Measuring up for picture framing mats

One thing that many Artists and Art Students want to tackle at some stage is how to create framing mats, this video gives you some great starting points to work with.


Image courtesy of Ascension Digital from

Image courtesy of Ascension Digital from

Drawing, the word conjures up a range of emotions, for those that don’t know how to but want to and those that know how. Fear, terror, pain, mental anguish… no of course not, joy, love, passion, thrill these are the descriptors we are after!

Let’s face it drawing can be a major challenge so how do we take the edge off it and make it a wonderful experience?

Let’s try an analogy, learning music. If you’re like me you want to play an insturment like a demon and get all the details right straight away. But first comes the rudiments. On the drums there are various strokes to learn, then it’s suggested you run trhough these every time you sit down to play. Hmm yeah right… On the guitar or the piano there are scales to practice, more rudiments…

With drawing where are the rudiments? I think this is where I had so much difficulty drawing, a limited array or rudiments.

At its most basic level, drawing is about mark making, no matter what material you use, pen, pencil, charcoal, pastel, etc. Take the drawing device and apply it to the surface you want to leave an image on, it’s a drawing. So let’s start there.

Here’s my take on doing the drawing rudiments. It goes back WAY before you want to reproduce an object.

Try these to get yourself ‘warmed up’ to then be able to explore drawing further.

  1. Lightly draw a square on a rectangular piece of A4 or Letter sized paper. Leaving about a 5 cm margin. Draw it free hand, now start to slowly draw vertical lines fairly close together aiming to keep the lines parallel. Draw down the page and then up the page for the next line. Repeat until the square is full of lines.
  2. Do the same, BUT draw horizontal lines.
  3. Now try diagonal lines in various directions.
  4. Try it using wavy lines – explore how you can make slight differences in the waviness of the lines to create an optical effect.
  5. Create a series of long rectangles that would fit into the original square with a gap between them now repeat the above exercises.
  6. Draw small circles in a new set of rectangles, like in No 4, filling the whole space.

Now look at what you have done so far, if any of these has you memerised and it felt like time simply flew by then you are ‘in the zone’! Your aim is to build ‘drawing instrument’ skills.

If you are using a pencil, note what happens to the tip of the lead as you go, and how often  you might have to sharpen the pencil. Try ‘rolling’ the pencil in your finger tipes as you go, to keep the lines sharp and not wearing a flat spot on the tip of the pencil.

Explore this exercise by drawing in different shapes, circles, spirals, organic shapes etc. Try changing the lines in various sections. Try using a carpenters pencil and explore how the flat edge of the tip changes as you draw and roll the pencil.

As an extension exercise, do a search for ‘zentangles’ and explore how doodles can be more than just a doodle!

These exercises should be easy to do, easy to remember, easing you into a drawing state of mind.

Draw and enjoy


Steve Gray


An introduction to impressionism

Dear Art Teachers,

Sometimes you just want  to find a way to get information to your students and cause them to have some ‘wonder’ about it. Then hope they will come back and explore things a little further. This simple video an introduction to Impressionism has a BIG stack of images presented very quickly at the start and then repeated slowly in the second section.

It’s only a few minutes in length, if you show it to your whole group, consider the questions you can add in for the students, if you stop after the images at the start. What subject matter did you see? What did you notice about the detail or lack of it? Brainstorm a bunch of quick ones and then move on, perhaps repeating the questions to see if they picked up some depth in the slower section.

Please let me know if this sort of thing is engaging for your students by adding to the comments section below

Creative Distractions

Creative idea development is a big thing for some, trying to explore and follow idea starting points to give their works added depth and meaning.

I’m a bit of a fan of using words and statements to explore with, so I thought I would share one method I stumbled onto recently.

My work has been following a couple of directions and one of those has been heading into ‘dark territory’ where malevolent ideas have been thrown about. I now find myself coming back to this point. But my visual ideas were seemingly going no where and so what to do.

My last visual idea had dark figures in it, so I did an internet search on that. This led to a few things and I jumped on the idea of getting to the “essence of darkness” so I then zoomed in on eyes and breathing, contemplating options about how they might be explored for my theme.

The visual options in my head were off on some tangent… the name Richard Serra (Artist) came up somewhere in the search, I was now off to look at some of his images and drawings. Interesting, I started to think more in terms of symbols and how I might tackle things from there (I already do a fair bit of symbol work so it fits).

I did some word work searching some more and coming up with more options, this is what I got.

– Dark symbols – Black liberty – Black place. Then my thoughts stumbled across the notion of what’s this all about? Persecution – Bad treatment of people – Liberty… but how are they liberated if they are killed in process? Hmm some sort of spiritual freedom might now be the case.

