Paper+Mixed Media

book cover

Drawing Projects For Children by Paula Briggs.

Black Dog Publishing.

Reviewed by Julianne Negri


How would you like a drawing book that encourages risk taking in art? A book that emphasises process over product? A book that encourages experimentation within guidance? A book that is full of messy-get-your-hands-dirty drawing projects? In short, a book with smudgy fingerprints all over it? Well if these things tick your boxes like they tick mine, Paula Briggs’, Drawing Projects for Children published by Black Dog Publishing is the art book for you.

Paula Briggs has not only created a beautiful object with this book. She has created a welcome antidote to a world (wide web) full of outcome based children’s activities that seem to be all about the photo opportunity to display on whatever platform – blog/insta/facebook/twitter – a parent chooses. She says in the section aimed at the facilitator:

“For children to get the most out of drawing, they need to be encouraged to push beyond what they consider ‘safe’ (‘safe’ drawings are those in which we know what the outcome is going to be before we have even started making them) and to take risks. By doing so they will widen their concept of what drawing is and what they are capable of achieving.”

DP4K-JN- Review pic1

This is very much a gorgeous(smudgy) hands on book, divided into two sections – warm up drawing exercises and more in depth projects. So the only real way to review this book was to try it out. First – rustle up some children (fortunately not a challenge for me). Here are two I prepared earlier. Pepper and Wanda are active creative 7-almost-8-year-olds.

pepper and wanda final

The book is firmly aimed at children but without any dumbing down of language or “fun speak” or the sort of cutesy Dr Suess sort of language you often find with this target audience. For example:

“All of the projects in this book also use a huge range of drawing materials from inks and watercolours to graphite and pastels. Remember, great drawing experiences are not always about the outcome, but often about the things you learn when you experiment. So get ready to try out some new techniques, and make some wonderful creations!”

This tone generates respect for the child artist, for the materials being used and for the activity being undertaken. I read sections aloud to the kids first and we discussed some of the concepts – risk taking, process, not worrying about “mistakes”, no rubbing out etc. These are hugely neglected concepts in the world of a 7-almost-8-year old’s art practice. They are at an age where they lose the earlier wildness of creativity and have been firmly indoctrinated into school ideas of right and wrong and drawing like the person next to you, with a seemingly strong preoccupation on getting eyes and noses especially “right”!

While Paula Briggs suggests this book is aimed to be used independently by children, I found it does benefit from focused facilitating. And for kids this age? Fairly strong facilitation is required. Fortunately I had a background in art and understood the materials and requirements of the tasks, but it is written with point by point instructions, a colour coded idea of levels of intensity and a material list like a recipe and is therefore very accessible. For preparation we made a trip to the local art shop with a list in hand – lots of newsprint paper, various pencils, charcoals and pastels and some ink – and we were ready.


We began with some warm ups which were wonderfully fun and challenging. Just look at the concentration on these faces.


This “continuous line drawing” warm up was a terrific way to display process over outcome. Pens, paper, still life and go. The kids had to look at the object and draw it while not lifting their pen from the page. They were happy to keep trying this for ages!

drawing warm up final

Our second warm up was “backwards-forwards sketching”. This was a good way to focus on looking and observing while slowing down the hand and creating texture.



My kids are very physical and these drawing ideas are also very physical – hand-eye coordination, large gestural mark making and sustained concentration. We interspersed the activities with kicking the footy in the back yard to freshen up.

We enjoyed perusing all the projects in the book and the kids have ear-marked many they want to try asap. But the obvious “project” to undertake right away was the “Autumn Floor Drawing”. We ran around the house and street collecting leaves, seed husks, plants and all things Autumnal.

autumn box final


I found myself joining in and rediscovering the joys of charcoal and of delicate lines and shading in a way I hadn’t indulged in years. It was so relaxing, for me and for the kids, to play with the materials without any pressure on the result.

autumn3 final

Drawing Projects For Children, while not completely independently accessible to younger children, actually benefits from involving a facilitator as well as the child. I found that Paula Briggs language and ideas generate an inspirational and stimulating practical art experience. Through warm ups and projects she extends children’s idea of mark making and drawing into a new realm. It challenges children (and teachers and parents) to explore, take artistic risks and to discover the fun inherent in drawing when there is no pressure for the outcome. It is a book we will return to and from just one day of experimenting it has already inspired these two kids to observe things a little differently and to think more about how to represent their world through art.

Drawing Projects for Children is highly recommended for those who love messy art. For those who want to encourage careful observation, thoughtful mark making and inspire artistic processes. For those who understand that experimentation and sustained exploration of a medium is more important than a quick simple art activity that results in a picture perfect photo opportunity. Go get the book, some supplies, some kids and get your fingers dirty.





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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

My crafty inspiration board on pinterest is an eclectic mix … lately I have been interesting in collection stamping and printing ideas …


Barry Friedland is the owner of Thumbtack Press, a curated, open edition art print store with top lowbrow, illustrator, and character artists from around the world. Read the TTP blog and the Tumblr.


It’s possible that, thanks to technological advances in printing, we’re living in an age with as much change and new potential for culture as the generation of the printing press, or the steam engine. Aside from online stores that allow artists to reach and sell directly to fans and collectors without middlepersons taking a cut, digital printing has reached a level so advanced that the whole notion of art editions has exploded.

