Friday, October 2, 2015

Sunprints at the Museum of Brisbane

My first ever visit to the Museum of Brisbane located at City Hall, Brisbane City. The reason...a children's school holiday workshop, to coincide with Robyn Stacey's exhibition Cloudland. (Cloudland is about the fusion of two images however one is upside down and overlayed transparent). The activity (loosely linked to the exhibition) for children was a sunprints activity; where you use photographic paper and expose objects to the paper using the sun. The idea still related to the exhibition in the sense of photography and transparency. This is a fun activity, inexpensive, and anyone can do it -at home or in the classroom. 



  • Photographic paper (buy from an art shop)
  • Flat objects (feathers, doilies, ribbon, sequins)
  • Clip board or board
  • Clear plastic like persex 
  • Bulldog clips
  • Water tray & rubber tongs 
  • Paper towel
The process:
  1. Lay photographic paper on board
  2. Choose objects and arrange (composition)
  3. Lay clear plastic persex over objects and use the bulldog clips to clamp together
  4. Expose in sun for a few minutes until paper blue colour noticeably changes
  5. Take plastic and objects off
  6. Place paper in water bath for the chemical change to happen
  7. Take out of water and dab dry with paper towel
  8. Chemical change will continue to happen
You could explain to your child about sun safety and how it can demonstrate the use of sun screen. The objects would be the 'sunscreen' and the paper is the 'exposed skin'. The paper (skin) gets burnt when exposed to the sun. When you take the objects away, you can clearly see where the 'skin' has been protected.

Positive/Negative space, composition, chemical reaction, exposure

Curriculum Links:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

We're going on a treasure hunt

Ipswich Art Gallery, the Children's Gallery, has such wonderful programs. I don't mind the near hour drive there and back to let my children experience an exhibition just for them.

These holidays the Gallery had a treasure hunt activity. What I like about the set up was they had a section for children under 3 too so there was less risk of babies chocking on the gems.

The idea was for children to fossick for the 'treasures' and to have a geology experience. There was a chart too for children to check what they had found after they used the sieve to separate the sand from the gems. Children were also able to decorate their bags using stamps and ink.

Upstairs in the Gallery was another children's activity/exhibition called "Imagine this..." where children had the stimulus of artworks from the collection to respond to and create something inspired by the artworks. As you can see in the imagine below is an artwork by Eddy Parritt called Giant remote viewing (2003) made from Wood, steel and mixed media. On the wall are the results of the creations the children have made.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Foam Printing for Lower Primary

What is great about most forms of printmaking is it is an extension of drawing. And this is true for foam printing. I have purchased a pack of 10 A4 art Styrofoam sheets and divided into A5. 

Ages: recommended for ages 6/7 + (as long as they have enough strength to imprint/emboss drawing)

Difficulty: Easy/Intermediate

  • Styrofoam sheets
  • Pen
  • Acrylic paint or block printmaking paint
  • Foam roller
  • Cartridge paper
  1. Get the child to draw their image using a pen (not pencil as it is too sharp), making sure they have press in hard enough to leave an indent -adult to check prior to printing.
  2. Roll paint over image (plate)
  3. Get child to flip face down on paper and pat/or smooth over.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Kids Explore: Activities at the Art & Archaeology Museum

What better way to introduce children to objects of our past and human history than through an art and archaeology museum school holiday program. Just 40mins north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a wonderful museum with a generous size collection of artifacts on display. The museum is set out in a logical order -a timeline of history. It can be walked through (if reading the didactic and information panels) between 30-60mins. But that is more for the adults than the kids. However, there are some lovely murals painted on the walks which document a visual representation of times past which the kids would enjoy looking at. 

In terms of the offering for the school holidays public programs, I was very impressed with the number of activities available and the variety:
  • Archaeological dig
  • Archery 
  • Craft (Mask,
  • Drumming story time
  • Oil Lamp
  • Mammoth Puzzle
  • Cave Painting 

Overall this has been one of the best kids programs I have experienced yet, but, as my child gets older, she is able to participate in more things.  

Check out The Abbey Museum for their school holiday program.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Transforming Gallery Space for Children's Exhibition

A review of Exhibition: Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing: From book to film

I had the opportunity to visit a nearby (30mins away from Brisbane) local gallery, Redcliffe Art Gallery to view the Shaun Tan exhibition based on his children's book "The Lost Thing". Immediately walking into the Gallery I LOVED the set up. I could tell straight away thought had gone into the layout of the exhibition, to make it exciting for children. The exhibition was a collection of; original artworks, a few sculptures and documentary segments on how they turned the book into a short 15min film. 

How the curator displayed the film clips was imaginative. All the exhibition was themed to look like the book. So the films were display on screens which were encased in a fictional looking TV Box. The engaging part for participates was that they had to pick up an old retro telephone handset to listen to the audio. This was a great idea as there were a number of film clips that could play at once and this meant it did not disrupt the experience of others. Also, to play the video, the children had to press a red button which was a symbol used in the book.