Therefore my final statement hit me as I pondered all this “You are now free”.

This could become a title for a show – a single work – a body of works – a series It’s now up to me to put my findings into some visual concept and see if it all fits to my notion of what I might want it to be.

Drum up some art…

I’ve recently been having fun playing a Djembe drum in a drumming circle, fairly casual affair and good value.

Being inquisitive I started looking for ways to make a drum (too stingy at this point to fork out $250 or so dollars to buy one). Started looking online, hmm… off to the hardware to explore some other options.

I came back with a length of PVC pipe 110mm diameter x 1000mm long, a stainless steel hose clamp (to go around the diameter) and a piece of clear PVC (fairly thick). I sanded off one roughish end to make the hard edge rounded, wiped the dust and such off it, then pulled the piece of PVC over the top (it was sunny out so that part was easy), I set up the hose clamp over the top edge pushed it down about 1 cm and did it up, pulling the PVC taught as I went.

Drum! A bit of a bash about with it and it sounded ok (not sure my drum groovy guru will think so but hey…)

I may try some differing lengths to see what happens.

So the Art part, well you could sand it off a little and paint it in acrylics or enamel… or create a sleeve of fabric, decorate that and attach with velcro or  a lace up arrangement. Perhaps sheets of paper wrapped around could be useful too. (ok a little bit primary schoolish..)

Go ahed make one, explore the sounds and decorate it.

Make noise have fun!

What if they…

If I was a teacher of senior students, and those in Uni courses etc. I would love it if students came and asked questions, lots of them! Or even if they chatted more to explore Visual Art activities.

I think other teachers would be the same… it would clearly show they have an interest in the subject and wanted to know more.

So how do you (as a Teacher) go about getting students to ask more questions? Chances are you will have a bunch of methods to use or perhaps only a few. Consider trying these on for size.

I figure it’s a great routine to get into, so people can more naturally explore areas of interest and look at ways of being more engaging, articulate and generally more interesting..

Exploring Materials in Visual Art

Exploring various materials is often a major part of Visual Art Studies and it can be easy to forget a few here and there, so I created a simple list to work with.

Somehow Teachers need to get through a fair bit of exploration work, often in tight time frames. This list should give them a reminder of items to include in their efforts to ensure Students have a good start to extended studies.

Students you can use this list to suggest materials to your teachers. This way as you move into other areas of study in Visual Art you can at least have some level of skill in many of these areas.

Oh did I leave anything out? drop me a line if I did! 🙂


General media
Pen and ink
– Marbling

Paper cut outs
– Stencilling



Stencil work
Mono prints
Copier prints
– Screen printing

Digital media
Photo Manipulation
Digital painting
Graphic design


– Found object development

Pinch pots

Mixed media
Paint and added media
2D – 3D
Installation art – Found object – Impermanent works

16 ways to explore creativity

We all have creative slumps and look for ways to explore and develop it, so here’s a list to check out… Consider making your own list and sharing ideas with others on how they get creativity happening and try their ideas as well. Jot a few fresh ideas in the comments for this post.

16 Ways to get creative…

  1. Make radical lists of ideas and options – even non radical lists can be useful
  2. Have a way to record stuff no matter where you are – Journal, on your phone, on your laptop and or tablet
  3. Write words madly as they come into your head and explore the options and connections they may create – could lead to a mind map
  4. Spend time doing things other than your usual routine – consider how this makes you feel, explore that, record it somehow, does imagery come with it?
  5. Take it easy for a while and imagine you are a truly fantastic person, what would be different if you were? – not saying you aren’t truly fantastic…
  6. Take breaks and do things you might not ordinarily do – rock climbing, mowing the grass, reading in a library, white water rafting, pruning roses – you get it, now do it
  7. Follow up on your family history, note any ‘quirky bits’ – any leads from that?
  8. Explore new music styles – Jazz, contemporary instrumental etc
  9. Find creative people to be around – connect, share explore
  10. Practice and develop your skills more – a moment of mastery could lead to a breakthrough
  11. Make mistakes and explore them – OFTEN!
  12. Work with others on projects – how do the dynamics of the process alter
  13. Check out new places, spend time there observing, recording – any leads yet…
  14. Figure out what makes you really happy and do more of it – Then find other things to make you happy
  15. Read a page of a reference book, backwards! – Then make fresh sense of it
  16. Take a look at your local culture, jot down some notes and explore options and possibilities which may give you ideas to get creative

Just when you thought…

There were no new ideas in Art…


Try creating one of these or a variation on one or three of them. Remember it’s all about starting points, where you end up might be another thing entirely!

What can you make from all this? Lots of things, clearly… Now jot down a few options of  your own and share them in the comments section. 🙂 Email me some of the images you create I can list them on here. (Small Jpg’s please.)

