Description of the Unit – Students will observe and discuss examples of aboriginal dot painting, from very early examples to the art produced by the culture in present day. Students will use what they learned about color, pattern and symbol in their observations to create their own dot paintings, expressing scenes from nature.
Activity statement – In Aboriginal culture art making is a fundamental form of communication. According to an article by Artlandish, there is no written language for Australian Aboriginal People (click this link for the full article: Aboriginal Art). Nevertheless, Aborginal people have been creatively conveying the stories and histories of their culture to newer generations for millenia by weaving symbols and icons into their artwork. According to the aforementioned article by Artlandish, “The use of symbols is an alternate way of writing down stories of cultural significance, teaching survival and use of the land. The interpretations of the iconography differ depending on the audience.”Aborigine’s earliest documented artwork, found on rocks and done in rich ochres, dates back more than 20,000 years. Below you can see some of the symbols in some Aboriginal art.
According to various articles, it was around the 1970’s that Westerners first viewed Aboriginal art, and encouraged the artists to use canvas and other Western materials to express their incredible work. When their artwork began to be acquired by Westerners, Aborignes began to “hide” their imagery and symbols through the use of dots. This is because the stories expressed in the artwork are considered sacred and belong only to the specific Aboriginal group to which it belongs, therefore the need to hide their meanings from the eye of others. As such, dot painting is not as old as one would imagine.
Objectives for students – Breaking down images into collections of dots gives students another way of thinking about how to express line, contrast, pattern as well as how to create a balanced composition. I ask students to notice and comment on the types of colors use, and the ways in which they are used together, perhaps for contrast or to express harmony or unity; I ask them to find patterns, not just in the direction of the dots and the shapes they create but also the various sizes of the dots; finally, I ask them to find symbols within the examples of dot paintings, and try to interpret them using the key. This is just a fun experiment that gives them the sense that they are cracking a code or solving a mystery.
Goals – Students should…
- Why and how Aboriginal people used art work to communicate.
- What themes are represented within Aboriginal dot paintings.
- How complementary colors create contrast
- How like colors create harmony
- The meanings of the following terms: line, contrast, pattern, shape, texture, composition, harmony, unity and balance
Be able to:
- Recognize Aboriginal dot paintings.
- Describe the origins of Aboriginal art
- Render images and symbols through the application of different colored and sized dots.
Resources and materials –
- Examples of Aboriginal artwork
- A key to Aboriginal symbols
- Acrylic paint
- Multi Colored construction paper
- Dowels in different sizes
- Paper towels
Questions – (While looking at examples of authentic Aborginal art)
- What do you notice?
- What kinds of colors are used?
- What do you notice about the way in which color is used?
- Are the colors complementary or are they in the same family?
- Can you find patterns? What are they? How are the patterns made?
- What do you notice about the dots? Are they different sizes? Are they close together or far apart?
- Using this symbols key, can you find any symbols in these paintings? What do they stand for?
- What do you think of using symbols to express imagery?
- What do you notice about how positive and negative space are used?
- Is this a balanced composition? Why or why not?
- Is it a symmetrical composition? Why or why not?
FORMAL – Did students:
- Recognize color contrast?
- Recognize patterns?
- Use complementary and like colors deliberately to create contrast and/or harmony?
- Create patterns?
- Thoughtfully organize the various elements of their painting into a deliberate composition?
- Group discussion
- Oral responses to essential questions
- Classroom observations
- One finished piece, (use of time and effort)