Tag Archives: kids’ art

Bookplates – just for fun

A few weeks ago I noticed on an artists’ noticeboard that there was an Australian Bookplate Design Award coming up. Not being sure what a bookplate actually was, I read with interest. I quickly concluded that it was just my cup of tea. Books, cups of tea and small, quirky collectible artworks go together perfectly. If you’re interested, try searching the internet or Pinterest with the search terms ‘artist bookplate’ or ‘ex libris’. There are some amazing ones out there, and they are so wonderfully varied in style.

Best of all, there were several categories for entry into the competition, including one for primary school students. We have two of those in the house.

Arthur (12) drew his bookplate about ten minutes after I flagged the idea, without any preliminary work apart from a little research into the meaning of his name and his sun sign. In keeping with the traditional model of a bookplate (the coat of arms of the book owner), he came up with a kind of avatar for himself; a heraldic creature with roots in the notion of courage, and I suspect some DNA from Chewbacca of Star Wars fame. See below.

Arthur's heraldic beast bookplate

Arthur’s heraldic beast bookplate

Hugo (10) decided at the last minute to join in, and only because he was home from school with a cold at the time and looking for a quiet activity. His process was admirably logical, beginning with a warm up, and ending with a bookplate. See below. 

hugo bookplate working 1

Stage One: loosening up, exploring ideas 

hugo bookplate working 2

Stage Two: brainstorming birds and books

Hugo working drawings Bookplate award 3

Stage Three: I love this. From top to bottom, working out the composition and the gag.

Bookplate Hugo Watson

Stage 4: The final bookplate.

I made my two entries in a rush on the final day as well, thereby cleverly avoiding thinking out what my perfect bookplate design would be… ahem. I’ll show you my bookplates in the next post.

We sent them off to be digitally printed and trimmed, then raced them to the post office the next day for last minute delivery into the competition. This involved the boys signing each of their bookplates with very sharp pencils in very small writing at the post office; a fun and exciting process in itself!

Finally, on the weekend, we tested out our bookplates on real books! Which was SUPER fun, even though some were a bit crooked, and as you will see below, some interesting questions came up about the hierarchy of ownership. For instance if your big cousin wrote her name in the book in 2002 with silver pen on the right hand side, do you trump that with your own hand designed bookplate pasted into the left hand side in 2015?

And does that depend on how big your cousin is?

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Blobby bookmarks

Last weekend was the Warrnambool Books Children’s Book Festival in celebration of the bookshop’s 30th anniversary. I was a guest illustrator on Friday and did a school visit at St Joseph’s Primary School before a book signing at the family owned bookshop.

While I was there, I decided to mix up two ideas from other clever illustrators. I have seen Jude Rossell giving out bookmarks with small illustrations on them at illustrator events. And Alexis Deacon has described his fun practice of painting or drawing blobs and then turning them into something here and here and most awesomely here.

I was just after something simple and quick to do in between signing books, so mine were pretty basic but the kids loved them. Here are some of the bookmarks I did the next day at home, simply because they were so much fun. In fact it was rather hard to stop!

photo 1

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photo 1-1

They take about one minute each.

• First paint a pale grey-brown blob with some interesting projections and bumps.

• Then paint a few more while the first one dries.

• Go back to the dry blob and add a few lines with a felt tip pen to turn it into whatever springs to mind.

• Finally, add a touch of colour if you want to. (I didn’t do this to many of them in the bookshop. They were very simple.)

My two boys joined in with great enthusiasm and did some fabulous ones. It is a good activity to do with kids, and taps into their wonderful imaginations. In the case of my two boys, it was fun to see how they formed an alliance whereby Arthur would paint the blobs, and then after they dried, would ask Hugo what the blob should be. Hugo, with barely a split second’s hesitation would say: ‘That’s a pig blowing a trumpet. That’s a fish with legs. That’s a cow shouting.’ And so on. Arthur happily drew them after that.

Like me, they found it hard to stop once started :-)

Exquisite Corpses and Found Blubber

exquisite corpse 1 exquisite corpse 2

We played the Exquisite Corpse game for the first time with the kids in the car yesterday on our way to Healesville Sanctuary. It seemed to work, so the boys and I had another go at the beach today using Noodlers Ink, in-between rock-pooling and reading books. It was fun and easy. It would be interesting to see what would happen if we worked up the results with more detail and colour afterwards, but sometimes it’s good to just let something be simple and finished! (By the way, the first ‘corpse’ is not impaled with serrated blades… she has 2 sets of wings!)

The boys enjoyed drawing in old books so much they went spontaneously on to explore their own kind of ‘found poetry‘ by blocking out words to make new sentences. Arty (who was drawing in an old copy of Shakespeare’s King Richard II), then started drawing Richard the Boy, Richard the Dog and Richard the Elephant. I imagine he will put them on his own blog :-)

I continued doing weird drawings in my vintage nature book that turned out like this.