Appropriation plus

There are many teachers who invite students to take other artworks and appropriate them, altering things to create a fresh view if you like.

mona-santa mona-pntg mona-piggy

duchamp-mona-lisa demo-mona dali-mona

Like many things Visual Artists use to generate and develop ideas, this has long been a valid one, either as a way to appreciate another artists work by making a direct copy, or altering it in some way to add interest to the original or to alter the meaning of the original in some way.

Many appropriated works I have come across still hold a strong connection to the original (like the mona Lisa examples above). I was thinking perhaps the work could be taken further without being just a creative springboard towards creating a new work on a similar theme.

For instance take a more abstract piece and alter it to look like a work in the Artists style but clearly your own, or what about taking a digital photo of the image and altering it radically in a photo manipulation program and seeing how much unlike the original you can make it.

Perhaps you take a work done one way (a painting for instance) and make it a lino cut or a drawing.

Consider making a work which may still have original elements which you play around with to create a new composition. I figure you could have a lot of fun this way and find some fresh areas to explore.

demi-1 demi-2 demi-3 demi-4

demi-5 demi-6 demi-7 demi-8

demi-9 demi-10 demi-11 demi-12

Easy 3D

When it comes to making 3D art, there are people who might say, “Oh it requires too many tools, takes up too much space, gets too messy”. etc… Well it doesn’t have to be that way, it can be scaled down in some instances, and does not have to be permanent either.


Here’s a way to explore some 3D and get you thinking about the differing visual values 3D Artists have to deal with (space and form being just two.)

Get some lengths of poly pipe (PVC pipe plumbers use) and create a suitable layout, of a range of pipe lengths standing on their ends.

Now decorate the pipes.


– Varying the diameter of the pipes can add interest.

– What sorts of paints can be used?

– The pipes can be sanded and repainted.

– Consider limiting the amount of pipes, try working with just five.

– What if the base area of the work was limited? How does that change things?

– What historical connections can we make? Totem poles, Tiwi Poles, Message Sticks, bollards.

– What could be added to make the poles say more… Words, other materials.

– How will you design them on paper?

– How will you transfer the designs to the poles?

– What sorts of themes can you explore with these? How well does the medium fit to the theme?

– If they are on a base, how will they be attached?

– Are other Artists doing this sort of thing? How will you find out…

– What will you write in your visual diary to show the process of working with the poles?

– What are some of the ways you can extend the activity to give it more impact or interest?

– What examples can you find as a basis to explore from?

– Which are better? realistic images or abstract ones?

– What if the poles are done in a range of similar tones, rather than motifs?

So there are a few starting points to explore. Now see how many variations you can come up with, feel free to send me some pictures to post in here as examples.



Analytical Art Speak…

When it comes to chatting about Art, people can freeze up, not really sure about what to say, while others will talk until everyone has long gone to sleep. For some studying how to use effective Visual Arts Language is a solid part of their course, for instance in VCE Studio Arts.


The key to being able to talk about anything is knowing the words to use which fit to the specific topic, in this case Visual Art.

Consider talking about a sport you may have an interest in. Over time you have developed a range of words related to the topic to give you the skills to discuss it, this may have happened purely to listening to people talk about the sport on TV, radio, reading newspapers and magazines. For many it comes easy as there are lots of ways the sport is described and analysed, It probably does not take long to get your head around the topic.

Visual Art on the other hand is often a challenging topic to discuss, for example many of us have seen the sunday afternoon arts programs which have an interviewer or critic ramble on about the complexities of some artists work, while the rest of us sit and think “HUH!”

The challenge is getting to know the words and what they mean, a bit like learning another language and for many the words used at the higher end of the arts analysis scale will certainly be that way.

How do I get started in learning this new language?

The written and spoken language we use to explore artistic endeavours helps us to appreciate the work and possibly give us an insight in to the work. Art does not have to be explored through daunting complex words, but in time you might find the complexity of the words diminishes as  you build  your proficiency.

Colour – Working with it…

Okay the heading could have said “Colour – working against it…”  as sometimes that seems like the case.

Many students (and Artists for that matter) find working with colour a challenge, getting one colour to work well with another etc. So I’d like to challenge people to work with colour and build a resource they can refer back to time and again.


Here’s one I prepared earlier…

There are books on how designers can use colour and they have fancy cutouts and flip through sections of delightfully printed colours in many combinations, they can be useful tools to play about with and use.

To really make colours work for you, try and build a resource you have had to work on, mix the colours and try various combinations.

Imagine you have trouble using a particular shade, tint, hue etc. so it makes sense to work with that colour asa  starting point. So perhaps try a series of A5 cards where the colour in question is painted in the middle and you try various colours around the outside.

