Why it’s Important to be Creative


creativityWhy is it important to be creative?

This month’s blog question from my writing group was more difficult than it first appeared. I know being creative is important to me but I’ve never really questioned it. I could spend forever immersed in my creative worlds and when I’m not painting or writing I’m thinking about the next scene. I know it’s not everyone’s idea of fun, but having an image in your head, trying to replicate it and then watching it grow into something unexpected is rewarding. It wasn’t until I watched my son, who is a prolific drawer, that I realised how art can be used to interpret the world.  That’s exactly what he was doing with his pencil sketches. Everything he watched and experienced became art. I hadn’t realised I was doing the same.

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A conversation with my son about the rock on or devil’s horn symbol inspired this comic a few days later.

I love creating and so do my family so, of course, I’m passionate about it, but there’s plenty of evidence to support the importance of fostering creativity at large; it not only reduces stress but keeps our brains active and healthy as well. In some countries like the UK, health authorities are hoping to prescribe creative activities to delay the symptoms of patients suffering from dementia. Making art activates cognitive functioning, helps improve mood and confidence and often stimulates social interaction.

But why else is it important to think creatively? And how can we all use our minds in a more creative way? In a recent study of 138 postgraduate students in the USA, researchers found that having an open mind and letting all thoughts filter through the brain were conducive to more creative thought patterns. Free associating by letting your mind wander allows the brain’s neurons to spark and connect in different and more creative ways. I don’t know about you, but I think unplugging and letting our brains become more thoughtful sounds like a positive.

I’ve talked about fostering creativity in education by using art in other posts. This is a brave new world we’re entering, where no one really knows how many jobs will become automated and surely creativity is our greatest tool. Now more than ever our children need to let their minds wander to create and adapt to change.

The good news is if you’re feeling the need to fire up your neurons and get creative there are sound ways to stimulate those little grey cells and they’re easy. Go for a walk, reminisce about the past, be curious and my all time favourite BE BORED. Follow this link to get more details.

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‘Out of my Mind’ created by my daughter after reading a hallucination sequence from ‘The Hunger Games’.

If you’d like to read more from my fellow writers follow these links:

Fontella Koleff
Ryan Peck
Dean Mayes
Heidi Arellano
Jennifer Sando
MaryLouise Tucker



Adelaide Inspiration


How is life in Adelaide a source of inspiration for your writing or your job? This tricky question was posed in my writing group. Where does inspiration come from? Why do some ideas pop into your head? Where do they originate? Sometimes these ideas are dismissed while others grab hold and won’t leave until explored.

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Footbridge at Rymill Park

When I was young I couldn’t wait to escape Adelaide and what I saw as its stifling confines. But then I came back with an Englishman as a souvenir and saw this city through his eyes. The beach, wide open spaces, countryside within spitting distance, cafes, the Central Market and an easy-going lifestyle. Now I’d find it hard to live anywhere else.

Aldinga Sunset
Sunset at Moana

The focus of my early writing was fantasy romance (I’m not talking fairies and goblins, but rich alpha males living the high life in ritzy destinations) which demands flashy backdrops so Sydney and Melbourne seem more appropriate. Adelaide just doesn’t bring images of the jet set to mind. One manuscript and a couple of rejections later I’m rethinking this approach.

I also love to paint and this creative outlet definitely does draw on Adelaide for inspiration. My garden is an abundant source of subject matter. It’s hard to spend time outside and not wonder if I could get anywhere near capturing the appealing shapes and colours dotted all over our backyard. Then there’s Instagram and all those stunning images posted by creative South Australians who graciously give their permission whenever I ask if I can paint their photographs.

The Lane Vineyard
Shadows at The Lane Vineyard

As I look at my artwork and those landscapes which I’ve been drawn to I’m beginning to rethink my writing. I don’t think I’m in the thrall of those glitzy locations any longer. To me the emotional journey is paramount and I think aspects of life in Adelaide would be worth exploring in any romantic story.

I’m also grateful to Writers in Adelaide for inspiring new ways to look at my writing. It’s comforting to know writing doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. If you’re interested in how Adelaide has inspired others then check out our blog chain.

The Library: An Illustrated Short Story

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The sounds of laughter drifted into Daphne’s office; she got up and shut the door. It was like fingernails down a chalkboard. Lunchtime was the most hated part of her day. It was when marauding gangs of children egged each other on to screech louder and louder. Before and after lunch each classroom was mostly kept under control by its designated teacher. But there was no one calling the shots at lunch or recess for that matter. But lunch was worse. It was when the collective energy of five hundred usually well-behaved children exploded into a riot of noise.

