Wednesday, 29 August 2012


The squares exhibition held at the Strathnairn Arts Association Gallery in Holt, Canberra, is on soon.  I started working on these when I first found out about the exhibition and bought my entry packs.  The essence of the exhibition is that you buy the canvases as part of the squares entry pack and produce works to go into the exhibition on these 30x30cm squares.  Initially all my ideas where about little boxes and geeks but my real inspiration and creativity started working when I thought about statements I felt compelled to make.  So I have one motivated by refugees, one by surveillance and another by domestic abuse.

Initial sketches above: the far right was based on a Confucius quote "He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount".  Middle was a preliminary sketch for the 'Stats' painting.  Right was a geek inspired idea with a male and female square thumb wrestling which I was going to call "Boys wee standing up, girls wee sitting down".  My son came home from school and suddenly started making all these assertions about things that my daughter couldn't do because she was a girl.  We overcame this for now by saying the only difference between boys and girls is girls wee sitting down and boys wee standing up.    

Stats.  There will be things in each house for statistical representation of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect and alcoholism.  While researching for this work I discovered the following which I will be representing symbolically in the painting.  15% of households are filled with domestic violence, of this 4% is committed against men, 14% of children are sexually abused, of this percentage over 70% is perpetrated by a parent, 27% of Australian children are subjected to physical, emotional abuse or neglect.

 'The waves are made of hands' is symbolic of the loss of lives escaping persecution, civil war or famine on a perilous journey to Australia.  Ever since the Vietnam war Australia has seen refugees making a dangerous and often disastrous trip by boat to seek refuge.  The Howard government turned these asylum seekers into 'boat people' and fueled hatred, fear and racisism for these "illegal immigrants" who were flooding in via unprotected boarders.  This worked nicely to get people believing the only way to stop this unabating tide was to re-elect him.
This is more inspired by the idea of painting squares or geeks for the Squares exhibition, I was going to have them holding cables, folders and xbox controllers but I think this is working out.  The problem now is I've lost my creative motivation and need to get it back before the 12th of September.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Intestinal Microbacteria and Behaviour

The Autism Enigma aired on ABC last night and is a must watch for health care providers and parents.  It raises the possibility of the relationship between intestinal flora and behaviour, specifically focused on autism.  As the mother of a child who's behaviour is dramatically affected by his diet this episode had strong resonance.  The link was made between extended anti biotic dosage in very young children and the development of a healthy intestinal flora before the age of three.  They followed three cases of children who had developed regressive autism after being prescribed antibiotics for longer than ten days.  They showed tests which simulated the arched back and anti-social behaviour seen in regressive autism by injecting proprionic acid.  It also showed that this behaviour wore off after about thirty minutes.

"..a certain sub-population of bacteria in the gut, including the ones that have been found in patients with regressive autism, produces a fermentation or waste product, a seemingly simple series of molecules called short chain fatty acids.  This is akin to when you put sugar on yeast you get alcohol.  When you put carbs or sugars on these particular bacteria they produce a compound that, in some ways is like alcohol, because it’s a small molecule, it can easily go through the blood stream and get to the brain.  But it’s also slightly different.  And this compound called proprionic acid, for such a simple molecule, when we looked more and more into the literature, we were amazed at the kind of things that it did in terms of cell development and metabolism, cell-cell interaction, brain development, and to brain fat metabolism. PPA is one of a panel of short chain fatty acids that are produced by gut bacteria when they ferment carbohydrates from our diet.  They make proprionic acid, PPA, they also make butyric acid and they also make acetic acid.  But we’re interested in PPA because it seemed to have most of the effects that seem to relate to autism." Dr Derrick McFabe

I wonder how much this microbacteria and the effect on the brain plays a role in my own child's life with his salicylate intolerance.  My son has always had problems with his intestines since being checked into the NICU and given a ridiculously high dose of formula, despite my specifying he was a breast fed baby and to call me up any time from that point I was by his side every moment to the detriment of sleep and my bladder, and antibiotics given at this point he has done fewer solid poos than I have fingers to count them on, he is four.  I feel lucky that all the times I have been given antibiotics scripts to fill and left them in favour of allowing his own immune system to have a go.  If there is the chance of a link and this evidence is compelling, then doctors need to stop routinely prescribing antibiotics to very young children and use them as a last resort.