After a while you will probably end up with hundreds of combinations you have explored. Think about varying shades of the one colour as well.

You could try doing the cards hard edged and accurately painted, or just a few dabs of paint quickly applied.

In the end you should be able to develop cards for a very long time and find colour combinations which work for you.

Teachers: Consider setting an ongoing colour exploration task like this so your students can get into colour on their own terms and create a resource they enjoy working with.

Beyond the Postcard…

Postcard art is not new, far from it and many Artists love to create works postcard size. They can be mailed, hung and you can create a lot of them quickly in a limited edition if you want. In thinking about postcards as a medium my mind turned to cards, greeting cards and the like, a postcard but it folds.

Take the standard card you might send to a friend for their birthday and consider how it might be a useful art activity.

Sure you could decorate it in some card type design and say happy birthday, but I would hope you might go further than that.

Consider, how it…

– Folds.

– Unfolds.

– Could use the envelope to say more than the card.

– Could be a series of images, that when put together could create a big image.

– Could use words to express a theme.

– Might be displayed when it is sent… perhaps it comes with instructions.

– Could present a theme.

– Could inspire the receiver to create another one (or 20…) and send them on.

Explore some of these starting points and see what happens next, perhaps a set of blank ones drawn on if differing ways to see if you can create something fresh rather than just exploring basic imagery in a few dimensions. If you create  a few send me a photo or three to see the results.

Consider this topic as a possible exploration or final product for VCE Studio Arts

Exploring Culture in Visual Art

Culture, generally refers to “Patterns of human activity and the devices, which give such activities significance and importance.”

With this definition in mind, Visual Artists might find themselves saying, “So when am I not exploring culture…” Great point, and while you are pondering that let me get on with some other bits… Thanks…

Patterns of human activity, things we might do repeatedly, things, which have significance or importance, which are repeated.

Therefore there are a lot of things, which could fall into these category’s, the Artist using these to communicate and or explore “stuff” about them could find some interesting starting points, here are a few, I am sure there is more.

Take any of these and consider ways to utilise them as a starting theme, then figure a few ways to make art with the “cultural” starting point. VCE Studio Arts can have a component which tackles this very subject.


© Steve Gray 2010+

How about this as an example, War – There are many ways to depict war in art, but what if I was to collect copies of war time newspaper articles and create a collage of the cut up articles… I could cut out shapes of guns and overlay them, I could make patterns out of the collage of guns, the result is a starting point on the theme of war. Of note here is the way I can explore the idea and fit it to the cultural theme, therefore I can explore the theme in a range of ways which may lead me to examining the topic at a deeper level and hopefully communicate that to others visually.

© Jesse Nivens 2010+

So there’s a start, you could take almost ANYTHING you are interested in and explore it this way. Perhaps a collage might lead you to thinking about a drawing or painting, or ideas for photographs themed from the collage.

By following a train of thought, then exploring it further, you could be creating your own level of significance and importnace about something, so you would be creating your own culture! I figure that’s why art is a called a cultural activity. Hmm if I use that sort of thinking sport could be art… or at least the catalyst to the way we might explore the culture of sport.

Activities to take the concept further;

Exploring the definition of “Culture”.

  1. Find at least five definitions of the term culture (Dictionary and or Internet search) and from those distill a series of points to assist in strengthening your understanding of the term “culture” (make sure you do all this in your visual diaries to reference it later on.)
  2. As you explored the definitions of culture, did anything relate to a topic or subject of interest to you? Do a quick brainstorm and see what happens, based around your interests, asking the question, “What things am I interested in which can clearly relate to “culture”? (Make your brainstorm, at least 21 points long).
  3. From your brainstorming, pick out a few points which are of strong interest to you… Now jot a few points in your visual diary on ways you might be able to use these points.
  4. Create a word based mind map of whats been happening since you started this process.
  5. Make a purely visual mind map to go with the text based one, perhaps search the net for images you can copy and paste, print out and then paste into your visual diary.
  6. Make some notes and or drawings on any key themes you have come across which might be showing up… Are there any strong enough for you to explore as an art work?

Further concepts…

  1. Look at the project 1000 journals this will give you a range of ideas on how others have created journals and make a mini journal on your efforts so far for exploring “culture”…
  2. Create a large drawing using one of the pages from your mini journal as inspiration. (tape together a bunch of pieces of paper to make the image BIG.)
  3. Write about the process thus far in your visual diary and the things you have discovered, what has stood out to you?
  4. Select two of the interviews on Contemporary Visual Artists at our sister site. Take notes about their work and their way of working and how they explore the concept of “culture?”…
  5. Create a few quick drawings or actual pieces in any medium to abstractly explore some more random notions about the term culture.
  6. The culture of various societies is often developed from their history, can you find any links to what you have done in this exploration of the topic and the history of your social background (Country of origin, social position etc.?)

