South African moths fly to the USA from Reddam House Umhlanga

I became aware of the moth Migration Project via Twitter. The artist, Hillary Lorenz,  who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico put out a call for crowd sourced paper moths. She wrote on her blog; ‘Anyone from around the world may participate by making paper cut out moths. Moths will be cataloged and attached to gallery walls and ceiling in a giant geographically accurate web. This web will trace the origin location to every participating person. The moths will “fly out” from Brooklyn, NY and “fly” from city to state to country tracing the “migration” pattern of people’s participation. My goal is to create and attract at least 40,000 moths.’

I teach Visual Arts at a high school in Umhlanga, Durban & thought that this project would be a good opportunity to allow my students to participate in an international collaborative project and learn the technique of lino printing.

These are the moths they produced below:

 The image below is a hand drawn image by a Grade 8 student (she didn't have time to convert her image into a print. We decided to send the original work. 

For my own submission I started by searching the Internet for images of local moths and one day, not long after deciding to do this project, one of my students pointed out that a moth that had flown into the back of my classroom. I took some photos of the moth & used google reverse image search to identify the moth. 

It is a Cream - Striped Owl Moth or “Cyligramma Latona”  It has a wingspan reaching 75–100 mm. A long-winged brown moth with white and dark lines and eyespots. The upper sides of the wings are brown, with a yellowish band crossing all the wings and a large eyespot on the forewings.

It is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, is commonly seen around houses is very timid, easily scared & flies low to the ground. The larvae feed on Acacia species. See my interpretation of this moth below: 

I told two other local artists (Lara Mellon & Ana De Vlieg) about this project and by coincidence the same moth flew into their studios. All three of us have made our own interpretation of the "Cream-striped Owl Moth" and sent our Lino printed moths along with the moths that my students created in a package that should have already arrived in the USA.

Above image by Lara Mellon. 
Above image by Ana de Vlieg. 



Monkey thieves, bunnies and minimalism

At the beginning of this year I changed schools to establish a new art department at Reddam House Umhlanga. Reddam House is part of the Inspired group of co-educational and non-denominational international schools. What made me interested in joining the school was their particular interest in developing the creative arts. They have bought the existing Umhlanga College campus & will soon be building the new school and adding to the already beautiful setting of majestic trees and open fields.

When I first visited the school late November I was drawn to the large Natal Fig trees (Ficus Natalensis) that line the walkways outside the high school. 

Since then I have discovered more of them around the school. Like this twisty knotted one below:

My new classroom is a large very open space that has a lot of natural light. I have stripped it down to the bare minimum & intend keeping it uncluttered. 

I used to have a little office at Durban Girls' College, which I miss because it afforded me some privacy, but I have managed to create a little nook for myself. Surrounded by a painting I have started, my pin board & my custom made office chair covered in a vintage style fabric, I have managed to create a little nest. 

Of particular delight are the animals that inhabit the school grounds. The resident bunny and chickens live in a grassy area that borders the parking & monkeys invade the buildings and grounds daily. 

I still have to make up my mind whether the monkeys are a "delight" but for the moment I am enjoying watching them. Whole troops peer at us in the classrooms from the clerestory windows & break into any classroom that is empty hoping to steal food out of kids' lunch boxes. They have become quite adept at unzipping and unlatching these containers. In my first week at school a monkey ran into my classroom while I was holding a Grade 12 class. My only male student in my Grade 12 class, puffed himself up & chased the monkey out. The monkeys are quite sexist & do not react to women & can get quite aggressive. 


Classroom on caffeine 

'...a ritual is not only a gesture of hospitality and reassurance, but a celebration of a break in routine, a moment when the human drive for survival lets up and people can simply be together. This last aspect is to me the fundamental meaning of the coffee break... These are secular rituals that, in unobtrusive but essential ways, help maintain humanness in ourselves and with one another.' -

I aim to start this year teaching by sharing a cup of tea or coffee with my art classes in their first art lesson & hopefully start the relationship with my students on a feeling of conviviality. My Grade 10 & 11 classes will be treated to coffee & tea themed lessons throughout the first term. Our first lesson will be spent discussing the symbolism of tea and coffee and splashing and spilling the liquid onto various surfaces that will later be turned into artworks. In preparation for this term I created a few coffee based artworks myself. The image below of Benjamin was started by dipping the bottom of a mug into coffee & staining the paper. The support is Emtini liner/dressmakers card which has been primed with a white PVA. The drawing was done with the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens.  

The coffee spill below was developed into a profile drawing of Stefan (the following pic)   


 I controlled the stain below by using masking fluid & developed it into the drawing of Ida Sales (Asterisk)   

 I produced a further two drawings in each case started with a spill of coffee. A portrait of France below: 

Portrait of Daniella below. All reference pics were sourced on the Sktchy app. 


Facebook live demo hosted by Sktchy app 

This artwork was made for a sktchy live session on Facebook. Sktchy is an iphone app where artists share selfies & other artists draw them - an international portrait exchange.

When Jordan Melnick (Sktchy app creator) asked me to do this project I was at first terrified because I was unfamiliar with the technology. I did a trial session at school (a huge disaster) our school Wi-Fi wasn't fast enough to accommodate Facebook and probably too many children were on the Wi-Fi system at the same time.

