Monthly Archives: October 2013

Northern Tasmanian Tour, Sept 9 – 12 – pt 4: Waverley Primary School, TAS

Sept 12, 2013

After my 3 days up in Penguin, it was time to head South, halfway back down the state to Waverley, near Launceston.  Tony Brazendale, the exuberant principal of Waverley Primary, had been very excited about his students having some Creative Communication workshops.  Waverley PS works with one of the most challenging demographics in the state, yet it was clear that the school was dedicated to the emotional resilience & well-being of the students. Tony was passionate about giving the kids experiences that model other options in life, and his keen enthusiasm was infectious.

I was pretty overwhelmed at the especially warm welcome I received from the staff & students, and all day the students were just so fantastic – focused, responsive & really appreciative.  I began the day with a couple of storytelling sessions with the Prep / 1s, a fairytale which I draw as I tell it, and at the end there’s a kind of optical illusion and the drawing becomes something else.  It was just magical to watch the little ones’ brains light up in that “Aha!” moment when they saw the new image hidden in the drawing.

During lunch I had a great chat with the art teacher there, she was doing fantastic work with the students, engaging them with really vibrant art projects that would expand their view of the world.  Student artwork was displayed all through the school, making for a really affirmative, colourful environment.

The rest of the day was spent doing cartooning with the remaining Grades, with really fantastic results.  Not only did the kids rise to the drawing challenge with gusto, but when it came to discussing emotions I was surprised by their emotional vocabulary.

Waverley PS was the perfect conclusion to an especially enjoyable tour, big thanks to Tony & the other staff who made me feel so welcome, and to the students for being so appreciative!


Northern Tasmanian Tour, Sept 9 – 12 – pt 3: Montello Primary School, TAS

gang of four


Sept 9, 10 & 11, 2013

So after the morning session at Penguin High, I scooted 20 mins down the road to Burnie, to spend the rest of the day cartooning at Montello Primary School, at the request of the wonderful Josie Courto.  Josie had invited me to be artist-in-residence over 3 days, working with Grades 3 – 6, as part of a program she runs in the school called the Creative Learning Classroom.  The program is fantastic and focuses on learning through the arts, gardening (awesome school vegie garden) and cooking.  What an honour to be invited into such a nurturing and inspiring environment!

Every school has its own “personality”, and despite the spring weather’s crazy outbursts, Montello felt like a “sunny” school to me – ie a school that has a healthy staff ecology, embraces all of their broad & challenging demographic, and genuinely focuses on the well-being of their kids.

Which often means that it’s a genuine pleasure to be there!  Another personal bonus was that Josie had asked for the general Cartooning For Kids format, which is spontaneous & unpredictable and helps to keep my aging brain awake…and isn’t that the reason we teach, to keep our brains engaged?  To keep learning?

Day 1 was Grades 3 & 4, and we explored various types of facial features & expressions, and created new characters – check these out:

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Some classes Josie also selected one or two prep kids to watch and participate, with some amazing (& hilarious outcomes).  Look at what one prep drew – great command of line & shape, and design sense:


Our classroom was right next door to the cooking room, where delicious healthy meals are prepared for students and staff, and mouthwatering aromas fill the air………all day…………mmmm……….

Days 2 & 3 I worked with Grades 5 & 6, using the Totally Random Stuff format, drawing random ideas from the students.  I had a ball – the students were really appreciative and full of creative energy, plenty of ideas & enthusiasm to bounce off!  We managed to create: a football riding a dolphin, a crazy tomato with a cute book, santa claws, a minotaur, a monkey/angel/grandfather, a werewolf with an eye scream, a zombie dragon……..a pig on a stick……?


And moving right along…….

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Here’s the Santa Claws – I love how the variations of size and shape can create such different personalities, even though it’s from the same source:

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The source being the dude himself….

fatcat original

But let’s not forget the army of Zombie Dragons!

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And after 3 days of serious cartooning absurdity, I was bowled over by a surprise farewell gesture from Josie and the kids – a gift box containing a hand-drawn card & home-(school-) made Beetroot Relish, Pumpkin Relish and Mandarin Cordial, all of which are absolutely delicious and very well-appreciated in my home!  Thanks so much to Josie & the students for such a warm welcome, and also for the 44 fantastic entries in the thINK Festival Weekly Drawing Challenge!