I loved how every page of the book was laid out in order and on view with some of the accompanying artworks. Props associated with the exhibition really gave the sense of the space being not only transformed but incorporated, for example, the fake pipes attached to the wall. Other fixtures included display cases masqueraded as a sense from the book, or protruding walls with window holes. Another feature was a large open 'pipe' which had sounds playing so children could go and put their ear to the piece. 

All in all a very engaging (though small) exhibition, it wad just right with number of artworks. That was another aspect, to the interesting design and layout of the exhibition. The artworks were arranged deliberately to be bunched together in asymmetrical format. 

The only criticism I have, which is not solely related to this exhibition is the blurred line between what children could touch and not touch. General Gallery etiquette is that you don't touch the artwork. And this would still be true for those things framed and on the wall, however it was unclear for the 'props' where something we could touch. Small issue but nonetheless I have found this uncertainty among other children focused exhibitions.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crikey! Engaging children in the (Australia) zoo experience

Whenever I choose an experience or event to attend, I always consider what is there for kids to do. I hate going to something, designed for children, that lacks adequate audience engagement. With my desire to persue a role in Public Programs, and possibly a Masters of Art Education in my future, I thought critiquing and reviewing my experiences would be a wise record to start. So, this post is my first official published review, though surprisingly not of a gallery or museum exhibit, but of an educational experience at a zoo.

I was excited probably more than Miss 5 to be going to not just any zoo but the Australia Zoo. Having experienced a few different zoos BC (Before Child), the Australia Zoo is quiet large and impressive in the animals they show. (Also from an Artist point of view you are always on the look out for source material, and as I am a painter of animals and birds, I was especially mindful of an opportunistic photo).

On the whole I was quiet impressed with the level of interactivity the Australia Zoo offers for children. I think the best section was Bindi's Bootcamp, right at the end of the zoo (see map here). This had a large enough area to cater for a large group of children, and enough activities to be substantial. As well, there was something for all ages from 5 - 12. My only criticism was the interactivity did rely on the ability to read to better participate though not a hindrance. A negative was this area was exposed to the elements and on the day I visited it did shower. Activities at Bindi's Bootcamp included:
  1. Animal crates with holes for children to put their hand through and guess the animal
  2. Guessing whose poo belonged to what animal (mulitple choice)
  3. Guessing whose dinner belonged to what animal
  4. A globe with animal silhouettes which could be matched to the country (The globe didn't turn, and the animals pieces didn't stay stuck to globe)
  5. Tipee/Caves for the littlies to play in
  6. A rock wall to climb along
  7. Peek-a-book boxes with animals inside (This could have been more interesting than just a photo of an animal)

Other activities included:
Bindi's Treehouse -This was a disappointment. Considering this was the drawcard for coming during the holidays as advertised on TV, there was nothing for the kids to actually do. There were two bad telescopes which were not easily reached by children as there were no steps, and nothing to do at the treehouse. There is definitely room for improving this experience.
Park Sculptures -Throughout the zoo there were bronze sculptures which acted as photo attractions and 'play' equipment for children. At one of the sculpture areas was a fossil dig. This is such as great idea, however it was not undercover, so on the day I attended it was wet sand and the interaction with this space was not an option, as well, there was no tools for children to use to dig.
Rides -There were some rides throughout the park of jumping castles, and the spinning teacups, as well as those pay your $2 to ride on those things you see in shopping centres. Rides are ok and good to break up the day for the kids, however for us, we had to explain to Miss 5 we came to the zoo to see the ANIMALS not to go on rides.
Public Programs: Live Talks and Demonstrations -These were very educational, and great to listen to as an adult though not targeted at children. Older children would have listened and picked up on things. Even posing questions to the audience ie children would make a difference in better engaging them.
Animal Encounters -Photographs with the Animals & Touching the Animals -This is another consideration for engagement in terms of physical interaction and tactile experience. 

In terms of what could be improved to increase the level of interactivity and engagement I have a few suggestions as I don't believe the zoo has maximised the potential in this area. For example;
  1. considering we are in the digital age, there was no use of technology by children or for children to engage with
  2. Children could go on an explorer/adventurer quest by following clues
  3. Headphones for animals sounds at suitable stations
  4. Touch screen monitors to engage in learning
  5. Even simply making the live talks interactive by asking the children questions
  6. What about a colouring in station or something with chalk like a communal wall.  
These suggested improvements do not have to be from an educational perspective rather increasing the fun and overall engagement, learning and interactivity experience.

Finger Print Hands

Level: EASY 3+ A simple yet fun activity.