Copyright © Steve Gray 2011+


Today I watched a doco on the 1000 Journals Project and the massive impact it has had.

I then thought… Wow what a great way for students to get ideas for ways to approach a visual diary.

Then it went further as I began pondering the possibilities, as the doco explored how people had connected through the journal, passing it on etc.

I liked the connection aspect to it and thought the idea of connecting in art would be a useful one to explore contemporary themes.

Connect… (Feel free to add some other ideas via the comments…)

Mail Art – Connect with other artists by making a postcard and sending it to them and seeing what (if anything) they sendback – find them on the internet, you may well send an ecard of some kind or a scanned image of a card you made.

Invite – Invite people to create something and send it to you, from a postcard, to a letter, artwork etc. put the invites up on noticeboards where  you think you will get some interesting responses. perhaps aim for them to send things to a gmail or hotmail email account to protect your privacy or even a PO box.

Ok now you think of some ways you can connect with people to create a project which might engage others. Discuss some of the issues you may face then brainstorm some ideas, remember to share them! 🙂

Glossary of art terms

As a student I was told to buy a dictionary of art terms and flip through it from time to time, look up points I did not know and generally have it as a resource. That was a good idea, but only some of the info stayed with me. For secondary level students (VCE Studio Arts) and Uni level students, this may serve as a very useful resource to develop a range of skills in analysing art.

I was shown another way years later which I like more, as it involves students at least cutting and pasting info they need and therefore see of value, over time the resource builds to suit their needs and interests.


Here’s how…

  1. Take a quick internet search for a glossary of art terms (probably just heading points at this stage) or create your own ready to use.
  2. Take the list and put it in your favourite word processor.
  3. Use the headings as starting points, get the info on the headings which interest you and paste it in.
  4. Save the info and keep adding to it, over time some of the headings will have multiple entries. Encourage web links and pictures as well. Make it into a PDF file and get the students to hand it in online…

After a few weeks the glossary will be a few pages long, then more and more can be added.

Extension activities

  1. Invite the students to share new or interesting points they have found which they have added to their glossary of terms. What a great way to get students chatting about art and using art terminology.
  2. Start Junior students with one and build on it year by year, by the time they get to be senior students they will have a solid resource and a great connection with the language and terminology of the subject.
  3. Want to avoid setting homework… or want to set some… simply give them this task and ask them to add to it week by week. In class you can remind them to add to it each week and put a note in their Student diary/organiser to remind them.

Analyse this – Slide show idea for Teachers

Dear Teachers… (Hey students, don’t wait for teachers to set this up, create your own!)

Often one of the tricky areas in art education is getting students to be involved in looking at artworks and providing some form of analysis of artworks, even in a fairly formal sense. The probem seems to come when Teachers say “Today we are going to do some Art History” this turns some of them off straight away… Here’s a way to hopefully break the cycle.


Make up a slide show (power point or the like) of about 15 – 20+ artworks of varying styles and types (prefereably images your students may connect with), then run a BRIEF session with the students where you flip quickly through the slides asking what the students see. When a few points have been raised about one image, move on and do the same thing with the next image. The aim is to get them to quickly see the basics, developing the skill of seeing basic “formal” elements. The key is doing it fairly fast, for a twist, flash an image up for 5 seconds, take it off and ask what they saw.

In the end the students will have had to think quickly about what they saw without making too many judgements, like “I didn’t like it…” stick to the basics and give them a few points, like… “What colours did you see, were there lines? Subject matter? Tones, Shapes, Form, Texture, Composition etc…

Eventually you should be able to show them a bunch of images and say nothing as they will call out what they see as they will be used to the process. (sneaky huh…)

Over time you could even create a series of these slideshows, to build a repertoire of images students can discuss in more depth. You could also add some details like the name of the artist, dates etc when the more in depth discussion and analysis needs to take place.

It could be a quick start to a practical art session where you might want to catch them off guard and cause them to think in a different direction for a while.

For more points to discuss and analyse with try this. or this…

A savvy teacher might also set up a series of online images on a school intranet and ask different questions for different year levels, just food for thought! Perhaps a great way to introduce homework for students via the internet, add a pdf file for parents to get involved too outlining the same process I have above, Enjoy!

Extension activities.

Art Analysis – Start here…

Okay Teachers (and Students…) You asked for it,  you wanted more info on Analysing Visual Art works so here are a few starting points to go with. Feel free to send me other resources you have found useful over time but for now here is my starting point to formal evaluation of artworks.