Daphne took three deep breaths. At least she was safe here cocooned in her office within the library. If she closed her eyes the whole messy, uncontrollable cacophony dissipated and she felt a wave of calm envelope her body. Sadly if she opened her eyes it was harder to maintain this equilibrium. The glass walls of her office gave her an uninterrupted view of the library from where any transgression could be detected but if she looked beyond her domain through the large library windows the yard outside came into focus. And although she couldn’t hear what was going on, the blur of bodies darting helter skelter confirmed her worst fears; unsupervised anarchy. Her body shuddered involuntarily.

Unfortunately, Daphne’s efforts to close the library at lunchtime had been constantly rejected, so she was unable to completely protect herself from the rabble as she liked to call the students. It was beyond belief that they should be allowed inside when all they wanted to do was talk. The SILENCE signs she’d blue-tacked to the wall kept mysteriously disappearing, which deepened Daphne’s already dark mood. Well, at least there was a supervising teacher on duty in the library during lunch and recess so Daphne could stay in her peaceful office and avoid any unpleasantness.

Her eyes opened and she searched the library. Where was the supervising teacher? Late as usual. Daphne studied every inch of the library as she chewed her cheese sandwich. Finally, she spied him in one of the small offices. What was he doing in there? He was meant to be on duty! He was meant to be protecting the books and keeping the peace, not doing his own work. Oh, this really was too much. Daphne sat bolt upright in her chair. No, no! This simply was a dereliction of duty.

A sense of panic took hold of Daphne and she pushed her unfinished cheese sandwich to one side. The frown etched into her brow deepened as she scrutinised the library for infringements. A group of boys were sitting on the bean bags looking at a large picture book and laughing. Daphne couldn’t hear the sound but their gaping mouths and missing teeth almost caused her to gag. Three girls were huddled around a table where they were drawing with textas. Why they were allowed to draw in the library Daphne couldn’t fathom; she wouldn’t put it past one of the little rotters to scribble in one of her precious books.

Movement at the borrowing desk alerted her to another issue. Daphne stared disbelievingly as she watched a boy scan his library card and then a book. What did he think he was doing? This was a serious breach of protocol that had Daphne leaping to her feet. It was that boy Luke; the one who came into the library every lunchtime with his friends to draw comics and talk.

Daphne always looked disdainfully at them through her glass office in the hopes of driving them out. Didn’t they know comics were filth? Didn’t they know that this was no place for a comic? It was beyond belief that they even wanted to come into her sanctuary. Shouldn’t they be outside playing some disgusting roughhouse game away from the library? And now here he was borrowing a book at lunchtime. Ever since Daphne had become the custodian of the library the rule against borrowing books at recess and lunch had become enshrined. Well, she would soon put a stop to this nonsense.

‘There’s no borrowing at lunchtime!’ Daphne bellowed as she flung open her office door.

A startled Luke looked up from the desk where he’d just finished borrowing a thick book on cats by the RSPCA. He clutched it to his chest like one might a shield. His mouth dropped open.

‘I said – there’s no borrowing books at lunchtime.’

The library had become uncomfortably silent. Luke, who was a regular visitor and had been borrowing books at lunchtime since reception, gulped.

‘Ok,’ he said and still clutching the offending article, scuttled from the library.

Daphne was incensed. Where was he going? Hadn’t he listened? She looked around and spotted the oblivious teacher. ‘Chase! He’s taking that book. He’s not allowed,’ she yelled.

Chase Grayson looked up from his work and scowled. Now what? Couldn’t she see he was busy? The distorted look of anger on Daphne’s face made Chase leap hurriedly to his feet. ‘What’s wrong?’ he asked leaving the small office.

‘That boy took a book. He’s not allowed,’ Daphne wailed.

‘Ok. I’ll get him,’ Chase said assuming a heroic commando pose and rushing from the library in pursuit. Moments later he returned with a dejected Luke. ‘Right young man – I think you’ve been very rude to Daphne. I heard her tell you not to borrow a book from the library. So you just stole this one, did you? That’s not on. I’m going to have to call your parents and talk to your form teacher. You’re suspended from the library for two weeks. Very disappointing, very disappointing. Well, hand over the book and let’s go find your teacher.’