  1. Get children to trace around hands with pencil (or get an adult to help for little ones)
  2. Then get them to trace the pencil with black texta. 
  3. Next is the messy part, using stamp pads show children how to work there way from pinkies to thumb. Immediately hands need to be wash (this will get messy). I used a baby wipe and it got most off but there will be staining.
  4. Extension: scan one print and photocopy it larger.

  • Talk about finger prints being unique to the individual. Talk about identity and DNA.
  • Talk about finger prints being used in society to catch criminals. How to you capture fingerprints? What is a detective?
Curriculum Links:
  • Early Childhood -Counting, Fine Motor coordination skills, identity and being
  • Lower Primary -Science

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to Draw a Portrait (Successfully)

I am not a drawer. I have always said that. I pride myself on being a painter and saying "you don't need to know how to draw to paint". At least not to paint photorealistic. Though I do agree it makes it easier to paint if you have an understanding of how to draw, and of course if you can draw well I am sure that would help too. But I say this because I am not a good drawer but I can paint. However I have always wanted to improve my drawing skills...and like they say, practice makes perfect. Just as they say millage on the brush will help improve your painting skills so would millage with a pencil. So in 2014 I decided I would dedicate more time to writing/drawing my ideas in my visual diary. AND an opportunity to attend a portrait drawing workshop with a well known portrait drawer, Ray Coffey, came up so I grabbed the opportunity.

I am one of those that have said 'I never thought I could draw like that' or draw 'realistically'. And I walked away from Ray's workshop saying "wow I did that"! When you are given the right books, or watch the right tutorials or even given the right guidance such as from a master of their craft at a workshop, it is those simple tips and tricks which can make that difference.

Surprisingly enough the method was simple and one I use myself -the grid method. This isn't the only way to approach drawing but this is the way Ray showed us in his workshop. This idea of grid method to drawing/sketch up your image, and blocking in greyscale is a way to approach painting too (See How to Paint a Rose). I may even try my hand at painting the Portrait I did in the workshop. See the step-by-step drawing approach below:

  • Grey toned paper
  • Charcoal pencils and white
  • Sharpener
  • Paper Stump
  • Kneadable Rubber
  • Greyscale photo to work from

Step 1: Using the photo provided we grided up our page and chose the main tonal areas to outline

Step 2: Get rid of the grid using the kneadable rubber (be sure to check proportions etc first)

Step 3: Start blocking in the darkest darks and pushing in the charcoal with your finger or paper stump to smooth it out

Step 4: Start adding detail and using the white to highlight -remember to check for accuracy. 

Step 5: Final touches and finish. Use your kneadable rubber or a cut off sliver of hard rubber to pick up highlights. Use a sharp white charcoal pencil for fine detail.

Finished Portrait

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Valley Views Painting Demonstration

Valley Views Commission Painting -Photo of Clients Kitchen
This painting was a commission piece. The client wanted a triptych painting from two reference photos provided of a national park they visited and enjoyed the scenery. Luckily enough I have too visited this park so already I had a sense of the look and feel of the scenery.


Preliminary Research: First thing I did was a bit more research for other reference photos. Sketches -tonal greyscale drawing and colour schemes.

Step 1: Blocking in the background undertone colour (a warm yellow ochre). Once dry, I used a pastel pencil to sketch in drawing and then blocked in the background with paynes grey for the tonal underpainting. (All Acrylic on Canvas)

Step 2: Block in base colour to match underpainting tone. Keep the sky and background colour more transparent and as you work closer to the foreground make it more opaque. Keep mountains a light blue grey and blurry (no hard edges), and foreground mountains green.

Step 3: Start working back in from background to foreground with detail. Remember you want to keep the illusion of perspective so only blurry loose detail for background and sharp hard edge detail for foreground. 

I used a deer foot brush for the foreground and middleground mountain texture. Hogs hair brush while using acrylic paint can help add detail. I also used a palette knife in places to had a bit of texture such as the tree trunks and rocks. A rigger brush is great for twigs/branches and fine line detail.

(Note: there really should be a photo with less detail than the one shown below but if you look at the far right painting you can see the foreground wild grass is yet to be done. There is a purple undertone to help darken the shadow)

Step 4: Add detail and final touches such as twigs, leaves, birds in background sky

Here is an example contract template for an artwork commission. Use as a guide to modify to suit your needs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Textured Painting using a Palette Knife

I LOVE to use a palette knife in most my paintings where suitable to create texture. Sometimes the whole painting will be done with the palette knife, other times it will be to add detail or texture to accentuate an area.

Below are some of my paintings where various sized palette knifes have been used to create texture.

There aren't many 'demos' out there that I could find on how to use the palette (painting) knife to create detail or texture, but really it is about how you control it like a brush but also about selection like a brush -choosing the right one. 

Cockatoo Settling in For the Night
The Falls Study

Close Up of Nesting

Detail of Coral School

City Lights

Detail of City Lights