Monthly Archives: July 2013

Cygnet Early Childhood Artist-In-Residence, July 2013

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July 22 – 30, 2013

Hot on the heels of July’s school holiday workshops, I hurtle headlong into a week-long Artist Residency!  Last year the unstoppable Mirjam Holthuis from Cygnet Community Childrens Centre (CCCC) was successful in securing a grant to employ three local artists from the Cygnet area, including myself.  Each of the artists were asked to offer creative experiences to the kindergarten students at the three local Primary Schools – St James, Cygnet Primary & Peregrine Community School, plus some younger children from the CCCC.

I have been living in the Cygnet (TAS) area since 2007, and have worked with Cygnet PS and Peregrine on many occasions, teaching both cartoon drawing & percussion.  It was Cygnet PS music teacher, the remarkable Katherine Fairs-Morris, who first prompted  me to teach percussion on a regular basis, which led to me directing two successful Cygnet community drumming groups for 4 years.

So when Mirjam invited me to submit a proposal for the residency, I jumped at the chance to re-engage with my local school communities.  With the project aimed at mostly 5 yr olds, I decided to offer a smorgasboard of creative experiences over 3 x one-hour sessions with each kinder group.

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Session 1 was an interactive rhythm / percussion prgne drums 3experience, in which I introduced the kidlets to an array of (mostly African) drums: djembe, dundun, talking drum, darbukka, cajon (& balafon), plus a selection of miscellaneous tribal percussion toys including agogo bells, seed shakers, shekere, woodblocks, tibetan bells and more.  We talked about how each instrument has a different voice, how they resonate to create sound, and a little about where each instrument originated, and the various materials they’re made from.  The kids of course were busting to make some noise, so I followed this up with some interactive rhythm games – exploring vocal sounds & rhythms, and co-ordinating hand-clapping & foot-stomping rhythms.  Then we translated these simple rhythms to the instruments themselves, and I was amazed at how well the kids held it together – no mean feat for that age!  We had a ball and made a truly joyous racket!

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cyg mus 1Session 2 was more of a listening experience –  I introduced the kidlets to some of the stringed instruments I play: a European mandolin, a Russian balalaika, and three different varieties of ukulele, including a metal resonator uke.  I talked a little about each instrument’s origin, about how sound resonates in the sound box, and the unique voice of each instrument (picture of appreciative audience at right).

I demonstrated a few exotic styles of instrumental music from around the world, and played a few silly kids songs that I wrote for my own kids years ago.  The kids were hilarious & such a delight as they joined in!  Here’s one of them:


The Cygnet Primary kids followed up this session with DIY instruments using papier mache & rubber bands.  And the Peregrine School kids reflected on their session by creating drawings of the instruments I had played, which they then compiled into a book and presented to me as a thank you gift.  Thanks guys!


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Session 3 was a cartoon drawing workshop – a simplified version of the facial expressions workshop I use in the Creative Communication program.  Again I was surprised at how well the kids interpreted my suggestions, as guided drawing is often too challenging for this age.  We drew (and pulled!) some expressive faces and discussed a few different emotions as we drew them together.

Some feedback from Cygnet Primary teacher Judi Rhodes:  “During the cartooning workshop the children stayed focused and on task for at least an hour which is a very long time for 4 year olds! They loved drawing the faces with different emotions. Lots of parents have commented on the detailed and quirky drawing that their children have produced…they simply can’t believe that their children have done them!!”


Judi’s kids compiled their face drawings into personal books for further reflection in class.  They looked fantastic!

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The last session for the residency was with the Cygnet kinders and we finished off on a relaxed note, with me drawing a few cartoon requests – in this pic they asked for an octopus, and then kids took turns in suggesting what each tentacle was holding!


For many years my work in schools has been mostly focused on middle to upper primary & secondary ages, so it was really refreshing to return to this age group and PLAY – thanks so much to Mirjam Holthuis and the Cygnet Community Childrens Centre for enabling me to participate in this residency, to the fantastic and dedicated staff at Peregrine, St James & Cygnet schools (and the CCCC!) for all your help & enthusiasm, and of course to all the gorgeous preps and kinders who were such a delight to work with!


TAS Holiday Workshops, July 2013 – Kingston LINC


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Fri July 19, 2013

The Big One!  The Kingston LINC cartoon workshops have traditionally been the most well-attended, and this one was no exception.  Most of the kids were old-timers who have been coming to these sessions regularly, and most of them went for the hardcore all-day option.  But it was also wonderful to see some new faces too, with some fantastic skills.

