Monday, December 23, 2013

Collagraph Printmaking

Age 4 +

Collage -Easy
Printing - Easy

Thick card stock (A4 size)
Foam Shapes (Or firm 2D materials)
PVA Glue or strong bonding glue

Foam rollers
Paint (Printmaking ink or non-toxic acrylic) 
Air drying rack
coloured paper for printing

  1. Collagraph Printmaking is a two part process which takes collage to another level of art making.  
  2. Start with collaging the foam shapes on a thick piece of card (plate). Encourage the child to make a design/pattern or picture (see below for stimulus inspiration).
  3. Allow plate to dry completely overnight
  4. Set up the printmaking station with newspaper or tablecloth over the table
  5. Get the child to roll paint with a roller over the collage 
  6. Get the child to place a piece of paper over the painted plate and "pat pat pat" with their hands all over/ smooth over
  7. Peel back the paper and peg onto drying rack

Moscow Inspired Collagraphs
Age  6+

Explore geometric shapes with your child through using images of Russian architecture. Have a picture next to the child as stimulus when collaging. Repeat the printmaking process as above.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

How to Write About Your Art

When you enter a competition or group exhibition, you are required to write about your specific artwork/s usually referred to as an Artist Statement. This is not to be confused with an Artist Bio when the criteria seeks to know about your arts practice, qualifications, and general background. So for the purpose of writing an artist statement for a piece of work entered into a show, it is in regards to the specific work itself. Call it art statement/ statement about your artwork or the like.

Writing about your art is about educating the viewer to better understand your intention or meaning you wish to communicate. If the artwork has been entered into a themed exhibition, then be sure your statement reflects the theme/links to it.I have read many statements about artwork which do not explain well what the meaning is, does not link to the theme or discuss the inspiration or choice of materials. Get someone else to read your statement and if they don't understand your artwork better, then the gallery viewer won't either.

Hints & Tips:
  • Generally a statement about your artwork is 150-250 words.
  • Write in 'third' person and mix it up between first name, surname and both names. e.g. Dwyer is inspired by....". Do NOT use first person ("I") as remember this is being read by other people.
  • Re-read your paragraph and make sure it flows from one topic to another
  • This statement is what is included on the didactic panel/label in a gallery next to the artwork

My suggested formula on how to write a statement about your artwork:
  1. Describe the artwork (2D/3D, photorealistic/abstract, impressionistic, figures etc)
  2. Describe what the artwork is about (concept)
  3. Describe the materials/mediums used and technique/process used
    • What feelings, emotions does the work evoke or convey
    • Is there colour or subject symbolism? Explain
  4. Link to theme (if applicable)
  5. Link to other body of work or how it fits into your arts practice (optional)
Similar resources:
How To Write A (General) Artist Statement
Writing An Exhibition Statement

Monday, November 25, 2013

Enviro Ceramics

C.Dwyer Enviro Ceramics

I attended a professional development workshop called Enviro Ceramics...the mix of science/geography and art was brilliant and is a perfect idea for the primary classroom. So ingenious it had never crossed my mind how to utilise the art making of ceramics in a different way. There were two ways we approached this; Mould Making and Seed Bombs. 

What is Enviro Ceramics? It is about sustainable practices of art making mixed with guerrilla gardening.  Guerrilla Gardening was a movement which started around the 1970s in New York as a way of brightening up the local cityscape by throwing seeds which were embedded in a clay ball with soil onto vacant land and other uninhabited places. The purpose of the seed clay ball was to provide the seeds protection from the elements and a nutritional womb to foster growth. As the seed grows and nature breaks down the clay the plant/flower has had enough of a chance for survival. Since then, other ways of enviro ceramics have evolved, especially in areas of poor vegetation.

  • Clay (fine porcelain for moulds)  
  • Use bought plaster moulds or make your own
  • Soil
  • Seeds/Plants/Seedlings
  • Bucket/Bowl  
  • Clay tools
Age: Yr 3 +


1. Pour porcelain in to half mould and cover fully. Let it partially set -this may take 30mins or more depending on temperature. When you see a 5mm dry edge, pour the unset porcelain back into bucket. Allow to dry to the point of leather hard. You will know it is dry enough when the clay pulls away from the plaster mould. 
2. (See photos of Seed bomb method for similar approach) Get the two halfs ready. Add some soil to one half and soil/seeds in other half (alternatively the seeds could be wrapped in cotton wool to make it easier for little kids to join the halves together).
3. Get the students to clap the halves together and push slightly to hold. Show the students how to join using your finger or a tool -just seal the seem. If you have used seedlings, make sure there is a bit of room around the neck

Seed Bombs
1. Start by getting a ball of clay and breaking it in half into two smaller balls. 
2. Create a pinch pot so there are two half pinch pots
3. Had a little soil to one half, and your chosen seeds in the other half (leave enough room so when you shake it you can hear the seeds rattling around)
4. Join the halves together and press firm slightly. With your finger seal the seems.


Extension Activity: Get your students to decorate the ball into something; a creature, animal, Angry Bird.

Throw/Place your enviro ceramic artworks in the garden and watch them grow.

Link to Curriculum: 
Get students to watch the growth of the plant/flower through observations and chart it. Get students to have different study groups e.g. Full sun/Half sun exposure, Manual watering/Natural watering etc.  

Teach students about the earth and different types of dirt/sand/clay and where it can be found and how it is formed.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Simple Easy Screenprinting with Kids

6 + for making the stencil
4+ for the printing process

Difficulty: assistance is required to hold down screen  

What you need:
  • To do screen printing you will need to use a genuine silk screen bought from an art supply store. These can start from $45
  • Squeegee starts from $20
  • Ink or Printmaking paint (I used Crayola Gel Paint however you can use any paint which is thin enough to push through the fine mesh and doesn't dry too fast)
  • Printmaking paper preferable (like baking/cooking paper -one side is shiny, one side matte) however normal photocopy paper/cartridge is fine. It will only last a few prints.
  • Scissors 
  • Newspaper 
  • Drying rack

This is one of the easiest introductions to screen printing for young children. 

Making the Stencil 
Step 1
  1. Start with a piece of paper. Guide your students to fold it in half, half again and so on. Not too many folds as it makes it hard to cut
  2. Get them to draw a few shapes from the edges of the folded paper
  3. Older students can cut out their shapes and then unfold their paper to show their 'stencil'. Younger students could get assistance or the teacher could have pre-prepared 'stencils' ready.

Step 2

  • prepare the screen by taping some packing tape to the screen the size of the stencil. This is to 'block out' the exposed mesh the 'stencil' does not cover. 
  • To make it easier for the students, my suggestion is to make the stencil the size of the screen and tape it to the edges so it does not move/flap about.
  • Use a paper pad or clamped paper to easel board to help it not move around
Easy to remember: INK - PULL -LIFT Process
Step 2
  1. Ink -Show the students how to dob a line of painting at the top of the screen
  2. Pull -With an adult holding the screen in place, place the squeegee at the top of the screen and drag to the bottom spreading the paint. Repeat 2-3 times.
  3. Lift -Together carefully lift the screen up and rest on a piece of newspaper.
  4. Take printed paper to the drying rack.
    Step 3

Step 4

To change colour 'flush' the screen by repeating step 2 on newspaper/butchers paper until almost clean. Repeat step 1 & 2 with new colour and then do it on the good paper.

*Rise screen immediately after use when the session is finish.

Print onto bags, pillows or other fabric items as gifts.

Link to Education
  • Introduce students to oriental art, specifically origami and making your own stencil inspired by the design and pattern
  • Older students -introduce Pop Art, specifically look at Andy Warhol and repetition 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Palette Knife Painting with Littlies

Age: 3.5 +

Difficulty: Easy

Replace the brush and try something different with young children -give them a palette knife instead (disposable palette knifes available at art and craft stores).

What is a palette knife? It is a tool which is blunt, usually with a flexible steel blade used for mixing paint. However Artists also use the knife as a tool for painting. A painting knife is similar to a palette knife and is used for painting on the canvas. Often the word palette/painting knife is used interchangeably.

For the purpose of this activity with little ones, use a range of everyday and domestic tools to create a similar experience of using a metal Artist's palette knife. Set up stations and get them to experiment with a spatula, trowel, plastic egg flips, old credit cards etc. Anything that is flat and bends.  