Artwork Analysis Helper


When describing the artwork, you should describe exactly what you see. It is useful to pretend you are describing the work to a blind person, giving all the details to help describe the work.


What elements can you see? Colour, line, tone, texture, shape, form (three dimensional). Describe the way these elements are used in the work.


What do you think the artwork may be about? What is its meaning? What evidence is there in the work to support your interpretation?


What is your opinion of the work? Do not just say, ”I don’t like it”! Tell us why you don’t think it is a very effective artwork. If you like it, explain what specific things you like about the artwork.

Try these points out for yourself by looking at a number of artworks and answering the above questions quickly and see what happens. no right or wrong answers at this stage, just ideas and options to get you checking out artworks and thinking about them in ways you may not have yet thought of.

Landscape ideas

From ancient times through to contemporary works, the landscape has meant a great deal for art and artists. how artists interpret the landscape is as varied as chalk and cheese from abstract concepts and emotions through to highly realistic scenes.


Many artists are inspired not just by their shapes and forms on the landscape but by colours and textures as well. For an artist starting out the chance to explore landscape ideas can seem rather daunting I hope some of the concepts I put forward might give you some great starting points.


Okay there’s a few ideas you might like to try to get started in landscapes, I think you may find the more you do landscapes to more engrossing it will become… enjoy!

If you are studying VCE Studio Arts you may find this a great starting point to exploring a theme.

Here are a few websites you may like to explore to learn more about the ways artists have explored the landscape as a concept or theme.

Environmental Expressionism

Graham Fransella

Peter Biram

Arthur Boyd

Amanda  van gils

Simon Collins

Peter Tudhope

Ursula Theinert

Kerrie Warren

Kaye Green

Tim Storrier

John Wolseley

Tim Jones

Steve Gray


John Olsen

Boxed in…

I often cruise Art shops (and occasionally Craft ones too)  to see what’s new, what inspires and what’s still the same old same old. In one I walked into recently I noticed they have small pine boxes with latches, and some had clear see through tops in a range of sizes.

I guess the crafty and scrapbooking types will recognise them as a way of creating some form of “Keepsake” device where precious memories are displayed and therefore it’s a way of exploring 3D collaging in an intimate setting.


In the same way I think the boxes have a lot to offer the Art Student and or Visual Artist. Firstly the boxes are plain pine so they can be varnished, stained, painted and or added to in many ways.

The boxes could be a way of exploring 3d Art without having to go big scale and deal with storage issues of large works. I think the intimacy a small work can create could be an interesting drawcard as well.

For creative starting points lets think about a few possibilities…

Of course the possibilities are endless, the main thing here being the price of the boxes I looked at were very cheap, and came in a range of sizes.

If you create one or three of these, send us a link to a photo in the comments for this post and show us what you have created!

The online portfolio developer…

As an Art student or even as an Artist, you probably have a lot going on, teachers and lecturers wanting you to explore this and that, themes to pursue, techniques to be tried out and so on. Well here’s a technique to use to keep lots of these forces happy.


Most of you will have a facebook page, as such you realise you can share a lot of things with the world, pictures especially and comments.

So try the daily challenge (It could be weekly but hey, a bit of a push wouldn’t hurt…) the aim is to put a picture every day online for a set period (one I know of is a 365 day photo challenge.) and therefore put up one image a day and comment on it.

Your Teachers and Peers can add comments and provide critiques. At each stage you could offer a lot of info or little info… perhaps stick to a formula of a few points, why I took this photo, how I lit the photo, why this composition works and so on…

This way you can show you are working, get feedback, see if patterns evolve, it could be the same with drawings or any other media!

The only downside is having teachers and lecturers as friends on facebook! Okay probably not a bad thing either… 😉

Thanks to David Gray one of my Nephews, whose 365 day facebook photo challenge gave me the idea! 🙂

Portraits – outside the square

This portrait by Rupert Shrive shows the idea of representing someone in a portrait does not have to be a basic square or rectangle on canvas or in a photograph.


So lets explore a few different ways you could do a portrait.

These are just starting points to work from, but once you have tried these, think about doing a straight portrait, do you think it will be easy? Perhaps it might seem too bland as a process and ask yourself which one really portrays the subject matter the best…. Enjoy!

If you are studying VCE Studio Arts you may find the ideas in this article may give you some interesting starting points in developing ideas for your folio.

Mail Art

Yes you read right Mail Art check this guys blog site there are thousands (seems that way to me) of examples of art in and out of his mail box! Go on send some art today!

Starting out….


I wish I was starting out, back in Yr 11… no wait I’m wrong I would hate it, all the drawing, the homework, the learning new things, getting my tongue around works like juxtaposition.. yeah I’m better off here, not there.