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The Kingston sessions are always very buzzy, the room is full of kids exploding with ideas, so we hurtled straight into it.  First up was a combo of Baby-with-a-bomb / underwater car / zombie piranha!  There was earnest discussion about some technical conundrums, such as:  if we put a glass bubble over the baby’s head, then we have to cut a hole in the glass because his arm is already out, and doesn’t that mean that the water will get in through the hole???  These are very pressing concerns, you see…..

One thing I especially enjoy in all of these workshops, is seeing how everyone’s own style influences how they interpret what I draw on the board, and the different personalities that emerge in the characters because of that.

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Next, I just HAD to try Clancy’s suggestion of Melting Panda, which I combined with Pea With Cute Ladies Legs!  Here’s a couple of versions:

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We finished off the morning session with a Werewolf In The Sun (this also caused heated debate because of course werewolves only come out on a full moon…..while it’s perfectly acceptable for them to wear board shorts & sunglasses!).

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It was a gorgeous sunny winter’s day outside so we sat out the front for lunch before regrouping for the afternoon session, with a few new crew on board and a fresh list of juicy new ideas.

We started with a combo of Egyptian Mummy plus Dog With Wheels – I really love Bruny’s interpretation (under my version, below) with flies around the Mummy’s head & the dog laughing with a crazed look on its face – and bunny slippers!

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We must have been on a Gross & Ghoully roll, because next up was a combo of Apple With A Worm In It plus Fungus-covered Zombie, I think it was about my fave for the day, I was pleased with how the fungus turned out:

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Lastly we finished up with Lucinda’s suggestion of Murderous Bumblebee plus Axe Guitar (see Flow’s version featured at top of this post), which Lucinda had requested so she could make a birthday card for friend (who loves bumblebees).

What a week!  Thanks to everyone who came along, and of course to Sue and the staff at Kingston LINC for your ongoing support!

And here’s what I felt like by the end of the week:

zombie original

TAS Holiday Workshops, July 2013 – Glenorchy LINC

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Thurs July 18, 2013

It’s difficult to have favourites with these workshops because they all offer up fresh delights, but I reckon this day at Glenorchy LINC was one of the most fun for me these holidays.  The morning session was just 3 kids (!), but all 3 had booked in for the whole day, so I didnt want to disappoint them.  One of them (Alex) has been coming to my cartoon workshops regularly for over a year now, and he has a particularly colourful imagination – the first idea he threw at me was a Gangster Goldfish, and we were off and running (his version above, my interpretation below).

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Every once in a while a student throws me a request that genuinely makes me stop & think hard about how to make it work.  I really love being challenged technically, but also as a teacher, because not only do I have to visualise the drawing, I have to also work out how to best draw it in a way that the students can understand.  For some ideas I’d much rather have the luxury of roughing it out a few times in pencil, to get it “right”.  But I also think it’s great for the kids to see that I can be challenged too, and that drawing is always a creative experiment that doesn’t always succeed.  So Byron’s next request was fascinating, and we all had to chew on it together:  an invisible character wearing a jetpack & a sombrero!  The accessories weren’t a problem, but the question of how to draw invisibility opened up a lot of discussion.  Byron decided on “transparent” instead, as we could at least indicate an outline of the figure….anyway, here’s my & Byron’s end results:

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These two drawings actually consumed a lot of time in the session (well, we did get a little wayward in our conversations as well….), but we finished the session looking at superhero-style anatomy techniques.

After lunch, more students arrived for the afternoon session & the room was a-buzz with ideas, jokes and quippery.  We kicked off with a combo of evil butterfly / tuxedo / lettering FX, with delicious results:

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Well, maybe not delicious, but cool!  Now for some reason everyone’s been requesting unicorns this week, so that was on the list again, but then Alexz (the girl who suggested the Ice King at the Bridgewater workshop & was so inspired she came to Glenorchy too!) asked if we could draw a Loner, which was such a refreshing request I couldnt resist, so we ended up with a kind of emo Lonelicorn (note droopy horn!).  I’ve included all the kids’ drawings because I just think they all look so fantastic together!