Paint for this activity will need to be thick or plentiful...if it's too runny it won't stay on the palette knife/painting knife tool. I used Crayola's Gel Finger Paints with Missy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Australian Visual Arts Curriculum DRAFT Update 2

The Australian Curriculum: The Arts has been signed off and will be implemented from 2014 to 2015/16

While we wait for the final document to be officially published on ACARA's website, I continue to stay in touch with any changes to the draft (July 2013) visual arts document. I have summarised below a 'snapshot' of themes or topics described to be covered in the band descriptors.

Visual Arts Curriculum (Draft) Snapshot:

~Personal observations



~Sensory exploration


~Past histories


~significant events

~community celebrations



~physical and conceptual properties


~Popular culture

~Historical and cultural histories art and design


~Personal aesthetic

If you are a primary or middle teacher, to assist with your planning, I have listed 'topics' or 'themes' of other subject curricula which can be viewed in this Australian Curriculum overview document I created. You can find links between some subjects and compare topics or themes which need to be addressed to assist in your planning. It lists the key points from the band descriptors from the current phase 1 subjects which were implemented in 2013; English, History, Maths, Science with phase 2 draft subject Visual Arts.

Please note the documents on the Australian Curriculum are my interpretation only. Please consult ACARA for clarification.

Other similar posts:
Australian Visual Arts Curriculum DRAFT Update 
The Australian Curriculum & The Arts: What it means to you.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Encaustic Painting (aka Wax Painting)

An ancient art form of wax painting, traditionally wax painting was used as a sealant or varnish to protect the underpainting of Tempera paintings.

  • Hot plate or Frying Pan (with temp gauge)
  • Muffin Tins/Metal tins (e.g. Tuna or Salmon tins)
  • Hogs hair or bristle brushes -various sizes (one per colour is fine) 
  • Heat gun (not a hair dryer as it is not hot enough)
  • Iron (with no holes/no steam) -optional 
  • Wooden support (5 or 6 ply)
  • Wax cakes (premade with pigment)
  • Clay tools for incising
  • Objects for embellishment
1. Create a ground using 'encaustic gesso' -a special ready made product which acts as an absorbent surface or alternatively paint onto the raw canvas or wood using just the clear non pigment wax.
2. Melt wax in tins. Wax will need to be at 100-110degrees Celsius depending on the brand. Read the instructions.
3. Apply a clear layer using a wide brush. Use the heat gun to 'fix' the layer to the support. You will notice a sheen which means you have melted the wax enough. Too much heating and it will move the layer underneath. This might be the effect you want though. Repeat the process of painting a wax layer and fusing.
4. Use tools to scrap back, carve out, incise etc to create textures and effects. Use wire, or heat resistant objects such as rubber matting to create patterns. Remember to heat each layer so it fixes to the one underneath.
Allow the brushes to harden and they can be remelted upon next use. To clean the brush, purchase a special medium called slip, it is like a clear wax. Wax can cool down in tins and be re-melted.

*Remember to do this in a well ventilated area and be prepared for minor burns.

(c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Coral Sea
(c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Woolie Mammoth

This medium works really well for mixed media outcomes as objects and 2D materials can be embedded (including image transfers). This medium lends itself to abstract works with a focus on texture. Other options are to draw first using oil pastels or charcoal and layer transparent wax layers over the top.  You can use a dry brush technique where you wait a moment to paint on the wax and as the wax on the brush is cooling, drag it over the painting and it will create texture.

(c.) Chrissy Dwyer. Tuscan Waters
Alternative approaches for the Classroom:
Crayon Painting

Encaustic History by Encaustic Art Round Oz

Painterly Encaustic Techniques by Ed Zawadzki

Encaustic on Artlex

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stained Glass Sun Catcher Art Activity

Age: 6+
Difficulty: Intermediate
Educational links: Science - light play, transparent, translucent.

Be inspired by colour and light. Teach your child about transparent and translucent elements and objects. 

There are a few ways this can be approached; 
  • using clear contact (If you use contact, don't choose a cheap one as they aren't very good with sticking).
  • laminating -see tutorial

Using Laminate Sheets
1. Choose any shape you want to be a silhouette, cut out the shape in cardboard. Depending on the age of the child, have a template ready so they can just cut it out or for the real little ones, pre-cut the template.
2. Open up the sheet (you may want to cut the pocket to create two pieces so it can sit flat. 3. Dab a bit of glue to stick the template in place. 
4. More dabs of glue can be added to keep the transparent and translucent elements stuck down. 
5. Sandwich the other laminate sheet and put through the machine. 
6. Use blue tac, tape or hole punch and string to hang your stained glass suncatcher. 