So if you are a newbie to the Visual Arts welcome to a life of adventure (and quite possibly torment at some stage or other), but fear not young learners (and more mature ones too…) this site (and others like it) are here to assist your journey and hopefully ease some pain.

If you are in Yr 11 at secondary school and wanting to get the jump on the the rest of the class, pull up a chair and have a good look through whats in here… Techniques, creativity boosting strategies, links to some interviews with Artists, how investors look at Art and so much more. Then take notes and GET STARTED!

Draw like your life depended on it, take photo’s like there is no tomorrow (one day you will be right…) write out idea,s carve thing up, break things down, explore techniques and materials then explore Contemporary Artist interviews with vigour and interest, it will all be worthwhile in the end. Oh and take a look at any lists, which tell  you the benefits of being involved in the arts and nail it up in a few great places, you won’t go wrong!

I wish you well in your Art Journey, Steve Gray. Jan 2010

The student, painting and costs…

As a student of the Visual Arts, cost of materials is generally a big factor, you want to paint but by the time you make a stretcher, get the canvas (heck linen is so expensive, canvas is it…) then stretch it and undercoat… PHEW it’s time to paint at last!

All very well but the cost is sending you broke… so what to do?

Q. Especially in the start of the learning process, are you about to create a masterpiece? Chances are no…

A. So why go expensive, grab a big chunk of “straw-board” whack on the undercoat and get started.

1. It’s faster to get started.

2. It’s cheaper.

3. It’s easy to store…

Lets face it even if you do a “masterpiece” on board you will probably be able to “copy” it in canvas anyway…

Limitations… size, no canvas texture and permanency. Other than that give it a go…

How about another idea, use canvas, but stretch it onto a board of some kind, plywood etc using drawing pins, paint, let it dry and hang it using bulldog clips. You want a neater finish? hem the edges on a sewing machine…

Hey what about those cheap Chinese canvases you see in the two dollar shops? are they any good, short answer, no… but if you want cheap and are desperate to paint grab one or twenty then go for for it! Some of the sizes are bigger than straw-board so that’s useful. Its cheap but storage becomes the issue (again!)

In other areas of Visual Art there are probably heaps of ways of making things more cost effective… think about where you source materials from and explore the options…

Remember this… “Make Art Have fun…” (at least some of the time.) and if you are studying VCE Studio Arts then you are probably looking for cost effective ways to make you final works or at least explore some ideas using the above techniques.

Stencil art centipede…

Every now and then something comes along to amaze, intrigue etc…

Your own art book…

I have been looking into this sort of book publishing site for a while and I saw one that seems quite good, impress your friends, psyche out the gallery guys! you download some software, create your book, upload it and sell it online…

Here’s one I prepared earlier called Urbane. Check it out and see what others are up to while you are there. 


The thought of having my own glossy “coffee table book” was to good to refuse, oh and if you want just one, then so be it! the possibilities are endless!

Video art

This could be as complex or as simple as you wish, I like the apparent simplicity of this it leaves a lot to think about…

DATAFLUX 0.1 from Kit Webster on Vimeo.

Online Drawing & Painting

There are a number of online programs you can use to draw and paint with, a quick search gave me this. Okay it’s fairly simple however it could be used in a number of ways to explore simple ideas without having to get paints out etc. Younger students could create simple “loose” colour wheels through to more complex ideas, it has an online gallery to see what others have done as well. Have a play around with it to see what it can do…


Photo manipulation – basics

In an earlier post on ideas to do with photo basics, I briefly hinted at photo manipulation as a tool for exploring photo ideas. Love it or hate it, these days with photo software it’s very easy to do and can lead to some interesting results.

Here’s what I did to get some things happening fairly easily, I took one good photo.


I then exported it as a smaller file 280 kb (to make it fast to load and manipulate for the demonstration here.)

I then went and did an internet search and found a photo image manipulation online application (You can use photo shop and  similar to do the same but I don’t have these), uploaded the image and started to tweak it from there. (I used there are plenty of others. I went to the special effects button, tried a few options. If I did not like it I undid the effect, then tried another. Later on I did several effects on the one image to get fresh results. Check out the results…










I had great fun playing with this and the results can be amazing or very boring, nonetheless it can be useful to explore a subject and play around with it to suit your needs. For me I still prefer the original, but for others some of the new images will be better. Either way enjoy!

Here’s a thought, select an image and make four variations of it, then set them up on one page and print them out. consider how well they work together, it may take some “fiddling” to get the balance right but the result could be well worth it.

Don’t box me in…

Here’s an art activity you might find useful, set yourself the task of creating a cube of a set size then “decorating it with  your art”.