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And last of all, we squeezed in a pretty bizarre combo of mutant / vampire rabbit / broken robot!  Unfortunately I didnt get pics of the kids’ versions before their parents scooped them up, so here’s mine:

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Thanks again guys for all the fantastic ideas, and thank you to Robyn Murfett at Glenorchy LINC for supporting these workshops!

TAS Holiday Workshops, July 2013 – Hobart City Council

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Wed July 17, 2013

After the morning session at Bridgewater LINC, I zipped into Hobart to run a Parent & Child cartoon workshop in Criterion House in the CBD, at the invitation of Amanda Midgley, for the Hobart City Council’s school holiday program.  Amanda has been involved in coordinating youth services projects for years now, and we’ve collaborated on many creative projects over the last decade.

This afternoon session was really well-attended, the room was full of kids, parents (mostly mums but good to see some dads too!) and even a few clusters of babies.  After a mad scramble to get tables & chairs in place, we hurtled straight into what was a really exhilarating session.  Again it was great to see parents sharing the experience alongside their kids.

First call was for an evil bunny (why are kids so fascinated with the “evil” thing??!!), which was a good warm-up since there was a very broad age range in this group.  Somehow a zombie carrot wandered onto the set..

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Next we launched into a fairly complex mash-up comprising the suggestions bucktooth unicorn / knight-in-armour / lizard, with a few extra touches like a (car) horn on the unicorn, a mace on the lizard’s tail and (because we’d all had enough of this drawing by this stage) no legs on the horse – thus making it a Hover Horse.  I actually really like the legged version one boy did tho (below).

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I promised the younger kids we’d draw something less complicated and a bit more cute next, so I jumped on the request for a lion.  He emerged through a 60s time warp filter, I think it was the afro mane that did it, much to the amusement of a few mums…

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Finally, as we hurtled into the last 15 minutes of the session, I mixed the requests of cheetah / car into a kamikaze cartoon finale – rather a fitting image for such a quick toon!


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Thanks again to Amanda for inviting me back, and Hobart Council, and of course all the fantastic parents & kids who came along for the ride – ROWR!!

TAS Holiday Workshops, July 2013 – Bridgewater LINC

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Wed 17 July, 2013

I was invited back to run another cartoon workshop at Bridgewater LINC these holidays (I was there last January hols), thanks to the wonderful Jordyan Coombe!  Jordyan really cares about offering opportunities to her community that they wouldn’t normally access, and she very generously subsidised my visit out of her own budget so she could offer the workshop for free.  It was really great to have a few parents participating as well – it’s really special when families share some creative time together.  It was a small group but sometimes these are the most rewarding.

After making a list of ideas from the group, I thought we’d warm up with an easy one – good ol’ reliable duck!  These things never seem to stay simple for too long with me though, and soon there was an ice cream which morphed into a hamburger, a propellor hat landed on his head and then he was hopping through puddles….

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Having had our entree, we got our teeth into some more advanced silliness – this time I mashed up a megamix from the list:  sausage dog / princess cat / skinny cat / santa claus and a few extras that the kids threw in as the drawing got more out of hand (this princess cat turned out to be not-so-refined – we almost had her drinking champagne from her stiletto at one point!)….I really love how the kids modified their versions, and the girl who originally suggested the princess cat idea developed it into some other fantastic characters of her own:

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To finish off the session I really wanted to have a crack at an idea from the oldest girl in the group, Alexz, who is into fantasy art and writing.  She suggested we draw an Old Ice King, in a slightly less cartoony style, and we were all very happy with the results:

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Thanks again to Jordyan at Bridgewater LINC for having me along!

TAS Holiday Workshops, July 2013 – Southern Midlands Council

sth mdlnds 23Tues July 16, 2013

This was an all-day workshop with a busload of kids from the outlying rural areas north of Hobart, as part of the Southern Midlands Council school holiday program.  Greg Hunt and his devoted crew do an amazing job of providing these kids with opportunities & experiences that they might not otherwise access.  Many of these kids are from farms & have a whole different take on the world.  I grew up in a remote rural community myself so I can relate – country kids are often more energetic, self-assertive and physical, so keeping this big mob focused on drawing silly pictures all day was a challenge!

We all converged on Hobart PCYC and spilled into the basketball court where the workshops were to happen.  Happy chaos ensued as we pulled some tables & chairs out of thin air while a herd of excited children threw basketballs around the place, chased each other among the tables & bounced off the walls in general!  There’s something exhilarating about those moments of buzziness before a workshop – I like the “not knowing how it’s going to come together”!

