Faux Bark Paintings

I highly recommend the Usborne book Art Treasury. It is almost like a mini art curriculum, full of short art history lessons about a wide range of artists from all different time periods and cultures AND there are corresponding projects for each artist! (FYI: I loved this book before I became an Usborne Book EC. Their art books were some of my  favourites when I taught art.) My son and I have been having a great time working on projects in the book and learning about different artists.

bark painting

Recently we read the pages on Johnny Bulunbulun, an Australian artist who works with the traditional Aboriginal art medium of bark paintings. After learning a little about Bulunbulun, we got to work making our own faux bark paintings using brown paper bags, oil pastels, and black watercolour.

Start by tearing your brown paper bag into a shape of your choosing. We went with a rectangle-like shape. Then use a pencil to draw a large animal like a lizard or turtle (something native to Australia) or go totally the opposite direction and create a made-up fantastical creature! The point is to make art with your child and to have fun doing it, so let him or her use their imagination to create something that speaks to them. My son picked a lizard.

bark painting3

Draw with a pencil and draw light so it is easier to erase if you want to change something. The easiest way to draw is to break things down into basic shapes. The lizard body? An oval. His head? A more pointy oval. The tail is a simple curve you fill out. Legs? Start by making them like bent sticks, then add toes and a second bent stick to connect and give that first stick leg dimension. Keep it simple. Maybe a tongue sticking out and a pair of eyes, but not much more.bark painting4bark painting5

Then get out your oil pastels. Choose light & bright colours, like white or yellow. Go over every pencil line you made with one colour. Then add simple patterns like zigzag lines and dots with the other colour.bark painting6

Final step? Cover your paper with a wash of black watercolour paint. Watch the magic happen! The paint won’t stick where the oil pastels are and the black paint makes your pastel lines pop beautifully. bark painting7bark painting8

There is another way to do this, which is the way the book suggests (covering your paper in oil pastel stripes, painting the whole thing, then scratching away paint to reveal oil pastel and make your image that way). The method we used, though, is more forgiving of making changes as you go.

bark painting2

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