I was recently invited to a North London primary school’s art club to present a painting workshop. I decided to revisit the exciting theme of anthropomorphic animals; Anthropomorphism is making something which is not a human, more human-like.

After a brief presentation about anthropomorphism and the history of animal/human shaped artwork (the oldest example of an animal/human-shaped work of art is the Löwenmensch figurine. It’s approximately 35,000 years old and is a sculpture of a human figure with the head of a lion or lioness), we looked at the paintings of two modern day artists who use anthropomorphism in their work, Ken Hoffman and Svjetlan Junaković.

The students studied photos of animals and chose one they wanted to base their painting on. Thinking about what era, style of clothing and setting they wanted to adopt, they began to sketch their initial ideas on an A4 sheet of paper. When they were happy with their idea, they were able to draw their anthropomorphic animal on artboard.

Students used acrylic and ready mixed paints for this project.

Many thanks to Weston Park Art Club for letting me use the images below. Photographs by Joanna Leigh.






This creative project is a resource from Access Art. My art students really enjoyed making these. We began by experimenting with drawing inks, seeing what efffects could be achieved by creating washes, blending and mixing colours. Since we did this project just before the summer holidays, we kept to the same Access Art theme, which was ‘The Seaside’.

Students had fun practising drawing beach and seaside related things with the inks, creating some beautiful illustrations.

This project really engaged the children, we had an interesting discussion about what a bowl is, and for this particular art activity, a bowl didn’t have to be a traditional food recepticle. The wave bowls were constructed using equilateral triangles, and grew organically as the were glued together.


Clay coil pots


I was invited to do a clay coil pot workshop at a school in Harringay recently. This is an activity I last did with the Art Cabin students back in 2011, so it was great to revisit it.

We used air-drying clay. To make handing out clay a little easier, I divided it into small chuncks, perfect for rolling into coils (thin sausage shapes). As you can see from the photos, we lined a bowl with cling film and began to arrange the coils to form patterns.

Blending and smoothing the clay in the inside of the bowl will adhere the coils together. The beautiful coil patterns will be seen from the outside. To protect your bowl after painting, add a coat of varnish.

Tips: Don’t make the coils too thin. Don’t let the coils dry out (they become crumbly). Keep a lid or damp cloth over clay chunks to stop them drying out and becoming hard. Use a hairdryer to speed up paint drying times.


ModRoc Polar Bears


This activity was taken from the superb book called ‘Make, Build, Create’ by Paula Briggs, co-founder of Access Art. Making ModRoc polar bears was a very successful project, the children thoroughly enjoyed creating their bears, each and every one had character! Some students made simple plinths to display their bears on, some made accessories like hats and scarves.

The students studied pictures of polar bears and we discussed characteristics. As a warm up activity students painted their own illustrated polar bear with water based paints.

The bears were constructed from newspaper, masking tape and ModRoc.



This art project was linked to KS2 Rivers. Primary school students were learning about rivers in Geography and I was asked to compliment this with an art project.

I decided that we would make clay ‘portrait’ miniatures. The Victoria & Albert Museum have a few on display and I always admired them. When Grayson Perry made the ‘The Earl of Essex’ miniature for his ‘Who Are You?’ exhibition, as part of a Channel Four programme, I really wanted students to have a go at making them.

Students were asked to research animals and plants that make their home in or by British rivers. They had to choose their favourite and paint it on their clay miniature. The Kingfisher was the most popular by far!

Hopefully the ‘how to make’ photos below are self explanatory.

Tips: I cut oval templates for students to use as a size guide.

To get clay to adhere to clay, you need to make slip. Mix some clay with water until it is like thick cream. Roughen up the surface of the two pieces of clay to be stuck together, apply some slip and use a small tool or finger to blend ‘touching edges’ together.

While the clay is still soft, press a wire hanging loop into the back of the miniature. We bent wire around a chunky marker pen to create a loop. If you bend 5mm of the wire ends 90 degrees, this will help stop the wire from dislodging from the clay when hanging.

We used gesso to undercoat the flat oval surface in preparation for painting. If you don’t have gesso, just use white water based paint.

Here are some of the finished miniatures. To complete the look, like Grayson Perry’s ‘The Earl Of Essex’, we tied a bow around the hanging loop.


Girl Diving

This project is based on the ‘Plinth People’ activity, devised by Paula Briggs, author of Make Build Create and one of the co-founders of AccessArt.

This wonderful project will need several sessions to complete. My art groups took six, one hour sessions to complete the sculptures, this included time at the beginning discussing the types of activities we were interested in and illustrating a pose connected to that activity.

I asked the students to think of something they liked doing, for example, swimming, dancing, reading etc. Students drew themselves partaking in their favourite persuit, paying attention to what shape their body would make doing the activity.

After this intial introduction, the students each made their plaster-of-paris plinths and began to create their figure, using wire, fabric and wool. Students could choose whether to paper maché or sew their sculpture’s head.

If we had longer on this project, the students would have made props for their figures, they enjoyed making them so much.






The AccessArt Village exhibition at Farfield Mill, photograph by AccessArt

Last year some of my sewing club students took part in ‘The AccessArt Village’ participatory project devised by AccessArt and supported by Appletons Wool.

The aim of the project was simply to inspire the AccessArt audience of all ages to embroider a line drawing of their home on a 20 cm square piece of fabric. These embroideries were then sent to AccessArt to be cut and mounted to create the AccessArt Village. We are very excited that our embroideries are part of this wonderful installation which will be exhibited around the UK!

The AccessArt Village has its first exhibition at Farfield Mill in Cumbria, 12th September – 22nd October.

There are over over 700 embroidered pieces on display, lovingly created by children, accomplished artists and older generations.

“Whilst highlighting the character and individuality of each piece, the project celebrates the diversity of our audience and reminds us of the universal sanctity of ‘home’.” AccessArt.

The AccessArt Village will be on display at the following five venues – try and visit if you can, it’s sure to be a stunning exhibition!

13/09/2017 to 22/10/2017:  Farfield Mill, Cumbria

14/11/2017 – 21/12/2017: Mansfield Central Library, Notts

17/01/2018 – 31/01/2018: Brentwood Gallery, Essex

20/02/2018 – 20/03/2018: Whitley Bay Library, Tyne and Wear
Only a section of the AccessArt Village will be on display at this venue, as exhibition space is limited.

May-June 2018: Old Gala House, Galashiels – dates to be confirmed. A London date is also being discussed.

For information about visiting the exhibition, please contact the venue or check their web page.


AccessArt Village installation, photograph by AccessArt



AccessArt Village, photograph by AccessArt