"The Autism Enigma" follows the work of an international group of scientists researching the human intestine and the clues their work might hold for treating and perhaps preventing this baffling disorder.  - Four Corners

The program can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, on ABC iview and at

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Great books to teach Art to Kids

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up." ~ Pablo Picasso

There are so many different ways to introduce art to children, bringing art into every day life through colour, critical perception and appreciation of every day objects, nature, visiting galleries and of course books.  I love taking my children to galleries and have tried to surround them with art, my own, the art of others and their own creations.   Books are a great way to bring visual art into a child's life and a wonderful conduit for delivering a message, telling a story or conveying an idea.  Visual arts and movement can be wonderful tools for learning all sorts of things.

There are picture books from my childhood that made a big impression on me and that imagery still lives somewhere in my psyche as a formative part of who I am.  Of course these will not be the same as yours or the person beside you and likely not even my own children but they resounded with me and no doubt many others, books like The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek and Where the Wild Things Are, Gorilla and The Tiger That Came to Tea.  So many more books that I read over and over with my own children will no doubt have a similar effect on them and be remembered and shared.  There are just too many great books but I am just going to make a start.

 A great book that explores movement through a collection of the collage creations made by Henri Matisse toward the end of his life after he was diagnosed with cancer.  He called this process of painting on paper, cutting out and sticking the cut outs together 'drawing with scissors'.  Matisse was primarily famous for his paintings, also producing numerous famous drawings and sculptures but his most identifiable pieces are his cut outs.  He published a book of these cut outs called Jazz, which you might be able to find second hand or pick up new for about $100.  I will be using this book as an introduction to Matisse and collage. Henri Matisse Cut Outs is a great place to print some of the cut outs from Jazz and other collections.  Matisse can be used to introduce children to fauvism, modernism and impressionism.
Yoshitomo Nara has produced masses of fantastic cartoon like whimsical imagery of children and animals and is grouped as a Neo Pop Artist. His paintings are bright, happy and fantastic and The Lonesome Puppy is filled with page after page of this cute duo as Nara tells their story of loneliness and friendship.  There are so many ways to introduce Pop Art.  You can get down to the roots of Pop Art and start by appreciating the aesthetics of every day imagery or use one of the many Pop Art filters on your own portraiture photo's to make an Andy Warhol inspired piece.  Neo Pop Art is a postmodern art form made up of contemporary artists influenced by the Pop Art movement.
Marc Chagall is responsible for some of the most beautiful dreamscapes which you can use to inspire your little person. This colouring book steps through the life and works of Chagall prompting your child with questions about the pieces of art it contains. Chagall can be used to introduce children to surrealism and expressionism.
Dog's Night takes place in a the National Gallery and features a selection of famous paintings from various times, art movements and artists.  On dog's night all the dogs break free of their two dimensional cages and are free to roam, tumble, fight and play the night away in the large halls of the National Gallery London.  This is a great book for introducing children to some famous pieces of art with a common theme, all have dogs in them.  This became an instant gallery game for us with my children searching through paintings for dogs that come free of their paintings when dog's night comes around.
Jan Van Eyck Renaissance art, 15th Century.
Georges Seurat Pointillism, late 19th Century.
Thomas Gainsborough, 18th Century British Art.
Francois-Hubert Drouais, 18th Century French Art.

Olivia is great for young children as the style of modern artist Jackson Pollock is very accessible to budding artists.  Olivia visits the gallery with her mother and muses over Degas' Ballet Rehearsal on the Set before deciding there is some art she just doesn't get and figures she can try her own rendition of Pollock's Autumn Rhythm #30.
Jackson Pollock can be used to introduce abstract impressionism.  Edgar Degas can be used to introduce children to impressionism.

Miffy the Artist takes us on a trip to the gallery with Miffy to enjoy some very Miffy versions of modern art.  Then back home where she puts her inspiration behind creating her very own exhibition.  This is great to inspire a flurry of artistic activity with the aim of creating your child's very own art exhibition.
This is a very simply and enjoyable book.