Limited editions, at one point, meant that an artist created some kind of print or carving or cut or type, etc., and used a press to literally press different editions of the work onto another piece of paper. These presses could only churn out a handful of prints because eventually the cut and the ink would wear away. Hence limited editions, with the first prints in a limited edition valued higher because they were closer both physically (with fresher ink) and in reproduction to the original piece.

Enter digital printing. With digital printing, high quality cameras can scan any work of art, no matter its materials, and high quality printers use high quality inks to create a print. These digital reproductions are still called prints because that’s what they are, and they create an entirely new set of possibilities.

Kill Me If You Can CHRIS LYLES

Now, there are three levels at which you can buy art:

Level 1: The original. The original work of art can run in the tens of thousands in the genre we’re concerned with, which is a pretty penny for most of us. There’s also just one original! So, you know, good on you if you manage to own only originals, but it’s simply not feasible for most of us.

Level 2: Limited editions. Limited editions are replications of originals, produced in limited numbers. So whereas there is only one original, there may be some 25, 50, or 200 limited edition prints. These are often sold with their number in the print written somewhere in the margins (a habit picked up from the days when the lower numbered prints were closer to the original than later prints). When limited edition prints are printed digitally instead of on a press, they are usually less expensive than physically printed prints (and the original), but can still often price in the hundreds of dollars.

Level 3: Open, or unlimited, editions. Open editions are literally unlimited. Because of the digital printing technology that prints the 5,000th print with the same quality of reproduction as it prints the first or second print, artists can sell an infinite number of open edition prints. Because there are so many of them, their price is decidedly the most affordable of the three. Thumbtack Press sells open editions.

Cycles #2 by Colin Johnson

Because you can print infinite prints, and because they are so much more affordable than limited edition prints, it suddenly became obvious to me that artists could reach a much bigger base of collectors if they sold open edition prints. And what’s more – think of all the young people who, with limited budgets through their university years, for example, can now afford a high quality print of great art that was previously unattainable for them.

That’s what Thumbtack Press is now. It’s a curated community of artists and art lovers, people who love a particular aesthetic, yes, but also people who appreciate having access to art at affordable prices. Our various paper, canvas, and framing options are just a bonus. The key tenet is a shared passion, amplified by the technology of our age.



It’s book month at

Sew Wild: Creating With Stitch and Mixed Media By Alissa Burke, Published by Interweave Press; Pap/DVD edition (September 27, 2011).

Alissa Burke has done an outstanding job with this book. I am in love! Sewing, printing, painting, glueing – to create different effects and gorgeous accessories. The main part of the book is the techniques – detailed instructions on various surface design techniques, along with using and understanding colour and pattern make this book very different from your usual project based books. Along with the techniques are examples – yes! fabulous gorgeous samples of colour, pattern, materials and design.

There are projects too – simple and fun – and made to put your new found skills to work – love the obi belt and graffiti pencil case – pictured above.

Plus a bonus project make a fish mobile – super cute!

Giveaway now closed

Now because I know you want one of these books – Interweave is generously giving TWO whipup readers a chance to win a book – you also will get an eBook to go along with the print addition. So leave a comment here – letting us know your fave mixed media format – you have 48 hours to enter and winners will be chosen at random and contacted via email. Thanks so much! Winners have been chosen via random number generator – they are: #84 Gravy, and #18 Jinty – you have been contacted via email.


November: Month of books at

At Home with Handmade Books: 28 Extraordinary Bookbinding Projects Made from Ordinary and Repurposed Materials (Make Good: Crafts + Life) By Erin Zamrzla, Published by Roost Books (April 12, 2011). Browse inside.

Erin Zamrzla is a bookbinder and paper artist – her love for her craft is obvious – and her skills and style are showcased in her first book – published through Shambhala in their Roost range of books under the Make Good series – which is ful to the brim of fabulous books – not a dud amongst them: This whole series is simply designed and stylishly photographed – with very easy to follow instructions.

From flutter books and idea files to various methods of Japanese binding and using lots of interesting and unusual materials along the way – including sponges, socks, fabric as well as old books, papers and cards. I love the sweetly themed books – like the secret journal which has a lavender sachet cover so you can keep your journal tucked away with your linens. I love the peek-a-book made for a child and filled with small doors revealing cut out images. A recipe book features an easy wipe cover, and a cleaning book cleverly uses a sponge as the cover. With images at the front and instructions as the back – this book serves as part inspiration and part practical manual.

The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life By Lisa Occhipinti, Published by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (May 1, 2011).

A very clever book by artist Lisa Occhipinti, beautifully photographed and presented by Melanie Falick Books – they always have stunning photography – this book could easily double as a coffee table / conversation book.

The three images above are some of my favourite projects from the book – but all the projects are clever – with a neat play on words and very creative uses for old books – both the covers and the pages are recycled in various and interesting ways. A sewing book cover is turned into a sewing box, a book with a title “five minute biographies” becomes a mirror, “and tell of time” becomes a clock. Books are turned into book shelves and birdhouses and ornaments. While the pages from old books are folded and collaged in different ways – they become a wreath, a “Novel firescreen”, and a “Literary Lampshade”. The “Pagework quilt” (pictured above) might be my favourite project from the book – I love the faded colours, the use of imagery – and they are actually sewn together. Lots to discover and delight within the pages of this book.

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