The box could be seen as a sculpture, a painting in 3D, it could be a drawing to… in fact it could be anything. the construction and scale of the cube is up to you. If you are a teacher you miight set the calls the task of doing the cube to the same size eg: 40 cm x 40 cm x 40cm.

The end result could just sit on a table, pedestal etc, or could hang…

Have fun exploring the challenges this might bring and if done in a class, discussing the various interpretations students have to the idea.

Creativity Starts Here, Or Not…

I came across this website years ago and was blown away with the simplicity of what Michael Hewitt Gleeson chats about. His 10 part email training is simple and as effective as you might want it to be. Simply put it’s about thinking, but not in a heavy science kind of way, this is practical material you can use daily, regularly, easily.

I urge  you to take a look and see if it can assist your creativity to be all it can be.

Oh and it’s free!

Note when you have a look you will notice it’s not an art site, nor does it mention art in any way, but the principles for developing creative approaches are in here, so go take a look, sign up, get the emails and let us know what you think.

Creativity, Words & Pictures – A Dada approach

There are many ways to develop a creative approach to subjects and themes, one I learned many years back was how the Dada artists created poetry, in particular they were interested in taking an anti art stance and as such often broke a lot of “rules” around writing and art, the great thing for us is they found some very creative ways to explore things.

One of the things that stands out about this technique (or at least my version of it) is how easy it is to get something going, have fun and watch it evolve (sometimes not, but most times yes!)

The can be a fun technique to explore with friends at a party (when all else seems dismal…)

So the idea is to grab a book or three and aim to grab snippets of information, words, phrases etc and string them together randomly, sometimes the chunks can seem to have some form of connection though.

One way to do this is to flip through the pages and see what grabs or stops, take that page and go for a  stab in the dark, point at a section and write down the words or statements, then string them together and read what you get.

Another approach is to copy a bunch of pages randomly from books on a topic or theme, and then cut up the lines of words, and paste them together in various was, read it out and see what you get.

Often the most absurd strings of words and phrases give the best result.

Now having created the words and or “poetry” your aim is to use the information to form a foundation for an art work. Consider a collage of copied sections of writing, enlarged, painted over, stained, used as a decopage/collage over an object. or perhaps the words in your poetry suggest an image or series of images that relate to your theme or subject, therefore leading your creativity.

It can be a fun technique which might give you ideas and options to explore some creative approaches to your work, now you need never be struck with a blank canvas again.

There are lots of ways you can make this work, adding pictures and so forth to create collages and so on. Think of a few variations on the basic theme of random searching and come up with some techniques of your own, then write them in your Art Journal for future reference.

Visual Art Diary – Art Journal

Many Students have these, and most have them because they are told they have to as part of their studies, perhaps VCE Studio Arts. Ok get over it, you should use one because you want to, not as a have to. Many Artists use them as a way to create lasting record of things they want to record, often from their daily encounters with life.

So what’s the value, the benefit, the reason… Well most people who have one, will have seen the benefit and should be able to tell you, it’s for exploring, writing, gathering, recording, giving you points to reflect on and not just as a sketch book, it’s more than a diary to write in; note the title “Visual Diary” or “Art Journal”.

Here’s a quote from the Victorian Curriculum Board…

A visual diary may take any form that supports the student’s individual design process and is reflective of the key knowledge and key skills as detailed in the study design.

The design process can be presented in a variety of ways that suit the student’s needs or the art form being developed. The visual diary may contain a record of work in development in the form of photographs, sketches or screen dumps. It will contain a record of trials and explorations throughout the design process; these should be in the form of annotations and evaluations.

The student’s ideas, as outlined in their exploration proposal, must be reflected in their visual diary.

My suggestion is to see the Journal as a way to keep things together, so when you want to show how a work of art, or your thinking has developed, you have the “evidence” rather than just having some new art tangent you have miraculously plucked from “thin air”.

In simple terms it’s a diary on steroids, not just a collection of past events, but of present thoughts and ideas as well, that you can reflect on and use in the future. A personal resource of information (it can include anything and everything you can think of that fits on to a flat page.)

Do a bit of internet searching and you will probably find lots of outlines for how to create a journal, but the key to creating one is making it work, and that’s simple, get one and use it all the time. Example, I bet you have a mobile phone with you all the time, same with this, you can even have a small one so you can carry it with ease then add your entries to a big one if you want. If the first one gets filled up grab another one and add to that to. One thing I will say, NEVER throw out rip out any part of the diary, keep it in tact, you never know when some info you were going to throw out will be useful.

The Journal can be great to have at an interview for courses of further study, as it can reaveal a great deal about HOW you work and back up the actual work.

If you want to see journalling on steroids (go on take a look…) check out the 1000 journals website and see how others have tackled Journal writing on a massive scale!

And here’s a video to give you more ideas…

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