Inspired by scientific exploration processes, students from Avondale State School invited Flying Arts Alliance’s, Kayako (Kay) Watanabe to facilitate a workshop on how to record their observations artistically.
Situated approximately 30km from Bundaberg, Avondale is small farming community that trades in sugarcane, macadamia nuts and cattle. Nestled beside the Kolan River, Avondale State School has a long history involving the founders of the sugarcane industry. The school was established in 1895 and continues to support students in Prep to Year 6. This year only twelve pupils are enrolled, split evenly between upper and lower primary. Despite their age range, the students work and play together cohesively to uphold the school’s core values of ‘Respect, Responsibility and Safety’.
Prior to the printmaking workshops, the school received a special visit from Rebecca McLean, Education Officer, at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery. Rebecca was able to share with the students some print works from the Gallery’s Art Collection, building the children’s background knowledge of the medium and maximizing their excitement and anticipation for Kay’s impending arrival.
Over three days, the Avondale State School students participated in a variety of printmaking activities facilitated by Kay, centered on (but not limited to) the theme of bugs. After learning about insects in science, the students were encouraged to apply their scientific knowledge to design suitable plates for printmaking.
On the initial day of the program Kay introduced the students to a number of printmaking tools and processes including relief, intaglio, collagraph, dry-point etching and hand printing using a barren. She explained how to correctly use the equipment and how to set up their plates, ready for printing on day two. Kay recalled, “At the beginning of the workshop, I told the students that I wanted them to challenge themselves and experiment.”
The children were thrilled when the local news team arrived at their school to report about their unique printmaking program, available to them thanks to Flying Art Alliance’s 2018 Small Schools Fund.
Throughout the day Kay worked alongside the School’s art teacher, Jenny Neubecker, encouraging the students to not be afraid of trying new ideas. “I believe it is important for young people to feel capable and confident when they go through their school life. In the end we had some wild and lovely artworks,” said the facilitator fondly.
Left image: Kay with Marlee and her two favourite prints. Middle and right image: Kay helping Max print with a barren. Photographer: J. Neubecker
On day two, the emerging artists took their printing plates with them on the bus, as they headed over to North Bundaberg State High School’s art room to use the flat bed printing press. That day each student created their own collagraph, intaglio and monograph prints using the press, and the older students also tried their hand at dry-point etching.
“Students found the printing process magical and fascinating. They marveled at the prints as they were revealed and were enthusiastic about printing repeated images. All students achieved success and could tell you about their favourite prints that they created.” Reflected Avondale State School’s Teacher, Jenny Neubecker. “The project, as a whole, has inspired and motivated me to do more printmaking with my students in the future.”
Left image: Tilly discovering her print. Middle image: Kai presenting his work. Right image: Christian displays his first print. Photographer: J. Neubecker
On the final day, the children were given the opportunity to manipulate and enhance some of their prints that were created during the previous two days using crayon, watercolour paint and mixed media collage.
At the end of the session, the children reflected upon their exciting experiences by writing and drawing about them in their artist journals. They also selected their favourite work to frame and prepare for display in a group exhibition of their works later on in the School’s Library. (Left image: Reflection work by Christian, year 2)
Jenny described how the process of selecting prints and presenting their artworks formally, (in frames for exhibition,) has resulted in the students being particularly proud of their final achievements.
The art teacher said, “This project provided a special opportunity for students to engage with a practicing artist to learn and develop new skills. The tasks were interesting and challenging but achievable and students engaged enthusiastically in all activities. I have a bank of new printmaking ideas that I can now try with students myself, and Kay was also very encouraging of my own arts practice.”
Jenny continued, “Although community engagement with this project was important, it was not a primary goal. Even so, the project has provided an opportunity to strengthen ties with the local High School and Art Gallery, and has also provided an opportunity for parents to engage with students’ learning in visual art.”
Avondale State School student’s artworks on display in the school’s Library. Middle image: Max (year 2) with his prints. Photographer: J. Neubecker
The Small Schools Fund allows schools with 50 or less students in regional and remote Queensland to apply for funds up to $5000 per school year for curriculum linked projects (inclusive of facilitator fees, travel and accommodation). This opportunity allows schools to work collaboratively with an experienced artist to plan and deliver a visual arts incursion (workshop/residency) of your selection to create an arts rich experience for students and the wider school community.
A special thanks to Avondale State School’s Jenny Neubecker, who was fundamental in planning the project and for providing the on-ground transport for the facilitating artist each day.
Interested in reading the Lesson Plan for this workshop and others? Head to our Resources page on the website.
Kay Watanabe is a Brisbane-based visual artist whose main medium is printmaking. Recently, she has diversified into painting, drawing and sculpture. Born in Tokyo, she moved to Australia in 2005. Kay actively exhibits in shows and art fairs in Australia and internationally, which includes her solo shows in Tokyo in 2016. Her works have also been selected for numerous shows and she was awarded various awards and commendations. Most recently in October 2017, Kay was awarded 3rd Place in New York International Miniature Print Exhibition to which over 600 works by 235 printmakers around world were submitted. Kay also teaches printmaking through various organisations, including Queensland’s art peak body Flying Arts Alliance Inc., Artisan, and State Library of Queensland (SLQ).