleasure of experiencing many beautifully lush green pristine places. Upon my research of the traffic signal box gallery on the Urban Smarts Project website, I notice a distinct lack of tropical scenery painted boxes. I found my niche idea and submitted my proposal for approval. My aim was for the Brisbane community to experience, even in that fleeting moment while driving or walking pass the box, the sanctuary of a tropical environment, to feel a sense of relaxation when they see my painted traffic signal box.

The weather had not been kind in the weeks leading up to the project, as I had a period of time in which to complete this. Luckily, during the cold wet winter snap I encountered a day of sunshine where I worked tiresomely for 5 hours straight just to finish my 3 sided steel canvas. 

Not only did I receive joy and gratification out of the privilege to have one of my artworks displayed publicly, the most successful thing about this project is the community interaction; from cars beeping their horns in acceptance, to seeing people showing me their thumbs up approval, to calls of praise out the window and passers-by stopping to compliment my achievement -that was the highlight of the project.

I would like to thank Urban Smarts Project and the Brisbane City Council for allowing me this opportunity to exhibit my artwork to the public on one of their traffic signal boxes and thus making Brisbane a more interesting and creative place to live.

See the link here of my news article printed by the Bayside Bulletin 

Want to know how to write a media release for your own exhibition or public art work. Check out my example guide and read the one I submitted for this work here. They might use it word for word or they might adapt it from the information you provide.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The line between drawing and painting

Differientiating the difference between painting and drawing (and other mediums) is something that pagues artists when having at categorise their art - especially ic there is no 'mixed media' category.

Some people classify pastels as drawings others paintings. Is ink and wash a drawing or painting? It has both elements. What about a piece with ink and charcoal? Some types of mediums and techniques can cross into two categories.

As a general rule you could say any dry medium is a drawing. And any wet medium a painting. But that reflects the medium. Application could impact on the category. Short sketchy strokes of paint could be considered a drawing technique.

I think a general rule could be; the medium most used or the medium used last e.g. A photograph of a sculpture - the photograph becomes the medium. A mixed media drawing or painting...were more dry or wet mediums used and what type of techniques?

You decide where your art fits.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to paint: a rose

Acrylic on Canvas. Approximately 60x60cm.

Ability: Intermediate to Advanced

While I was still learning the process of how to paint, I came across an article in an art mag how to paint a rose. A rose looks soo complicated and I had never attempted it, until then. Break down your image to make it easier for you to get your head around. Print out a grey tone copy and start by doing a black & white (greyscale) underpainting. Fill in the areas like a 'paint by numbers' exercise. Once you have the grey underpainting, you will feel more confident to add your colour knowing you have your base tone already there. Go on, give it a try!
Step 1: Draw your outline on the canvas in a pastel pencil, watersoluble pencil or charcoal
Step 2: Block in your greyscale underpainting, starting with your darkest darks first

Step 3: Start to block in your mid tones

Step 4: Block in your lighest tones -nearly white.

Progress photo: Sorry it is side on. I dont know why it uploaded like this. But you can see the photo printed image I am working from on top of the easel.

Step 5: Start adding your colours -again starting with the darkest areas first. You can see the greyscale underpainting.

Step 6: Add your mid tone colours in -only the lightest grey underpainting areas are left

Step 7: Start adding detail to the petals with visible unblended strokes of colour

Step 8: Fill in your lighest coloured areas and finish up details on petals adding highlights, sharpen edges and blur edges

Finished Painting. (c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Artist retains copyright of all images on this blog unless stated otherwise.