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Daphne watched in appreciation as the condemned boy, who looked as wretched and despondent as deserved, was led away. Thankfully order had been returned and with the added bonus of a two-week ban. The frown on Daphne’s forehead receded slightly as she attempted a smile. As the bell heralded an end to lunch, Daphne took the cute book on cats and placed it in her desk drawer just in case that boy snuck in later on to claim it.


The next day Daphne sat chewing her egg salad sandwich watching the library with an eagle eye. There were a few children browsing, some were doing a jigsaw and a couple were lying on the bean bags reading. No one was doing any craft and no one was making any comic books. The librarian took in a deep breath and checked to see what the duty teacher was doing – patrolling the shelves and chatting with the odd student. Good. All was serene. All was well.

‘Excuse me,’ a small voice said. ‘Where are the fairytales?’

Daphne almost choked on her sandwich. A tiny girl with blonde pigtails, dressed in a school uniform, stood by her desk. Where had she come from?

‘What? What do you want? ’ Daphne managed to swallow her mouthful and speak without choking.

‘I was just wondering where all the fairytale books are? I couldn’t find any on the shelves.’

‘It’s my lunchtime. Go look yourself. I’m sure you’ve had classes here before. You all know where the books are.’

‘I’m new,’ the small girl said. ‘I don’t know how to find anything.’ The girl looked up at Daphne with such wide innocent eyes and longing that something deep inside the librarian stirred.

‘Oh – alright,’ Daphne said and put her sandwich back on the desk. ‘Come this way.’

The little girl gleefully clapped her hands and followed Daphne to the shelves at the back of the library. ‘Here they are. Help yourself,’ Daphne said looking at her watch. There was still twenty minutes of lunch left.

‘But what do you recommend?’ the little girl asked before Daphne could leave.

‘I don’t know. Choose whatever you like.’ Irritation wrinkled Daphne’s nose. Who cared what she read?

‘But what are they about?’

‘You said you wanted fairytales. Well, that’s what they are. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Just take your pick.’

‘But I don’t know what I like. I’ve never read one before. I just heard some girls in my class talking about them.’ The little girl twirled one of her piggy tail bunches and looked expectantly at Daphne.

‘Well – I don’t know what you want from me? I’ve shown you where the books are. If you don’t like them go and play outside, but stop bothering me. And make sure your hands are clean. I don’t want any dirty smudges on those books.’ Daphne turned and marched back to her office. That was enough time spent with the rabble.

Daphne was just about to take a bite of her sandwich when an irritatingly familiar voice said, ‘Well, I think this one looks quite good. Could you read it to me?’

‘What! I told you I’m on my lunch break. I’m trying to eat. You’re interrupting me.’ Daphne was astounded. No one ever dared bother her during lunch.

‘But I’d like this one. I think it’s about dragons and fighting. I don’t know if there’s a princess in it – oh, I do hope there’s a princess. But I don’t want her to be the type of princess that needs rescuing. No! I want her to be a fighting princess. I’d like her to rescue someone – it doesn’t have to be a prince. It could be…a rabbit. I like rabbits. And I just bet the fire-breathing dragon would love to eat a rabbit. Oh! That would be horrible. I do hope there’s no blood and guts in this book. I just really want a fire-breathing dragon and a princess? What do you think?’

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Daphne’s mouth had dropped open.

The little girl flicked through the pages and looked up at Daphne. Her body quivered in excited anticipation and once again she looked expectantly at the librarian. A strange feeling started building inside Daphne and for some reason, she looked at the book the child was holding. Was it…was it glowing? Daphne blinked hard and refocused on the book. No, it was definitely not glowing. What was the matter with her?

‘I don’t read out loud,’ Daphne said and crossed her arms.

‘Isn’t that your job?’ The little girl did not make it sound at all accusatory.

‘Impertinent! But if you must know – the teachers prefer to read to their own classes and have for some time.’ Daphne sniffed.

‘Oh. Well, that’s a shame for you. But I’m here to make it all better. Now you can read to me.’ The smile she gave Daphne made the librarian feel as if someone had fed her warm, syrupy, delicious treacle. And she wanted more.

‘If I must.’ Daphne’s voice was stiff and formal but that wasn’t how she felt at all. ‘Give me the book then.’

The little girl handed the book to Daphne.

‘Well, get yourself a chair. You’re certainly not sitting on my lap if that’s what you thought.’

A frown fluttered across the small girl’s face and Daphne felt stung. ‘That’s it. Pull it closer,’ she said softening her voice. ‘Ok. Are you ready?’

The little girl nodded her head and drew in a breath. Daphne felt the air change too. An excited tension filled the room as Daphne opened the book and ran her hand along the crisp page of the flyleaf and cleared her throat, ‘On an inky, black stained night a princess looked out of her bedroom window. Her voice was soft and sweet. ‘I’m so bored. I wish something…’

‘You’re not doing her voice right,’ the little girl said.


‘It says her voice was soft and sweet. You’ve got to do the voices. It’s so much better when you do the voices.’

‘I’m not doing the voices,’ Daphne said and closed the book.

‘Please. Please do the voices.’

‘I’ll sound silly.’

‘No you won’t. You’ll sound great. You’ve got a nice voice.’

‘No I haven’t.’

‘You have when you don’t yell.’

Daphne stared at the little girl and forgot to be mad. ‘Do I?’

‘Yes. You really do.’

‘Well. If you think the story really needs voices…’

‘I really do.’

Daphne cleared her throat again and in her softest, sweetest voice continued as the princess. And for some reason, she felt a little bit princessy and a little bit braver and maybe even a little bit like a dragon slayer.

The bell rang as Daphne finished reading and the little girl clapped her hands. ‘Thank you,’ she said as she moved the chair back to its rightful place took the book and left the office.

Daphne was still sitting at her desk when her colleague returned from the staff room and said, ‘Not hungry then?’

Daphne looked down at her unfinished sandwich. ‘I don’t remember.’

‘Are you ok?’ her colleague asked with concern.

‘I’m ok, thank you, Belinda. I’m fine.’ Daphne shook her head and wrapped her sandwich back up. ‘I’m fine.’ But she didn’t feel quite like her old self. Daphne went out into the library and started tidying away the books which had been abandoned as soon as the bell rang. Instead of feeling annoyed and checking each one for damage Daphne sat down and read them. Each and every book that had been left lying around reminded her of the student who’d been reading it.

As she closed the last book and put it away Daphne felt as if each story was calling out from the library shelves asking her to read it. Her breathing became deeper and she let her eyes stray to the outside world where she saw Luke walk slowly by. He was looking earnestly her way and when his eyes met hers he turned immediately and scurried back the way he’d come, alarm apparent in his body language. And instead of feeling smug and glad he’d been banned for two weeks, Daphne felt something entirely different. Before she could even identify what it was she turned and hurriedly walked to her desk where she pulled open the bottom drawer. Her hands felt the smooth plastic covered surface of the cat book as she took it out and placed it under her arm. No one saw as she put it carefully back on the shelf, but Daphne could have sworn the library felt more welcome.

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Why Primary School Teachers Should Encourage Art [Interview]

What’s the best way to encourage children’s artistic creativity?

The Gruffalo
A giant Gruffalo, part of an ensemble, created by one class who were hosting an active-thinking themed assembly. Greatness can be achieved when teachers endorse creativity within primary schools.

Our kids spend considerable time at school, so we should definitely encourage our educators to love art. In primary schools, particularly those without a specialist art teacher, it’s up to individual teachers to incorporate art into their lessons. In some cases, teachers aren’t confident with their own abilities and they don’t teach as much art as they probably should.

This week I chatted with Suzi, a tertiary educator, who aims to promote the joy of art within her class of aspiring primary school teachers. Suzi discovered her passion for art from an early age.  A paint splattering activity, using stencils and a toothbrush, at kindergarten inspired awe:

“I remember thinking it was magical! I was hooked.”

It’s this wonder she’d love to foster in older kids whose sense of creativity tends to diminish over time. Suzi believes children are dismayed when:

“People ask questions that don’t relate to a child’s artwork. Is that a house? Is that a train? Trying to work out what it is, rather than – I love your use of colour or those shapes are amazing. Any positive comments are usually given to figures that people recognise, not to those images that are different.”

When teaching her students Suzi emphasises the value of exploration and process rather than the end product. It’s their role as the teacher:

“To ask their kids leading questions to make them think about the decisions they’re making. Why did you choose that colour, how does it make you feel? What can it represent? Kids have amazing ideas and it’s our job to draw them out.”

Most of Suzi’s students haven’t had any art training beyond Year 7. The following work highlights their playful exploration of colour theory.