Whale Spirit Dancing - found poem

I think this is a dancing whale spirit…?

And this.


Decorated Door Delight

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I love a decorated door.

Inspired by gypsy caravans, Outsider or Detour Art and Charleston Farmhouse in equal measure I have been meaning to paint up our chicken coop doors since they were installed. Last weekend, while the man of the house was camping, it was the perfect opportunity for the boys and I to tackle this delectable task.

Day One

I had originally intended to paint these doors myself, and to do gypsy style scroll decorations around the chicken cameos. I was rather apprehensive of doing it justice. (Careful, decorative embellishments are not my strong point). But after seeing how well the kids’ work on the chicken gate turned out, I decided that the same pseudo-pointillist technique would look a lot better and that the boys would do a much better job than I could.

I roughed out a cameo shape, mixed up some paint for them to use, and let them go for it. They loved it.

blank canvas (almost)

blank canvas (almost)Boy power!

Notice the different styles, apparent even this early in the proceedings. Boy One is neat, precise and thoughtful about his work, taking after his father and paternal grandfather. Boy Two is a lot looser and messier, taking after his mother and maternal grandfather! (A natural Fauve perhaps?) Interesting stuff. I love it that they have differing styles.

Pointillism stage complete

Pointillism stage complete

The boys decided that one would do mostly warm colours on the door with cool colours on the border, and the other would do the reverse.

The boys then painted their favourite chickens in silhouette

The boys then painted their favourite chickens in silhouette

For better or worse, I decided that a higher contrast was needed with the background, so I painted in the dark areas. This was the end of day 1.

For better or worse, I decided that a higher contrast was needed with the background, so I painted in the dark areas. This was the end of Day One.

Day Two
Day Two - I held the chicken while each boy painted its portrait!

Final stages – I held the chicken while each boy painted its portrait! (Arty’s hair looking a bit feral here!)

After signatures were added, the boys wanted to put the chickens’ names on their portraits. Each chose a different style.

Hugo chose a flag emblem for Vita’s name, and used a fancy serif letter form. Vita looks like she is wearing a superhero mask…. or else a villain’s mask. Perhaps the latter. Hugo says definitely superhero!!

Arty chose a simple oval plaque for Emily's name. It suits her eggy shape I think.

Arty chose a simple oval plaque for Emily’s name. It suits her eggy shape I think.

Detail of Fauvist Vita

Detail of Fauvist Vita

Detail of Impressionist Emily :-)

Detail of Impressionist Emily :-)

View of the chicken coop through the garden

View of the chicken coop through the garden

Room for much more decoration here. I feel we are only just getting started!

Chicken supermodels: art by the grade 2s

But wait! There’s more!

Hugo came home with a box of chocolates, two thank you cards (one from the art teacher  – a lovely hand-made one) and a whole book of thank you letters! One from each child in grade 2. Wow! I feel privileged! These are originals! I had such a lovely time going through this book. These teachers are wonderful. They are teaching the children to think creatively, to draw, to write, and to have impeccable manners. (or should that be unpeckable?)

I was going to include just a few, but couldn’t decide between them. They are so wonderfully full of variety and individual style. Here they all are.


cover art by Hugo :-)

chicken thank you - Tanner

Tanner recognises a queen when he sees one. He also draws fabulous computer chairs.

chicken thank you - Sonia

No need for a photo. You can tell exactly what Poppy and Hilda look like from this

chicken thank you - Shuta

Shuta must be a scientist. He added a wonderful life cycle.

chicken thank you - Shanae

Shanae has drawn the girls chatting amiably together. Wish I knew what they were saying. It looks like it might have been funny.

chicken thank you - Shaedyn

Shaedyn has put so much work into this. Just look at those interlocking tail feathers and that delicate feathering!

chicken thank you - Ryan

Ryan has noticed a most important thing – the water bowl. He has also done some lovely work with overlaid colour to get the effect of the subtle colouring.

chicken thank you - Riya

Riya is very interested in animals of all kinds. She obviously worked hard to observe and draw the chickens and their environment and wrote a wonderfully descriptive letter.

chicken thank you - maybe Jesse

This letter is anonymous but very energetic. I get a sense of the whole class surrounding the cage. Something nobody else drew.

chicken thank you - Luke G

Poppy has a magical presence in this drawing! She is filling the whole cage with her majesty. It almost looks as though she is appearing between the curtains of a stage.

chicken thank you - Lucas

Lucas has carefully observed those decorated tail feathers, the shaggy leg feathers and all of the other details of the cage environment.

chicken thank you - Leah

Leah is a sensitive child like both of my boys. I can tell that she has worked very hard to get this drawing right and perhaps was not happy with it in the end. Leah, it is lovely! Also, this letter is very special as it is the only one addressed to Hilda and Poppy.

chicken thank you - Kai

Wow! Kai has created a distinctive design with his composition. (It would make a nice postage stamp.) Look at those interesting tail feathers, each ending in an arrow point, rather like a dragon.

chicken thank you - Jack D

I love the honesty of Jack’s letter and the effort he has put into his work. He has recognised the rounded shapes that make up a Pekin chicken and drawn the overlaid sections of feathering.

chicken thank you - Hannah

Some beautiful, bold drawings of chickens echoing each other’s shapes in contrasting colours. Lovely!

chicken thank you - Georgia

Georgia is so enthusiastic. She has put careful observation and effort into her drawing of the perch as well as the chickens themselves.

chicken thank you - Fiona

Fiona’s gorgeous girls are almost Manga in style. They have tails like flames. They are a celebration!

chicken thank you - Elyse

Elyse has done a wonderfully confident drawing. Her pencil marks are assured and strong, her shapes lovely.

chicken thank you - Ella

Ella’s chicken characters are so Hilda and Poppy, they make me smile. Hilda is industriously tidying the straw, and Poppy is sitting above and thinking Poppy thoughts… somewhat akin to Woody Allen thoughts, I suspect. ‘This perch feels like it’s about to break… Hilda will blame me… she always blames me…I think I’m going to lay an egg… everybody is looking at me. How embarrassing…’

chicken thank you - Eliza

Eliza wins the prize for drawing most accurately those delicate partridge patterned feathers on Poppy. She has also captured that special alertness that chickens have with their bright and beady eyes.

chicken thank you - Ebony

Wow! This is a drawing but also an illustration that tells a story. Poppy has been busy building a nest to sit in, and Hilda is standing on guard at the top of the pile of straw. Ebony has even given her letter a decorative border.

chicken thank you - Dylan

Dylan is a keen sportsman. I’m not surprised that he has taken care to draw those running legs. The chickens look as though they are ready to get out of the cage and do a bit of running around in the sun.

chicken thank you - Declan

Declan has wonderfully drawn the rounded shape of a Pekin. It’s mostly fluff. (They look funny when they’re wet) And he’s also carefully drawn the drinker.

chicken thank you - Daniel

Daniel has done some great work with his free lines and even given some great background patterning, suggestive of straw. Daniel and Declan both came up to me in the corridor with shining eyes to tell me about their day with the chickens.

chicken thank you - Daniel G

This Daniel has chickens at home. I wonder if this familiarity accounts for the confidence of his drawing? He has done a very large, bold rendering.

chicken thank you - Dakota

Dakota is a great character. I’m not surprised she recognised another (smaller) character in Hilda :-)

chicken thank you - Charlotte

Charlotte has worked so hard on this drawing and expressed the honey gold glory of the straw like a flame.

chicken thank you - Bryce

Bryce liked the way the chickens moved around. I wonder what he would have done with an animation :-)

chicken thank you - Bianca

Bianca has created her own individual characters here. They are sparkling with personality.

chicken thank you - Amy

Amy has done a sensitive rendering with wonderful, delicate use of black on black, with a hint of warmth in the wings.

chicken thank you - Aahliah

Aahliah obviously loved the chicken visit so much. They will have to come again :-) Notice the ghost chickens in the background, peeping forwards at the viewer. Aahliah must have decided that the profile view was irresistible, with opportunities for drawing feather patterning.

Chicken supermodels at school

Two of our chickens spent the day at school yesterday. Poppy because she is so pretty, and Hilda the Hun because she is the undisputed Queen of Chickens and very relaxed.

They modelled for some creative writing in the Grade 2 classroom. Then they moved to the art room where they posed for life drawings with two Grade 2 classes and two Prep classes. Everybody, chickens and children alike, behaved beautifully.  The art teacher was wonderful.

I had the pleasure of peeking in (at the Pekins;-) near the end of the day while the preps were still hard at work drawing. They were so proud of their beautiful work. I only had time to take a few quick photos with my phone (mostly pretty dark and blurry!) and to tell them how well they were drawing. Here are just a few that I saw, including a handful by Dimitra who deserves her own separate art gallery.

hairy smiling chicken

A smiling shaggy chicken. Looks like Hilda’s expression with Poppy’s decorated plumage.

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Hilda with a very elegant tail

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Definitely Poppy – both the expression and the feathering

Chloe decorated chicken

Chloe has put a lot of work into that decorative plumage


Antonio has drawn both chickens. Poppy is sensibly keeping out of the way on the perch.

Abbey flock of chickens

A whole flock of Poppies in progress

2 chickens

Poppy and Hilda side by side on the perch. Feathers fluffed as they preen themselves. This little boy has cleverly drawn Hilda’s head reaching back over her shoulder to preen.

Dimitra - 2 chickens or chicken eating

I’m curious about this one. Is this chicken using one wing to bring food to her mouth, or is there a hint of the second chicken behind. I am tending to think the former.

Dimitra 2

Wish I could get my hands on those eggs. Our girls started moulting and stopped laying a good while ago.

Dimitra colured chicken Dimi

The class industriously drawing our two fluffy girls

The class industriously drawing our two fluffy girls