Using Clear Contact
Once the shape has been cut out, cut some contact to cover one side. Peel the backing and stick the silhouette to the sticky contact. Now get your child to collage their transparent and translucent elements (cellophane, tissue paper, coloured plastic). Cut the excess contact paper to shape.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Resist Painting

Candle Wax resist painting
Age: 3+
Difficulty: Easy

Resist painting is where a waxy medium (usually candle wax) is used to draw an image onto paper and then a colour wash is applied over the top. The drawing will appear invisible until the picture is revealed by using watercolour washes over the paper. The element of 'magic' can be a fun thing for little ones to experience -to reveal their painting!

Now I have tried a few different mediums to see which provides the best result. Funnily enough, it turned out to be a white crayon. The candle wax I used in the Turtle imaged worked well with going over the drawing a few times to build up enough of a layer of wax to resist or repel the water. So a waxier candle (probably a more expensive one as there would be less filler?). I also tried oil pastel but this smudged a bit.

A watercolour brush would be best to use, not a hard hogs hair bristle brush. White paper is fine, however thicker card would work well too. The paints are just Mont Marte Tempera Block Set watercolour paints.

Missy 3.5yr old's abstract resists painting

Pre-drawn image using white crayon
Pre-drawn image using wax candle
Another way of doing a resist painting for older kids would be to use Masking liquid or fluid. Used by Watercolourists, it is a yellowy tacky medium which gets painted on using an old brush. Once it is dried, the colour wash is applied. Once the painting is dried, the Making liquid is then rubbed off with the finger to reveal the white parts of the canvas or paper.

This idea of resist painting can also lead the way for introducing batik painting. Where areas of fabric are kept from being dyed (like tie dying) as traditional Batik uses wax on the fabric, soaked in dye. Once the dyed fabric is dry, the wax is washed out with warm water the real raw areas of the fabric.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Write a Simple Business Plan for Artists

Got a business idea but not sure about going ahead with it and making it a reality? Writing a business plan will really get you thinking about all you need to know and consider. Business knowledge is a must for any artist wishing to turn their practice into a thriving success. Starting with off with simple business knowledge such as how to write a tax invoice or receipt for a sale of artwork, how to write a contract for consignment for artwork to be displayed or how to write a contract to commission artwork are all important basic business documents any artist should have.  

So you are thinking about getting serious? You want to make art your full time job or sell products of your art? Maybe you want to deliver workshops or art parties, start a gallery...whatever is your artistic venture, you need to write down your ideas and consider all aspects before taking such a financial risk, especially if you are putting your own or borrowed money into your business. 

Things you needs to consider are defining what is the business, what is your product or service, who is your target market, where are you located, how will you market your business, who is your competition, what makes you different or unique, what will be the start up costs etc.

  • Research your business ideas over time
  • Research your identified competitors -Look to those who have 'been there done that'
  • Don't try to complete the document in a day
  • When you have considered all the subheadings...take the business plan further and get more details. Look into more legal, financial and administrative aspects of your business plan.

The Australian Government website has a very comprehensive resource template you can download and it breaks the sections up into more detail. Visit the page here.

Helpful websites:
Arts Law Centre of Australia
Youth Arts Queensland -Factsheets
Arts Queensland -Business Plan
ArtsLink -ArtsYakka resource
National Association of Visual Arts -Publications

Monday, July 1, 2013

Painting 3D Objects

Painted piggy bank -3d painting activity
Missy was given a ceramic piggy bank to paint when she was 3...6months later we have finally gotten round to painting it. As she was painting this small 3-dimensional object, I found it to be an enlightening moment of how different and important learning to paint a sculptural object is for expanding on children's cognitive development. 

Children are faced with all new problems to solve when painting a 3-dimensional object, not only is the hand-eye coordination something which needs their attention, it is the ability to hold and paint the object (or move and rotate the object) that is something the child would need to think about. The child is presented with the idea of form, and presented with the task of decision-making - what colour is to be painted on what surface plane. Does the colour wrap around the form, for example, the leg of the pig? 