First session was with the whole group, and we warmed up a very random drawing of a frocked punk having a tanty (don’t ask – I don’t know!).

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Next I steered in a more conventional direction by mixing three suggestions – penguin flying on an icicle + aeroplane, which helped lighten the mood, despite murmurs of dissent from a few boys who obviously did NOT want to draw (more on that later……)

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After this quick burst, Greg took half the group into the gym next door, where some of the local young constabulary helped them burn off some energy, while the other half (mostly girls) stayed for the next round of cartooning.  There were some sparky imaginations in this group, and our next drawing combined lamb dancing on a haybale / monkey holding open the jaws of a crocodile!  There were some especially creative girls in this group, and some hilarious stories – one girl revealed that her goat had eaten her yoga mat…there’s got to be a cartoon in that!

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After this little frolic, everyone was ravenous, and the crew cooked up a mountain of sausages & vegie burgers out on the BBQ – delicious!  Then it was time for the second group, who were mostly boys, and many of them really not interested.  This is always a great opportunity to be honest with them, and to adapt my approach to whatever is going to connect with them.  I’ve worked a lot with disengaged boys, I understand their behaviors, and aside from that, I dont expect EVERYONE to want to draw – and I tell them as much.  So after we had a chat, I started off the session with the simple flipbook idea I often use in my workshops – something that was immediate, hands-on, and that they could have ownership of straight away.  This broke the ice, and we spent the rest of the session drawing one of their suggestions – and so appropriate from a farm culture perspective – a Cane Toad Eating Queensland!  We all ended the day on a high note – thanks so much Greg & crew from Southern Midlands Council, and of course the awesome kids!

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TAS Holiday Workshops, July 2013 – Huonville LINC

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Back home in gorgeous Tassie after my dash to Melbourne, and straight into a full week of cartoon workshops for the Tas school hols, mostly at southern LINC (library) centres – first stop: Huonville LINC, my local.  A small but very inspired group with plenty of wacky ideas!

We kicked off with a combo of evil unicorn / evil rhino / robotic something – and this guy popped out (click to enlarge):




The kids had “evil” on the mind and also requested an Evil Hamburger, which soon turned into Attack of the Burgerzilla!  Lunch will never be the same….






Finally, the oldest member of the group asked if we could draw a crow character – if we’d had more time I would have developed it into something more moody, which was what she was intending (a la anime feel), but as it was I think the crow still worked, and her version (top of page) is fantastic, as is Lily’s below.  Thanks guys, and thanks to Cindy and Jacqui at Huon LINC once again for your ongoing support!


Melbourne July 2013 – Eastern Regional Libraries


Tues July 2, 2013

Flew back to Melbourne briefly to run a day of school holiday workshops for Eastern Regional Libraries, who cover libraries throughout the Knox, Yarra Ranges and Maroondah shires.  Thanks Janet for inviting me to be part of the library school holiday program!  It was a fantastic day, kicking off with a morning workshop at Lilydale Library, then an afternoon session at my old Knox Festival haunt, Ferntree Gully Library.  The theme was Totally Random Stuff, and as usual it was a delight helping to bring the children’s wild imaginings to life!

The Lilydale session was packed – 46 eager attendees, including a handful of brave parents.  After gathering a few suggestions from the kids, I saw “tooth fairy” & “cave troll” and just couldnt resist – see result above!  Now you know why parents tell kids not to stay awake for the tooth fairy….

LLYDLE 8LLYDLE 2I think this may have been a little too ugly for first thing in the morning, as a couple of girls began pleading for me to draw the “beagle” suggestion, which made me think of the old “pip pip, tally ho, ta-ra ta-ra”……you know, dapper english chaps poised at the fireplace… of the dads suggested I add a fox, another kid suggested a pipe, and the scene was set…..what I really love is the little improvised extras the kids added themselves:
LLYDLE 5 LLYDLE 4LLYDLE 13As we hit the home stretch for the session, I did a multiple mash-up for the last drawing, including these suggestions: bilby, platypus, dragon & alien…at first it looked like the animals were fleeing from the alien, then I added the enormous mouth looming from the right, which gave the story an unexpected twist!  Here’s my original, then check out the kids versions, they are fantastic!


LLYDLE 7 LLYDLE 18 LLYDLE 20After lunch I scooted across town to Ferntree Gully for Round 2!  More very enthusiastic kids absolutely brimming with fantastic ideas – very inspiring!  It was great to see some familiar faces from the workshop I did there in March of this year.  We warmed up with something reasonably simple, combining the ideas of: duck, top hat, snake, little fluffy dog and tree…FRNTREE 2

But then things got a little crazy……(above) – combined gnome / turtle / cyborg / dragon / fat cat / spaceship!  Really packed a lot of drawing techniques into this one!  My version:

Lastly we finished off with a funky rock elf – rock on!  Huge thanks to all the kids who came, I had a ball!  And thanks again to Eastern Regional Libraries, Janet Nolan plus Rowanne & Sue for helping to make the workshops such a success!FRNTREE 3 FRNTREE 5

Melbourne June 2013 – Wesley College

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Mon June 17 – Fri June 21, 2013

In 2001, Wesley College approached me to design a cartooning workshop program addressing bullying, for inclusion in a Yr 7 Resilience Program the college was piloting, and which incorporated many other materials such as drama, video, discussion, writing etc.  When Wesley approached me with the commission I had just completed my year-long residency at Pembroke Primary under the mentorship of Kate Perkins (see Yarra Rd PS post), in which Kate & I had used cartooning throughout the school community to address various aspects of emotional communication.

And for the last 12 years since, the Glen Waverley campus of Wesley College have very generously invited me back as Cartoonist-In-Residence, to run the Creative Communication program with the entire Yr 7 contingent each year.  For a whole week, I take the 6 Home groups for 2 sessions of around an hour each, drawing facial expressions, body language, and discussing ideas about respect, bullying, stereotypes etc.  This year, Yr 7 Leader Penny Mudge worked her magic on the timetabling so that every group got an extra third session – more time to play, and to extend on some of the usual skills I teach in these sessions.  In the first session, as usual, we covered facial expressions, but when it came to the second session (drawing scenarios demonstrating body language) the students creativity really began to shine through.  Here are some of the fantastic results:



In all these examples, we drew everyday scenarios that the kids could relate to.  I always deliberately leave out any details that identify the gender of the characters, so that the students can explore stereotypical thinking, and how the nuances of the story can change depending on what gender is allocated to each characters.  It’s always fascinating to see how the students respond to stereotypes like “Boys don’t cry”, “Girls don’t bully boys”, “boys don’t comfort each other” etc.  After discussing these ideas based on the genderless characters we’ve drawn, the students can then assign the characters whatever gender they want on their own drawing.


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In the extra third sessions, we looked at a simple comic strip format, to tell a story between two characters entirely through their facial expressions, without text.  The students are encouraged to think about interpersonal dynamics, sequential story-telling, and how life can offer unexpected outcomes depending on how we respond in the moment!


WES 10Thanks again Wesley College for having me back all these years!  Thanks also to Penny for doing such a fantastic job of co-ordinating a tricky timetable, and to the awesome Yr 7 students who are always a pleasure to work with!  You guys rock!

Melbourne June 2013 – Rowville Secondary College

RWVLLE 2AThurs June 13 & Fri June 14, 2013

Another really rewarding 2-day visit to Rowville Secondary, one of my favourite schools to visit (yes, I know, I’m not supposed to have favourites!).  This is the fourth year running that I’ve been invited to run the Creative Communication workshops there, thanks to the wonderful leader of the Arts Faculty, Robyn Geake.  Each year that I’ve been to Rowville, I’ve worked mostly with a select group of Yr 7 (RIA) students who specialise in various areas of the arts.  We were very fortunate to be timetabled a 4-period block (almost a full day!), which gives us plenty of time to relax into the content – ie emotional communication through drawing facial expressions & body language.  One thing I especially enjoy about the RIA groups is that all the students are already creatively switched-on, that is, I can speak to them directly as artist to artist, in a more creative language.  What’s also interesting is that only a small portion of the group are ever visual arts – mostly they are drama / dance / music focused, drawing is still generally a challenge for most of them.  But thinking laterally, creatively, emotionally, spatially, is very natural to them.  I love being able to convey to them the connections between disciplines – how dance is a kind of linemaking in space through movement, or how injecting expression & personality into a cartoon character is just like embodying a character as an actor.  Eg:RWVLLE 3A

Thanks to Robyn Geake and Rowville Secondary for inviting me back again, and thanks to the wonderful, responsive students there!