Colour Theory
Teachers experiment with paint and colour choices while exploring colour theory.


Suzi urges her students not to fear art.

“I want them to see art as an adjunct to the whole curriculum. Last week we talked about 3D. Some kids find it difficult to explain it in writing but they might be able to express their ideas really well if they get to make something with their hands. The physicality of just working can help their brain bring it all together.”

Most of the students Suzi teaches have a major in another subject such as Maths, Physical Education, English or Geography. She says:

“We talk about how they would incorporate their specialist subject into a particular project. Next week we’re looking at printmaking and how it’s been so integral to English and language and the development of books. I’ll show them lots of different printing styles and we’ll come up with ways they could incorporate it into their teaching.”

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Teachers experiment with printmaking.

This week they looked at sculpture and Suzi got her class to work with paper as it’s a cheap, easy and clean way to bring art into schools. The students worked in groups:

“We talked about having no fear – it’s just paper! To begin with they didn’t know what to do and just sat there. Then I got them to hold a piece of paper and just do something with it while they were talking. As soon as they held the paper some of them started folding, cutting – everyone brought their own way. And from there all their ideas came. In the end, I could see they thought their solutions were far more creative than they’d initially anticipated.”

Paper Creations
Fun paper creations

This exercise demonstrated to her class how important it is to give their own students the freedom and space to run with an idea no matter how silly it may seem in the beginning.

“The most important thing is to let them be brave. To make mistakes and to have those happy accidents that can lead somewhere else.” Of equal importance was the fun and joy this activity created, “We laughed a lot!”

Engagement, laughter, joy and learning; who wouldn’t want that from an education system?


Interview with Artist Minnie Taylor


This week I enjoyed a chat with Minnie Taylor, a wonderful artist who is currently expressing her creativity through striking botanical still life works.

Artichoke by Minnie Taylor – Oils on Linen
Green Vase
Green Vase by Minnie Taylor – Oils on Linen
Buds by Minnie Taylor – Oils on Linen

Minnie has always felt a compulsion towards artistic expression and pursued a career in graphic design. Even though being a graphic designer has influenced Minnie’s work, she found having to rigidly follow someone else’s brief ultimately unsatisfying.

“I put my heart and soul into each design project and found it crushing if I had to make changes.”

After starting a family and losing her beloved mother, Minnie began to reassess her life and decided to take art more seriously. As her children grew, she began dabbling at home painting scenes for children’s bedrooms. Word of mouth spread and she began to sell her work, which boosted her confidence.

“Being at home with young kids is demanding – painting gave me sanity.”

Eventually, Minnie began focussing on birds. The extraordinary texture and graphic quality of these works proved popular and found a much-deserved audience. Each portrait is lovingly christened with a first name and painstakingly crafted with the eyes gaining the most attention:

“I spend a lot of time on the eyes as they dictate character.”

Annie by Minnie Taylor – Oils on Linen
Pete by Minnie Taylor – Oils on Linen

Minnie has always loved birds and fondly recalls creating a Brolga crane sculpture in Year 12.

“It was made out of wood and I remember walking through forests with my dad and collecting bark – I loved it.”

As the birds seemed popular Minnie continued painting them:

“It drove my confidence. The whole time you’re so full of self-doubt that selling a painting puts you on a high.”

Ultimately these birds gave Minnie enough confidence to pursue a change in creative direction and she turned her attention towards botanical themes. In her studio, she sets up a scene, photographs it and plays around with composition.

“I love the process of still life – I don’t want to paint birds at the moment. I’ve learned to trust how I’m feeling.’

A Creative Space

Minnie credits her early graphic design career, which was pre colour printer, with laying the foundation for her painting style.

“In the early days, everything was hand painted in gouache. It was precise, detailed and slow. That’s how I paint now – slowly building up backgrounds.”

It’s taken a long time to get to this stage in her career and even now Minnie doesn’t quite feel comfortable with the label “artist”. Her quest to improve and better her art practice means she takes lessons with renowned Adelaide artist Sarah Macdonald who she credits with helping her focus more on the process and not on the final piece.

“I’ve learnt to slow down and not panic that it’s going wrong. I love the encouraging environment [in class] and it’s the only place where I can paint in front of other people and not feel embarrassed.”

I definitely think Minnie is an exceptionally talented artist and hope she achieves her ultimate goal of having a solo exhibition. Check out her Instagram page for more details.