Northern Tasmanian Tour, Sept 9 – 12 – pt 2: Penguin High School, TAS

PNGN exam scenario1

Sept 9 & 10, 2013

For the Mon & Tues of my visit up North, I began each day with a 2-hour workshop at Penguin High School.  The focus was Creative Communication, and I was working with a small group of Additional Needs students, a mix of pretty high-functioning kids with various developmental or learning setbacks.  As is usual with the age group, there was a bit of trepidation, a bit of resistance, and a bit of plain old “what’s going on?”, but once they’d warmed a little they were great.  I was concerned that they’d be too easily discouraged if their drawings didn’t meet their expectations, but I was especially impressed with their perseverance & preparedness to push through any challenges.  No-one gave up or spat the dummy, they had great input in our discussions about emotions, and they surprised themselves in the quality of their drawings.  Thanks guys, well done!  Thanks also to their teacher Sarah Van Beek, who was obviously a ray of sunshine & a model of positivity to these students, great to see and much needed by these young people.

The first morning we drew faces & talked about feelings, with some interesting interpretations:


The second morning we worked on body language, drawing a simple Boy/Girl scenario and an all-too-familiar Classroom scenario, both of which offered up some great variations:

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Northern Tasmanian Tour, Sept 9 – 12 – pt 1: Penguin, TAS

Sept 9, 2013big penguin4

From time to time I get to travel a bit further afield in my quest to inspire young minds, and in Tassie this usually means getting to take in a bit more of the amazing landscape of this beautiful state.  This trip was definitely no exception, in fact for the whole week I felt I was on holiday – the scenery was stunning, the emergent spring weather was either gloriously sunny or wet in a kind of cozy misty way, the accommodation was heavenly, and all the schools I visited were warm, friendly & very welcoming!

My base was in a gorgeous little township named Penguin.  It sits on the Northern edge of Tasmania, gazing out over the vast ocean of the Bass Strait towards the mainland, and I really felt that I was at the very edge of the island.  A very endearing feature of Penguin, that appeals to my cartoonist mind, is that the town celebrates its name with all kinds of penguin effigies & imagery, from the bins in the street to the Big Penguin looming by the beach.  Tasmania has lots of these cozy nests of quirkiness tucked around the place.


My accommodation was at High On Penguin, a rock’n’roll-themed B&B with all the mod cons and a stunning view out over the township & the ocean beyond.  Choice of themed rooms include the Janis Joplin (mine), the Jimi Hendrix, the Bob Dylan, the Neil Young and the Joni Mitchell.  Full modern kitchen facilities, plenty of goodies in the fridge, walls adorned with R&R treasures, two huge screens for viewing music vids from the DVD library, and lots of CDs to choose from, even a digital Wurlitzer jukebox in the loungeroom!  I was in heaven!  Owner Gerard was a lovely host, genial and helpful, a teacher himself, and I would highly recommend the experience if you’re ever in that part of Tassie.  High quality, attention to detail, and a very reasonable price.  From here I ventured out each day to Penguin High School and Montello Primary, and what a pleasure it was to come back at the end of the day – a home away from home!

Hobart, September 3, 4 & 6 2013 – Friends School, Yr 7s

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September 3, 4 & 6, 2013

Four years ago, the Friends School (Secondary Campus) in Hobart approached me about running my Creative Communication cartoon workshops with their Year 7s, as part of their Connections program.  Over three days I worked with all the Year 7 home groups, a different group each day, and about 50 students in each group.  What was especially wonderful was that I was given a WHOLE DAY with each group – sheer luxury!  This meant there was plenty of time to run a very comprehensive program, covering facial expressions & body language, as well as many extension exercises such as applying the techniques to comic strips and a simple animation.

Since that first mini-residency, Friends have invited me back each year to work with the Yr 7s, and this year was my fourth visit.  I have always been very impressed with the students here, they have always seemed very switched on, engaged & responsive, and often very confident in their thinking, but nothing prepared me for the amazing response from this year’s group.

The majority of the students were highly creative & skilled in their interpretations of the cartoons I drew with them, spontaneously adapting the ideas to their own characters, and embellishing their drawings with colour and all kinds of fantastic details.  I was stunned at how creative this whole group were, and it was incredibly inspiring!  I’ll let the drawings speak for themselves – I just love how distinct the styles are.  Thanks once again to Friends for inviting me back, and to the teachers for their fantastic support.


face montage 3 face montage 1


comic strip montage


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And we even had time for some random requests as a bit of fun to finish the day – depressed pandas, sad elephants, creepy fat guys, goofy unicorns, just the usual…….(!)