Classroom on caffeine 

'...a ritual is not only a gesture of hospitality and reassurance, but a celebration of a break in routine, a moment when the human drive for survival lets up and people can simply be together. This last aspect is to me the fundamental meaning of the coffee break... These are secular rituals that, in unobtrusive but essential ways, help maintain humanness in ourselves and with one another.' -

I aim to start this year teaching by sharing a cup of tea or coffee with my art classes in their first art lesson & hopefully start the relationship with my students on a feeling of conviviality. My Grade 10 & 11 classes will be treated to coffee & tea themed lessons throughout the first term. Our first lesson will be spent discussing the symbolism of tea and coffee and splashing and spilling the liquid onto various surfaces that will later be turned into artworks. In preparation for this term I created a few coffee based artworks myself. The image below of Benjamin was started by dipping the bottom of a mug into coffee & staining the paper. The support is Emtini liner/dressmakers card which has been primed with a white PVA. The drawing was done with the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens.  

The coffee spill below was developed into a profile drawing of Stefan (the following pic)   


 I controlled the stain below by using masking fluid & developed it into the drawing of Ida Sales (Asterisk)   

 I produced a further two drawings in each case started with a spill of coffee. A portrait of France below: 

Portrait of Daniella below. All reference pics were sourced on the Sktchy app. 


Facebook live demo hosted by Sktchy app 

This artwork was made for a sktchy live session on Facebook. Sktchy is an iphone app where artists share selfies & other artists draw them - an international portrait exchange.

When Jordan Melnick (Sktchy app creator) asked me to do this project I was at first terrified because I was unfamiliar with the technology. I did a trial session at school (a huge disaster) our school Wi-Fi wasn't fast enough to accommodate Facebook and probably too many children were on the Wi-Fi system at the same time.

Jordan contacted me this last Monday (29th August) and asked me if I could do a Facebook live session on Saturday 3rd September and this immediately catapulted me into action.


I organised a live session with my grade 10 and 11 students on Wednesday evening.


My husband, Fred, created a set up for me that allowed me to work with a camera directly above my work. (see below)  I mistakenly caused an echo by turning the sound up on my computer when I started filming. Otherwise the session went well - with me managing to communicate with my students. 

I thought I was prepared for Saturday evening. All of my equipment laid out, music downloaded from a royalty free music site (Incompetec), an overhead LED light, all devices fully charged (I thought) & then disaster struck. My ipod wasn't fully charged & stopped playing music & it was too late to charge it. 

I started the broadcast aware that there would be long silences - which can be a bit disconcerting for people watching the broadcast. 


I had pre-prepared a supawood board with a texture pressed into plaster & then sketched out the face in pencil. When I started drawing in the FB live session I started with Faber Castell pens (Grey of Grey range). These pens help establish a tonal/value range.   


I then switched to ink - I use acrylic inks and shellac based inks. The shellac inks are more expensive, but the colours are so vibrant they are worth the price.  


I then used various skin coloured pens, white highlighters and various chalk based markers. (see pics below) 

I was asked what surface I worked on & I turned the piece on its edge so the block could be seen from the side

Sandra (above) asked how I hang these blocks - I usually drill a hole in the back - hammer a nail into the wall & hang the piece from the nail. 

As an answer to Paul's question above - The surface I work on has been sealed with fixative (after I did the pencil drawing). So the surface is slightly repellant. This makes it easy to smear markers.  

I often sand in-between layers of drawing and working with ink & I apply acrylic paint (sample house paints bought from a hardware store) & acry-oil a thick buttery acrylic paint with a palette knife, plastic spreaders or old credit cards. 

Jackie (above)  asked if I seal my work when finished - I do. I use a waterbased varnish. (see the pic with the can of fixative above - the tub of glazecoat varnish is next to the fixative) 

(Stage 1 after the 45mins on Facebook live) 

Stage 2 

(The finished piece is at the beginning of this blog post) Details below: 

I just love the comment Sktchy made 32 minutes into the session:

 Thank you to the Sktchy app for creating a forum where artists across the world can inspire and support each other in our creative journey. 


Teaching art to Grade 8 is not as easy as I thought it would be...

I was very proud of myself in December (2015) when I came up with a theme around which I could structure my Grade 8 lessons. I thought I would look at landscape - starting with looking at the land from above using Google Earth & then in each subsequent lesson I would guide the girls towards the earth in ‘layers’, getting to street level using Google Street View & eventually getting close to the ground and examining things from a ‘bug’s eye view”.

I introduced line drawing to my Grade 8 classes by getting them to draw contour views of the earth using fineliners. 


