This week we learned a bit about early Australian history. We read some lovely books and had fun making Aboriginal dot art paintings.
We began by reading Explore History: Australia, which explains how the earliest settlers came to Australia from South-East Asia when the continents were still close together and Australia was only a few hundred kilometres from Indonesia.
We read the about the Aboriginal Dreamtime, including the Rainbow Serpent creation myth, in Stories From The Billabong. These are stories are short and sweet, and beautifully illustrated with dot paintings. The book includes a section on the symbols that are used in Aboriginal art.
Aboriginal Painting – What Do All Those Dots Mean?
… Aboriginal paintings often resemble a map of sorts. Traditional symbols are used to represent water, waterholes, clouds, stars, fire, cliffs and sandhills. There are also symbols that represent people, especially people sitting, alone or in groups, and often in front of a fire or camp site.
The painted dots in Aboriginal art can be symbols too, but they are also often used to obscure rather than add meaning – the secrets of the Dreamtime are closely guarded, so dots are added to paintings to conceal sacred symbolism from the uninitiated.
Make Your Own Aboriginal Dot Painting
We took inspiration from Stories From The Billabong and from images of Aboriginal Dot Art to make our own dot paintings. There are so many ways you can do this, and I’d love to experiment with other ideas but, for what it’s worth, here’s how we did it this time:
What You Need
- brown paper – any shape, any size
- acrylic paints
- paintbrush with a blunt, circular end (most kids’ paintbrushes work) or a Q-Tip
- black tempera paint (optional)
- black sharpie (optional)
What You Do
1. Tear around the edges of your paper to make them rough.
2. Scrunch up your paper and unfold it several times. This makes it look tree bark or rock.
4. Keep dotting until your page is filled. This takes some patience, because you need to dip your stick in the paint after every two or three dots. But it’s satisfying work, and combined with some traditional Australian music (see below), even quite meditative.
We were inspired by this tutorial which suggests using an animal as the central image.
Stories From The Billabong mentions several Australian animals that we weren’t familiar with, and we enjoyed looking them up and finding out about them. The children now know that, unlike Perry on Phineas and Ferb, a real platypus does not have a flat head.
What We Might Do Differently Next Time
Next time we might use tempera paint rather than acrylic to colour the central animal, for a less shiny effect. Acrylics work perfectly for the dots, though.
Music To Paint By
We listened to some gorgeous didgeridoo music as we painted. So soothing – I might play this more often!
Join me here:
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