Sophie Scott goes South follows Alison Lester's trip to Mawson Station as an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow through the eyes of Sophie Scott, eleven year old daughter of the Aurora Australis' captain. The book is written as Sophie's diary, tracking her trip to Antarctica, and full of drawings done by children who were corresponding with Alison via email during her six week voyage. The photos, art works and story are fantastic inspiration and a wonderful introduction to Antarctica. This book forms a good basis for trying your hand at drawing your own albatross, penguin, 'Aurora Australis', seal, whale, icebergs or snow storm using dot painting technique.
Introduce your child to aboriginal dot painting technique.

Niki Catalano is an Australian artist and illustrator who has produced this gorgeous story and colouring book for LaLaLand. Wonderful to let your child loose on with pastels or textas.   If you are using pastels make sure you have also bought some workable fixative otherwise this will be a very messy book to read through again.
Introduce your child to pastels and smudging. 

Round Trip is a fun way book that leads into a great lesson plan exploring positive and negative space.  Combine this with collage to create fantastic black and white pictures with your child.  Negative space is like silence in a piece of music it's space without content that can make an image stand out or direct your eye to a particular point in the art work.
Introduce your child to positive and negative space.

Rene Magritte features in this story as a dog who finds his muse in a extraordinary hat. Very cute introduction to the works of Magritte.
Introduce your child to surrealism.

"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." —Rene Magritte

Shaun Tan is an amazing illustrator with magical stories carrying messages of isolation, social disassociation, magic, mystery and the less ordinary to be seen all around for those who want to pay attention.  The Arrival was my first Shaun Tan book and we haven't stopped collecting every published work, including the animated adaptation of the Lost Thing. 
His drawings are pure inspiration, create your own lost thing from whatever you can find in hard garbage or a trip to your local recycling shop or antique store. 
Introduce your child to sculpture, pencil drawing.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Chinese Proverb

Tell me and I will forget;
Show me and I may remember;
involve me and I'll understand.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Fine Motor Skills

PreKinders - Resources for Pre-K Teachers
The following are some fine motor skills activities taken from the PreKinders Fine motor skills post.  Some of the other tasks like salt art and eye dropper art made me also want to explore a japanese style art of marbeling , Suminagashi, which I have been meaning to try with my little ones.  A valuable point made at Not Just Cute that took me to this site was the power of focused tasks to calm an over excited, wound up, preschooler who might be tearing around the room like the embodiment of mayhem.  Finding a task or group of tasks that engage your child for long enough to calm their frenzied state of mind is rewarding for everyone.

fine motor skills Nuts and bolts
fine motor skills Sewing/lacing cards
fine motor skills Mosaic
fine motor skills Dot to Dot
fine motor skills colour mixing


literally translates to "ink-floating"
Kodak Photo-Flo or Olive oil
Inks, acrylic paints
Absorbent paper

Suminagashi is the process of gentle dropping ink into a still pool and gently blowing to dispurse the pigment, creating a delicate pattern of swirls in the water.  This pattern is then captured on a piece of rice paper by carefully laying it across the water surface.
This is similar to the European practice of marbling also called Ebru or Turkish-style marbling.

Whatever the image your little artist wishes to create, once they are happy with the image they have created in the water, lay the sheet of paper across starting with the corner closest to you and proceeding to the corner diagonally opposite.  The excess ink can be skimmed off using a piece of newspaper and the next image can be started.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Robot dinosaur bunnies

Robots, dinosaurs, need to work on the diggers.  Some expired etsy items I don't think I'll be reactivating.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Exhibitions and Art Prizes

It can be  a challenge to get organised to take part in local exhibitions and art prizes, especially if you are pretty much disconnected from the art scene.  Thanks to the wonderful people on Canetsy I have been able to get ready for inclusion into some great exhibitions this year and have just felt really grateful, nervous and uncertain to get the pieces I have recently completed hung.  As I seem to keep missing or only just getting organised in time I wanted to create a place for me and other disorganised people like me who are just starting to get exhibited.