Family Fun at the Art Gallery of South Australia

29 March-29 July 2018 

3 March – 3 June 2018
Free admission

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Nympheas Water Lily Basin Pink Harmony by Claude Monet

Now is a great time to visit the Art Gallery of South Australia, especially with children. As parents, we’ve tried to encourage a love of art galleries and museums which is not always that easy. Our kids love to draw, so we’d always visit any gallery with a wad of paper and pencils. Sometimes we’d sit in front of an exhibit – the taxidermy display of animals at the South Australian Museum was probably the most successful when they were little – and draw for at least an hour. Other times we’d sit on the floor in the Art Gallery and ignore the guards’ worried glances and regular walk-bys and copy a painting (or drawing something completely unrelated – at least we were out of the house). We’d often go to the START Sundays at the Art Gallery (my daughter ended up on a poster – blurry and in the background but I know it’s her!).

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Elder Wing Art Gallery of SA
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Elder Wing Art Gallery of SA

Sadly, as they got older, these trips diminished but we were ecstatic when the Art Gallery established The Studio, where kids can have hands-on fun with the latest creative activity run in tandem with whatever exhibition is showing.

Unfortunately, after the most boring school excursion to the Art Gallery a couple of years ago, where the kids were sat in front of various paintings and a very nice lady discussed their merits, my son put the Art Gallery at the top of his most hated places to visit. I don’t blame him – I tried desperately as a parent volunteer on this excursion to wake up the kids who were stretched out on the floor. Yes, it was mortifying to have 6 of the 12 kids literally asleep on the floor, but you know what? I was bored too!

Since then we’ve managed outings to the Museum, my daughter loves the Egyptology room but the art gallery has been strictly off limits.

When my mum suggested a trip to the art gallery over Easter to see the Impressionist exhibition I was torn between the image of a lovely family outing and horror. Thankfully, it fell somewhere in between. My son looked uninterestedly at most of the works by these groundbreaking and famous artists but had a great time in The Studio, where he sat world building with Melbourne based Ghostpatrol’s creative activity.

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Artwork by Ghostpatrol
Ghostpatrol Inspired Activity
Ghostpatrol Inspired Activity created in The Studio

Meanwhile, my daughter loved the Impressionist works, especially the glorious depictions of snow. I agreed with her choices: Rooftops in the Snow by Gustave Caillebotte; The Winter by Charles-François Daubigny and The Magpie by Claude Monet were our favourite.

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The Magpie by Claude Monet
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Rooftops in the Snow by Gustave Caillebotte

It was lovely to see a number of other children wandering around this exhibition and thankfully no one ended up on the floor. There was a moment when my nephew, who is 7, looked like he may lose the plot but my daughter brilliantly distracted him by asking what monetary value he would place on each artwork. Well, that was it. The two of them spent the next hour cataloguing the Art Gallery’s collection!

Just when we thought our trip was over we stumbled into the Divided World exhibition. It was my daughter who in true explorer fashion ventured down the darkened staircase and came back urging us to follow. With my nephew in tow, we discovered eerie worlds, intriguing worlds and sweet, sugary worlds. Most of our senses were stimulated and our sense of awe was roused on more than one occasion. Note there was one room we did avoid that projected images of naked people dancing and having spasms. Cut to look of incredulity and semi-disgust of an 11 yr old. I’m sure this work, if I’d been allowed to go in, would’ve proved very interesting.

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Gigantic silver filigree work by Tim Horn

Pip & Pop 1

Pip & Pop
A Sugary World created by Pip & Pop

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Thin Walls Between Dimensions by Roy Ananda

We left the Art Gallery feeling very tired but incredibly stimulated and buoyed by what turned out to be an entertaining and captivating day.

Why Art in Schools is Vital [Interview]

Who thinks art is important? Most people explore their humanity via the arts. I’m a strong believer in a hands-on approach to learning and think art is a great way to stimulate creative ideas. Not everyone agrees that visual arts should be given equal status in education; it’s definitely an underrated discipline. Listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s persuasive TED talk here about how schools kill creativity and you might rethink that status.

It’s hard not to get discouraged (especially when you have children) by the increasingly standardised path education is taking. However, I’m focusing on the coalface today and chatting with an art teacher and artist who is determined to encourage creativity within her class.

Sue was a graphic designer, who ran art classes for primary school children, before deciding to retrain as a senior school art teacher. The most creative kids she’s taught were in reception to year 3. She noticed a distinct decline in older children’s creativity and largely blames a fear of failure as the main reason, which the grading of work exacerbates.

Now a senior school teacher, Sue endeavours to unleash her students’ creativity by placing emphasis on the process and exploration of ideas, rather than the final result. As an artist, she understands the restraining emphasis placed on a final piece and is learning to apply this to her own art practice. Her students are encouraged to push boundaries and make mistakes:  “It’s better for them to falter in the comfort of a classroom, where I can guide and encourage problem-solving.”

 To her delight, this practice has stimulated creativity and risk-taking within her students work. Another way she encourages creativity is to get them to think about their own resources: “I like them to go outside – explore nature and get inspiration. Using their own experiences and memories in their work is important.”

The classroom becomes a creativity hub where: “I feel like I’m being creative with the kids – that’s rewarding, coming up with ideas they’ll enjoy.  Like when we were doing colour theory and I played music videos related to colour. The kids thought that was great!”

When a classroom is allowed to have this much fun great things happen and teachers get to learn from kids. One printmaking lesson the queue for the printing press was very long. A student said, “Maybe if I stand on this my body weight will press the ink into the paper.” He put his work on the floor and moved his feet all around the paper and you know what – it worked really well!

As Sue says, “If kids are given the opportunity to experiment they can come up with great solutions.” And that’s called creativity.

I’d love to hear your stories about art at school. Did you have an encouraging teacher who let you experiment? Leave a comment if you’d like to continue the conversation!

Let’s Get Inspired!

Does a Blank Canvas Scare You? Read On if the Answer is Yes!

Sometimes creativity can be stymied before it’s unleashed. We’ve all suffered from self-doubt.  The best way to defeat this negativity is to have a go.

Home Decor Magazines

Believe it or not, you will find fantastic artwork ideas flicking through magazines like Vogue Living, Home Beautiful and Inside Out.  Not only do you get wonderful home decorating ideas, but you’ll see the best way to display artwork and how paintings can elevate your surroundings.

Pinterest and Instagram

These two social platforms are bursting with images of beautiful art, home living ideas and incredible photography. It’s easy to follow the never-ending trail of stunning posts and forget the world. But don’t do that!

Find Art that Resonates

Looking at other people’s art is a great way to discover what you like. We’re all different, so there’s no right or wrong. You’re allowed to like what you like!

When I did art classes we were encouraged to find a piece we loved and then our teacher would show us corresponding techniques.

There’s nothing wrong with copying the work of an artist to learn a skill. Painters have been using this practise for centuries. What better way to understand the intricacies of composition than by studying one that works. The problem of copyright infringement occurs when you offer such works for sale, but that’s not the point of this exercise.  By studying what you like and getting to know the technique behind how the work was created, you can unleash your own creativity.

Find Your Unique Style

The more you practise the more your confidence will blossom.

I started looking at the floral and fruit set-ups in magazines rather than the artwork. The quality photographers, art directors and stylists created stunning visual feasts that I couldn’t ignore so I began painting the photographs.

Once you understand what makes a good composition, it doesn’t take much to start experimenting with your own photographs. We’ve all got access to amazing hardware in our back pocket. It’s easy to square up a shot on your phone and play around with cropping and effects afterwards.

Not every photo makes a good painting subject, but it’s a great place to start. You’ll never find a blank canvas daunting if you’ve got some idea what you want to achieve.

Once you start to trust your instincts after awhile you can put the photo to one side and develop your painting by adding texture, changing shapes to enhance your composition. You’re in complete control. It’s your vision. Now start painting!

New Work

I thought I’d share the process behind my most recent painting. It all started with these delicious figs given to me in a park one day by a random nice person. What better way to honour them, than by immortalising their succulent flesh with paint.

I love using complimentary colours and figs fit the bill perfectly. I began by underpainting the canvas with red. Then using a fine brush dipped in green I outlined the figs. I then mixed a deeper crimson and painted the inside of the fruit. Lovely ripe figs tend to have a blush of burgundy on their green skin so underpainting in red lets this show through. I then started to add shadows and build up the layers of acrylic paint.
Finally, I decided to change the background colour to blue, hoping the fruit would pop. I was a bit tentative at first, but thanks to some great feedback on Instagram decided the blue worked.

I did paint this scene a few years ago and went with a white background. Which painting do you think works best?