Saturday, January 25, 2014

Australian Aboriginal Story Paintings

Transdisciplinary Theme: Who We Are
Central Idea: Stories are shared in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes
Lines of Inquiry: Why we share stories, How stories enrich culture

I always find this unit tricky to integrate with not because of the content or concepts but because typically the students write their own stories in their classrooms and then illustrate or make a book cover in art class.  Sounds logical, but what happens every. single. time is that by the time the kids are done with the editing process, the unit is almost over and there is never enough time to make quality  covers or illustrations in time for their Open Houses or however they want to share their summative assessment with their parents.

This year, the Grade 3 team and I flipped the usual art room/homeroom integration by creating paintings that were used as inspiration to write stories.  We began by introducing the Grade 3's to heavily symbolic Australian Aboriginal Art and the concept of Dreamtime.  We began with a See Think Wonder using this photo:

The children were very curious and made some great observations.  Many classes were convinced that she couldn't possibly be a "real" artist because she is sitting on the ground and "looks poor".  Lots of, "interesting observation, what makes you say that?" on my part!  Food for thought about what makes a "real" artist and how our personal perspective influences the way we interpret art.

The next step was to introduce the children to some symbols that are typically found in Aboriginal art and talking about why those symbols might be important in their culture.  The children were provided with some aboriginal art prints and they looked to see if they could find some symbols they recognized.  Some examples can be found here: 

The last step was creating their own Australian Aboriginal paintings using an australian animal of their choosing as the main character.  Each child drew a large outline of an animal on their paper and painted both the animal and the background.  When the paint was dry, they added the second layer-- large lines or shapes but no small details but no dots or symbols quite yet!  It is very helpful to have a sample of each stage visible so they can see the process.

In the final art class the kids were given black and white paint markers and a tutorial on how to use them properly.  I find these work so much better than Q-tips or the end of paint brush handles to make nice round dots.  The children then used their art to write their own dreamtime stories in their home rooms.  The combination of paintings and stories was a winner and  yes, everything was done in time for the Open House. :)


  1. These are Wonderful! I love the details and patterns!

  2. Nice idea!!! I am also very much interested in aboriginal artwork and all these patterns shown in this blog are really awesome....Every patterns represent some story....Fabulous!!!!! Recently i buy a scarf which has a dots art on it from betterworldarts and it is really very beautiful.They provide so many aboriginal art items can try them.....

  3. Artists need to be very creative to convert their thoughts, words into painting. My cousin, who is into Aboriginal Art is very innovative and he inspires me a lot.