Exhibition/PrizeRegionClosing Date
Bentley Art PrizeBentley, NSW25th July
Paddington Art PrizePaddington, NSW1st October
Cranleigh Art ShowHolt, ACT21 September
Cliftons Art PrizeACT and more16th April
Strathnairn Squares - People's Choice AwardsHolt, ACT31st August
Canberra Times Outdoor Art ShowCanberra, ACT26th February
Canberra Botanical Art ExhibitionCSIRO Discovery Center, CanberraSeptember
Midwinter Art and Craft FairYarralumla, ACT20th June
Corangamarah Art PrizeColac, VIC4th May
Basil Sellers Art Prizethe University of Melbourne, VIC24th June
Condition: Open for students aged 16-20
Benedict House Re-Art AwardQueanbeyan, NSWNovember

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Exercising with Kids

After children it is easy to give up on a pre baby body, I pretty much had or at least kept saying "once I'm not breast feeding I'll start some serious dieting and exercise".  I have just decided to do it but I cannot with the children jumping on me every time I get down on the ground.  Here is a fairly soft start exercise regime that I am now using to ease myself back into exercise.

While looking for some guidance on yoga that I can do with the kids on rainy days or just whenever, I discovered Blissbeary Power Animals yoga and my two love it.  Along with a couple of cross fit moves like the inch worm and the bear walk, this makes up for a nice little activity session.

The Path to Literacy

Sandpaper Letter with Salt Tray (Photo from Peaceful Parenting)

This weeks parent teacher meeting has brought to light some slow progress on working with letter tracing, so I'm committed to giving some continuing support to my little boy who has just turned four.   There are some fantastic DIY letter tracing projects which I've included above, I've gone with the paper and felt project provided by Themes for Learning and Play on the fantastic Playful Learning blog.  I have a house full of sick people this weekend so this project has been slow to progress.

Things you will need include:
  1. fabric glue
  2. four sheets of felt 220x305mm sheet (I've stuck with the same colours used by Joey from Themes for Learning and Play, for my little guy there seems to be some anxiety here so the more calming the colour, the better)
  3. fabric scissors
  4. hole punch (I've used a scrap booking punch which makes a much smaller hole than I intended to use but they've worked out well)
  5. white cardboard 300 GSM A3 sheet (with 9 cards per sheet)
  6. sewing pins 
  7. a tin or box to keep them in once complete.
Joey suggests using some additional tools, this version relies on what I already had available.  The cards turned out less than perfect but they look great and serve their purpose well.  The following are a4 sized JPEGS with the alphabet in 245 px Arial Narrow Condensed Bold.  The lower case 'a' works better as a d with the tail cut off, as one extra pin and cut.  I tried using a stanly knife but that just butchered the acrylic felt so I just pinned them all and cut them out with fabric scissors.

The card would have been great to cut using some fancy corner cutters but my sub standard stanley knife was no match for the the 300gsm card and I do not have a corner punch, so I just divided the card into nine equal rectangles and cornered them by hand.  They were all a little irregular but not so that it is even really noticeable unless you suffer from OCD.  The a little fabric glue, a toddler patiently waiting and moving the cards to a spot to dry as I stuck them on and some time later I was ready to have dinner.

Thanks to a brand new Razor Zone gaming mouse I had a nice cardboard box to customise for the job of storing the cards.

As is suggested by the Montessori home schooling blogs above we have started by just sitting together, at the moment it is just me picking up the cards, making the sound and going through some words that start with that letter and separating the sound to accentuate it's value in the word and tracing.  My son is very disinterested  at the moment so we are traveling around the word like a racing car on a track, always starting at the red dot as our starting line, this seems to be engaging him a little more for now.  There is a learning block that I'm seeing here and like many Mum's I can see where this might have been my fault.  I probably started too early with letter and number  card games and with a salicylate child who preferred to run, move, tip things all over the floor and tear things apart, I did not approach it as calmly as I should have. 

Thanks to Playful Learning's post 8 Literacy Apps for Little Ones, I have tried and love the Demografix Australian School Writing app for ipad.  My four year old and two year old both love it.  One of the previous complaints about this product was the lack of encouragement which the developers have taken on board and released a new version with customisable encouragements.  Can't wait to spend some time finding and recording some encouraging sound bytes.