This is something I will look at doing again with Missy, not just as an activity to do which was a present, but from the valuable learning experience I have found in this art activity. It would be a great challenge for those early identified 'gifted' children too or just something different from painting 2D. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Teach ceramics to preschoolers using play dough

Play dough -Pinch pot and coil pot

A good way to introduce little ones to the idea of ceramics or working with clay, it to start and introduce the techniques through play dough. Play dough is a great medium for this as it is a familiar play activity and children enjoy the feel of the dough better than clay. Play dough is smooth and does not dirty the hands like clay and some children sensitive to how clay feels won't like handling get them to use play dough. 

Air dried clay is a good in-betweener to  handling clay as well as its properties are more like clay but the texture of play dough. And the great thing about air dry clay is that you don't need a kiln, so parents, child cares and primary schools would find this useful.

Difficulty: Easy with adult help
Suitable for: 3-5year olds

Start with a Pinch pot. Get the child to make a ball, than get them to stick their thumb into the middle of the ball. With their fingers, get them to 'pinch' the rim of the ball and this will stretch it out into a half sphere shape. 

Get the child to break the play dough into little balls. Squeeze them out into a small sausage using a clenched hand, and then rolls a 'worm' or snake'. Get the child to use a bigger ball and smack it flat (not too hard) or roll flat -this is your base. Now show them how to get a coil and go around the outside. Keep building coil on top on coil until desired height. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Colour Mixing = Colour Theory (Early Childhood)

I get little time to have creative sessions with Missy 3.5 however when I do I try to make that the time I can be a good parent and teach my child stuff. So today was a painting session where I only gave her two colours, and while she was painting, I asked her what colour those two colours made. And then I would repeat with two different colours.  A good focus for the painting session other than just painting splotches was to ask her to paint a circle, and then with a newly created colour, a triangle. I took the opportunity to tell Missy about the Primary colours when she discovered all the colours mixed together creates brown. And at one stage Missy was using two brushes! Using two brush, one in either hand, is good for dexterity, gross motor skills and cognitive learning.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Storage tip for small thin paintings

Storing paintings are always an I had a brainwave while looking at an office folder stand holder and thought it might just be useful in the studio. And it turns out it is. Could work well for drying small thin works too.You can fit around 7 paintings in this one and there is about a 3cm gap between slots. It even fits in my storage cupboard, so tidy and out of the way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Write the Dreaded Selection Criteria

So you're an Artist looking for work in the Arts Industry and need to write that dreaded selection criteria. My approach to many things is to simplify tasks, so my process for writing selection criteria is to break-it-down and build-it-up. As a teacher, breaking down an assignment task sheet is what you need to do with the why not apply this thinking when looking at selection criteria for a job application? An assessment task sheet can be overwhelming for students and so can selection criteria for adults. So the first thing you need to do is break the task down.

First, read the question/statement/criterion and re-read again. You will notice some statements have two or more parts. Go through and highlight or underline key words. Now jot down in bullet point the first few things that come to your head; relevant skills, qualifications, past work or volunteer experience and provide an example or too. And repeat for each statement.

Now go back and try to answer the statement using full sentences in a paragraph. Start by addressing the statement. Provide a general overview of how you have met this criterion by including your bullet points jotted down and forming them into sentences. Provide an example situation and what action was taken. Conclude the paragraph to wrap up your response by providing the outcome or result (you usually mention the successful positive things you achieved due to your good work).

Some government bodies ask for a formula to be followed such as using the S.T.A.R. method as a guideline:
  1. Situation—A specific example of the circumstance i.e. experience, skills or qualities used.
  2. Task—What was required of you to do?
  3. Actions—How did you complete the task?
  4. ResultsWhat was the outcome?

A paragraph is 5-7 sentences but be sure to keep to the word limit or page limit asked. Try to use affirmative or positive language for example; rather than saying "I tried to help implement a system" say "I implemented a system", then explain what you did to achieve that. Be confident in your response, be confident in your skills and experiences you have. 

Respond to the selection criterion using the numbers provided in the position description or retype the criteria in bold or italics so the reader knows what section you are addressing. Use simple black font such as Ariel or Sans Serif in 11 or 12 sized font. Remember to spell check and get someone else to read it for you. If they can understand it, it reads well and you have been clear in explaining your response then you're on the right track.

Remember to include any other information such as the position and reference number, your name and contact details. Remember you are trying to sell yourself as the best candidate. 

Here is an example: