What the fork? A canteen sign inspired by Luna Park!

Canteen sign
A little sign pointing the way to the school canteen

Our little school canteen needed a new sign, but there wasn’t much room, so I bought a plank of wood to attach to the wall.

Shortly beforehand, while I was pondering what style to use, I happened to visit Luna Park in Sydney, where I found the perfect inspiration in the form of a gorgeous retro toilet sign…

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… so when I got home I took a photo of my hand holding a fork…

Hand holding fork

The fork had some lovely reflections, but luckily the glove would hide my bitten nails.

… which gave me the perfect model to draw the fingers and hand position.

I think the fork ‘prodding’ the lettering gives an added bit of fun and movement for the children to enjoy.

How to grab parental attention on the playground…

School noticeboard for parents

School noticeboard for parents

This cute little delivery truck is designed to help grab busy parents’ attention while they’re waiting to collect their children at school. It will be added to a large, neglected noticeboard near the playground. Another photo below shows the truck in situ. The notices for parents are pinned up on the right side of the truck as if they’ve fallen out the back. Every so often I will paint a replacement picture so the noticeboard will become a more dynamic and interesting place.

Unfortunately the noticeboard has a large piece of scratched old Perspex which catches the glare and the dirt, but the effect is still much better than before. Even if the little red truck doesn’t automatically grab adults’ attention, hopefully students will point it out to their parents!

Making the school noticeboard a more interesting place...

Making the school noticeboard a more interesting place…

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Sail away on a story…

Tall Ship Mural

Pirate Ship Library Display

What’s not to like about a pirate ship? It embodies the spirit of adventure and brings to mind history, stories, excitement, action, romance and heroism. All the things that spark the imagination and encourage young readers to dive into a new book.

As I was painting this gorgeous vessel, I kept imagining the faces of the kids as they walked into the library to see it for the first time. I wasn’t disappointed – the gasps of delight were wonderful to hear.

Instead of asking the students to create their own artwork, or colour in a small picture as I usually do, this time I asked them to write a short imaginative line or two, as though dipping into the middle of an exciting novel. Thus, our lovely library ship is sailing on a wonderful sea of words. Kids come close to the artwork to read all the terrific ideas making up their ocean. Here are some of their efforts…

Words on the waves

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More words on the waves

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… and just a few more wonderful wavy words.

Pirate Ship Close-Up

Pirate Ship Close-Up

Wide view of our latest library display

Wide view of our latest library display

Hop into our library for some artistic inspiration!

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Mother frog and baby tadpoles (or are they bookworms?)

A frog in the library? What else! As you can see, she’s a mother-of-thousands, and all her little tadpoles have a lot to learn. They’re reading up a storm, even before they get out of their eggs.

Our wonderful librarian read a book about the life cycle of frogs, then asked all the students to consider what type of book their tadpole would be reading. The kids came up with some great ideas that they incorporated into their artworks. Here are just a few…

How to Swim Underwater

Shakespeare (Tadpole Edition)

How to Make Green Friends

Froggy Potter and the Chamberpot of Tadpoles

How to Train Your Tadpole

How to Jump and Croak

This display gradually grew and developed over 8 weeks. Initially I painted just a large green frog, then I added some reeds, a large lilypad, then some more lilypads with a waterlily, then a dragonfly. Meanwhile, the kids were adding tadpoles… and more tadpoles… and more tadpoles! Take a closer look below.

Floating lily pads and water lily bloom

Water lily and lily pads

Dragonfly painting

Dragonfly

Happy frog on a pond

Green frog painting on a large lily pad

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A creepy-crawly artwork inspired by a poem

Recently for our school art show I was asked to supervise the Year 5 combined artwork. Every child in the year (48 kids from several classes) would participate, and the artwork would be auctioned off to the highest bidder (presumably a parent).

I decided that individually decorated matchboxes would be nice, and over several days I tossed around ideas. However, it wasn’t until I remembered A.A. Milne’s poem “Forgiven” that I was truly inspired. Here’s the finished product:

Alexander Beetle

Nanny let my beetle out…

To introduce the concept, I began by reading the poem to all the kids. I gave a quick demonstration of how to draw a beetle, pointing out the parts of a beetle’s body structure, and I handed out a range of examples. The kids quickly got started on their draft drawings, then began sketching their chosen beetle onto a matchbox. (I had earlier painted the front surface of each box with undercoat.) They finished them off with a fine black permanent marker and coloured textas. Just look at what beautiful work these students did!

Beetle 1

Stunning beetle drawn by a 10-year-old

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I had already bought a black frame from an op-shop for $5, so all I had to do to finish off was paint the backboard with black chalkboard paint, write a few quotes from the poem around the edges, and add an “escaped” plastic beetle. Each matchbox and the beetle is just stuck on with PVA glue.

A magma-nificent display of red-hot books

The explosive power of books!

The explosive power of books!

The kids were thrilled when a volcano appeared in the library at the start of the term… and intrigued as well. After all, what could they possibly add to the display, and how did it relate to the library? Some students thought they might have to add birds, or lava, or even aeroplanes. When I finally presented them each with a tiny little book to write themselves, they were more excited than I could possibly have predicted. Some dived in immediately and wrote wonderful little original stories, complete with full-colour illustrations. Many kids took more than one book so they could complete extra ones at home.

To give nervous kids more confidence to become the “author” of their miniature book, I gave a few suggestions. They could make a picture book for littlies, or a non-fiction book about their favourite sport or hobby, or an educational book, or a story book. The results were imaginative and varied. Some examples included: an illustrated book of different hairstyles, a book of car parts with diagrams, a wonderful adventure story, a tale set in a Minecraft computer game world, a first alphabet book, an animal picture book, a fairytale with a moral, a “how-to” book about Playstations, a book of colours and lots more. We were not only impressed with the wonderful work that the children produced, but also with the finished product on the wall. We all “lava” good book!

Volcano close-up

Kids' books close-up

A flight of imagination across the library wall

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I had no particular reason to choose a hot air balloon as this term’s topic for our library display… I just thought the kids would get a kick out of it. To relate the topic to reading, I gave one of the pilots a book to hold, and I painted a bookish banner across the balloon. Then I decided that each child could colour a little house, but I had trouble thinking of a way to relate houses to reading… until it suddenly occurred to me that each roof was book-shaped. Problem solved!

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Robot librarian teaches his minions

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Robot 003 (2)

Some of the students at our school are particularly keen on the big library displays I put up each term. One afternoon a kid pulled me aside in a corridor to give me his big idea for the next picture. His verbal description being highly detailed (he’d clearly thought about it for some time), I asked him to draw a sketch so that I knew exactly what he meant.

The very next day he delivered a beautiful drawing to my office – quite detailed and carefully drafted – and I said it would be my pleasure to take it on board as the next display. At that point I had no idea how difficult it would be to turn someone else’s pride-and-joy into a huge painting. It was extremely challenging to keep as closely as possible to his original idea, whilst at the same time adding the extra detail and adaptations I needed to make it work at a large scale. Anyway, this lovely robot was the result, all thanks to his inspired idea!

As the weeks of the term went by, I added a robot parrot, a robot dog, some robot snacks, a wind-up mouse and a robot instruction book. The kids each coloured or created a little robot minion of their own.

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Not very happy with this one, but you can’t win ’em all

New Books Poster

After an author visit at our school, I decided to take down our welcome poster and put up a poster highlighting our new books display. It took me a while to think of an appropriate picture to use, but I eventually thought that a stork delivering new “baby” books would be fun.

This poster looked great when I drew it as a small A4 line drawing, but I must admit I wasn’t very happy with the end product. For starters it looks more like a pelican than a stork. And the eyes turned out quite strange, even after many attempts. Oh well, luckily the kids aren’t as picky as I am. And it’s still nice to have something fresh and new on the libary wall, even if it ain’t perfect.

There’s a dragon in the library (and it’s not the librarian!)

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Many of the dragon images I’ve seen are quite aggressive-looking, so when I drew this one I softened its appearance quite a bit. After all, I didn’t want our kindergarten kids to be afraid to visit the library.

There was some dispute in my household about my choosing to paint the dragon blue, but I stuck to my guns and I think he turned out quite nicely in the end. To link the theme to the library, I placed a pile of books under his claw rather than the usual pile of treasure.

To involve every student, I drew a couple of flying books and asked each kid to write either their favourite title and author on the cover or the imaginary title of a book they might like to write themselves one day. They had great fun decorating their books, and some went to a great deal of trouble to include publishers’ logos, back-cover blurbs and even barcodes on their covers. I also asked the 6th class kids to make small flames out of cellophane, which I then individually blu-tacked to the wall.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I like to add something to the display every week so that it continues to grab the kids’ attention, so for the first week I painted a large background scene. The second week I added a small fairytale castle to the scene, and next week I’ll add a knight on horseback. After that, who knows? Perhaps a small wood and a wolf?

From experience, I knew that the kindy kids – who were yet developing their skill with scissors – would have trouble cutting out their artworks, so I drew the books and wings as simply as possible. Unfortunately this means that most of the front and back covers are obscured. Mmmm… could have done with more thought.

Flying book birdwing

Flying book dragonwing

Flying books

Part-painted dragon

Part-painted dragon