Jordan contacted me this last Monday (29th August) and asked me if I could do a Facebook live session on Saturday 3rd September and this immediately catapulted me into action.


I organised a live session with my grade 10 and 11 students on Wednesday evening.


My husband, Fred, created a set up for me that allowed me to work with a camera directly above my work. (see below)  I mistakenly caused an echo by turning the sound up on my computer when I started filming. Otherwise the session went well - with me managing to communicate with my students. 

I thought I was prepared for Saturday evening. All of my equipment laid out, music downloaded from a royalty free music site (Incompetec), an overhead LED light, all devices fully charged (I thought) & then disaster struck. My ipod wasn't fully charged & stopped playing music & it was too late to charge it. 

I started the broadcast aware that there would be long silences - which can be a bit disconcerting for people watching the broadcast. 


I had pre-prepared a supawood board with a texture pressed into plaster & then sketched out the face in pencil. When I started drawing in the FB live session I started with Faber Castell pens (Grey of Grey range). These pens help establish a tonal/value range.   


I then switched to ink - I use acrylic inks and shellac based inks. The shellac inks are more expensive, but the colours are so vibrant they are worth the price.  


I then used various skin coloured pens, white highlighters and various chalk based markers. (see pics below) 

I was asked what surface I worked on & I turned the piece on its edge so the block could be seen from the side

Sandra (above) asked how I hang these blocks - I usually drill a hole in the back - hammer a nail into the wall & hang the piece from the nail. 

As an answer to Paul's question above - The surface I work on has been sealed with fixative (after I did the pencil drawing). So the surface is slightly repellant. This makes it easy to smear markers.  

I often sand in-between layers of drawing and working with ink & I apply acrylic paint (sample house paints bought from a hardware store) & acry-oil a thick buttery acrylic paint with a palette knife, plastic spreaders or old credit cards. 

Jackie (above)  asked if I seal my work when finished - I do. I use a waterbased varnish. (see the pic with the can of fixative above - the tub of glazecoat varnish is next to the fixative) 

(Stage 1 after the 45mins on Facebook live) 

Stage 2 

(The finished piece is at the beginning of this blog post) Details below: 

I just love the comment Sktchy made 32 minutes into the session:

 Thank you to the Sktchy app for creating a forum where artists across the world can inspire and support each other in our creative journey. 


Teaching art to Grade 8 is not as easy as I thought it would be...

I was very proud of myself in December (2015) when I came up with a theme around which I could structure my Grade 8 lessons. I thought I would look at landscape - starting with looking at the land from above using Google Earth & then in each subsequent lesson I would guide the girls towards the earth in ‘layers’, getting to street level using Google Street View & eventually getting close to the ground and examining things from a ‘bug’s eye view”.

I introduced line drawing to my Grade 8 classes by getting them to draw contour views of the earth using fineliners. 


We watched the following video where the artist uses drawing as a meditative exercise. The girls later told me that this exercise hurt their eyes and gave them headaches. FAIL No.1

We then moved on to a painting exercise -  I taught the girls various watercolour techniques & we were going to use these techniques to create landscape paintings from images sourced using Google Earth. This lesson was inspired by the following post:

The techniques & experiments with watercolour were successful but when the girls started painting they forgot the light playful quality of the experiments and the paintings became overworked and too literal. Most were like the image below. FAIL No.2

I then got the girls to tear up their paintings & re-collage the fragments, they also had the option of including figurative elements from magazines. The paper was difficult to stick down because it was quite thick watercolour paper and many of the girls didn’t enjoy tearing up their work. FAIL No.3

The next phase of the program was to draw buildings in perspective using ‘Google Street View’. I had just taught a perspective component to my Grade 9 classes that they found quite difficult - so I realized that I had to reinterpret this task & make it more manageable for my Grade 8 classes. I taught the basics of one and two point perspective and my Grade 8 classes made notes in their sketch books. 
Once they understood the concept of perspective. I introduced them to the work of Ben Heine & explained how he set up his drawings. Using the following illustrations:

The girls then had to immitate Ben Heine's work but had to use an image that included perspective. They seemed to enjoy this exercise. WIN NO. 1 

I then moved on to two street art exercises that completely won over the hearts of my Grade 8 classes. I told them they were going to do a form of street art within the school & that the other teachers didn't know about it & if they were caught - they had to say 'he knows' - and run away. (I cleared everything with the headmaster of our school before embarking on this project.) The girls came to art dressed in hoodies and sunglasses, I let them see a YouTube video on 'googly eye-bombing' (see below) & let them loose on the school. WIN No. 2
They were very excited, ended up disturbing a few classes, but most teachers thought it was a fun exercise & tolerated the disturbance. Below see a video of a fragment of the experience: 
Some of the 'googly eye' bombing ended up being really cute & I am sure brought a smile to many people who inhabit our school. 
The last project of the term got the girls involved in tape grafitti. I had been looking on Pinterest and other sites at images of schools creating tape grafitti with blue tape. (They were usually students who were older than my Grade 8 girls, so I introduced the idea to them by showing them what other schools had done.)  I gave them one lesson to plan their piece in their sketchbooks & to book a spot in the school with me. 

They then armed with one roll of masking tape each created their temporary tape artworks around the school. The senior girls and the staff loved the transformation of our very formal school into a more visually exciting place. (WIN NO. 3) 
The two girls who produced this last piece filmed themselves creating and taking the work down.