We watched the following video where the artist uses drawing as a meditative exercise. The girls later told me that this exercise hurt their eyes and gave them headaches. FAIL No.1

We then moved on to a painting exercise -  I taught the girls various watercolour techniques & we were going to use these techniques to create landscape paintings from images sourced using Google Earth. This lesson was inspired by the following post:

The techniques & experiments with watercolour were successful but when the girls started painting they forgot the light playful quality of the experiments and the paintings became overworked and too literal. Most were like the image below. FAIL No.2

I then got the girls to tear up their paintings & re-collage the fragments, they also had the option of including figurative elements from magazines. The paper was difficult to stick down because it was quite thick watercolour paper and many of the girls didn’t enjoy tearing up their work. FAIL No.3

The next phase of the program was to draw buildings in perspective using ‘Google Street View’. I had just taught a perspective component to my Grade 9 classes that they found quite difficult - so I realized that I had to reinterpret this task & make it more manageable for my Grade 8 classes. I taught the basics of one and two point perspective and my Grade 8 classes made notes in their sketch books. 
Once they understood the concept of perspective. I introduced them to the work of Ben Heine & explained how he set up his drawings. Using the following illustrations:

The girls then had to immitate Ben Heine's work but had to use an image that included perspective. They seemed to enjoy this exercise. WIN NO. 1 

I then moved on to two street art exercises that completely won over the hearts of my Grade 8 classes. I told them they were going to do a form of street art within the school & that the other teachers didn't know about it & if they were caught - they had to say 'he knows' - and run away. (I cleared everything with the headmaster of our school before embarking on this project.) The girls came to art dressed in hoodies and sunglasses, I let them see a YouTube video on 'googly eye-bombing' (see below) & let them loose on the school. WIN No. 2
They were very excited, ended up disturbing a few classes, but most teachers thought it was a fun exercise & tolerated the disturbance. Below see a video of a fragment of the experience: 
Some of the 'googly eye' bombing ended up being really cute & I am sure brought a smile to many people who inhabit our school. 
The last project of the term got the girls involved in tape grafitti. I had been looking on Pinterest and other sites at images of schools creating tape grafitti with blue tape. (They were usually students who were older than my Grade 8 girls, so I introduced the idea to them by showing them what other schools had done.)  I gave them one lesson to plan their piece in their sketchbooks & to book a spot in the school with me. 

They then armed with one roll of masking tape each created their temporary tape artworks around the school. The senior girls and the staff loved the transformation of our very formal school into a more visually exciting place. (WIN NO. 3) 
The two girls who produced this last piece filmed themselves creating and taking the work down. 

Using an iPad to work out the composition, colours and mark making in an oil painting

I started this painting at the beginning of this year at Dee Donaldson's teaching studio - Studio 3. Selecting the image below of my Sphynx cat Sam as reference.  

Below is a pic of my workspace at Studio 3

I started this piece using a flourescent Lemon yellow acrylic for the background and did the initial drawing of the cat using water soluble wax pastels. After drawing with the pastels the surface was moistened with water using a spray bottle - creating drips and 'fuzzy' lines. 

At this stage I shifted to oils and started to work up the painting. 

Layering different colours, marks and thickness of paint. 

I took this painting to Maggie Strachan's studio (an artist friend) & did some work on it there. Maggie & I spent more time chatting than working... (the intention was for us both to spend the day together painting) I use a red shopping cart to transport all of my oil equipment around when I work in other artist's studios. (See behind the easel) 

This painting got abandoned for many months & I worked on other art pieces & I recently returned to it. I wanted to layer various images of Sam over the initial one. 

After layering this pic (above) over a photograph of my painting in an app called 'Superimpose'on my iPad I liked the composition so much I decided to include only one cat over the previous one. 

The initial drawing of the second cat was done in indigo & I glazed some of the values in using the same colour paint.  

More glazing using indigo coloured oil paint.  The dots were created using a crafter's stencil. I wiped away the paint through the stencil using a soft cloth.  

Adding warmer colours and more detail 

The range of colours used in the top layer of this painting 

I photographed the piece at this stage & resolved the rest of the composition on the iPad using the app Procreate. 

 Below the iPad painting over the photograph of my painting:  

Below the video of my iPad painting (no sound) 

The final piece:  

The muse standing in front of his portrait: 



Pandora's Box 

My Grade 12 student, Megan, produced an interactive artwork for her exam piece to fulfill the theme 'Surplus and Scarcity'. The piece was a comment on society's greed and lack of focus on things that have real value. The following pics show the examiner opening a present. This is supposed to trigger the greed impulse in her.   

She takes off the outer wrapping paper & ribbon & encounters a box 

She is a bit nervous at this stage and tentatively moves the tissue paper. 

She starts to react to what she sees inside the box (bottles of raw meat) This meat is a metaphor for us - suggesting that we will not rot/decay & eventually die. 

Looking at the chicken hearts: 

Looking at the boerewors (a South African sausage): 

Horrified at the cow's tongue: 

Taking out the livers: 

And eventually she discovers the Vanitas oil painting at the bottom of the box: 

I made a video of the whole process below: