Levels 3-6

In this activity students make and respond to depictions of animals in art, drawing ideas from other artists, artworks, animal stories and animal symbolism. They explore techniques of composition and painting to create their own dramatic animal painting. Students develop their expressive skills by creating drama and evoking a feeling in their artmaking.

Learning objectives

Students will:

  • Interpret and discuss works from the NGV Collection which depict animals to inspire their own expression of ideas and use of materials and techniques.
  • Practise composition skills by using cropping and focal points to create drama
  • Practise painting skills by mixing colour and using brushstrokes to create texture and movement.
  • Identify and explain their own expressive choices, and the influences of other artists in their artmaking.

Workshop instructions

  • Student Examples

    Created by students at an NGV workshop

  • Related Artworks

  • Discuss

    Look at the related works of art and use the following discussion prompts to explore ideas with your class:

    • Which feelings does each work show or elicit? What choices did the artist make to create those feelings?
      Consider the type of animal, use of colour, expression, the scale and focus of the image.
    • How does our personal experience of animals change how we view the images?
      Consider your exposure to animals or stories where animals play a major part. What role do the animals play?
    • Animals are sometimes used by artists to represent human qualities, this is called ‘anthropomorphism’. Which human qualities or characteristics are suggested in the related works?
    • Which angles or views did the artist use, for example a close-up or an aerial view? Why did they use this angle?
  • Resources & materials

    • A4 sketching paper
    • Black A3 cartridge paper
    • Acrylic paint
    • Paint brushes
    • Water pots
    • Palettes or trays for mixing paint
    • Grey lead pencil
    • Images of animals (preferably close-up)
    • Viewfinders in various sizes (a square or rectangular window cut into a piece of paper)
  • Create

    Students design and create their artwork following these steps:

    1. Choose an image of an animal that appeals to you.
      Consider what quality or feeling you are trying to portray.
    2. Place a viewfinder over the image and choose a section of the image to focus your painting on.
      Try zooming in on the eyes or face, or turning the viewfinder to create unusual angles for extra drama.
    3. Sketch your composition onto black A3 paper with pencil.
      Only sketch the part of the image which is framed by your viewfinder.
    4. Paint your animal.
      Start from the darkest colours and progress to the lightest.
      Use brushstrokes to show the direction and texture of the fur or feathers.
      Layer your brushstrokes to build up colour.
      You might like to introduce some brighter colours for dramatic effect, like Marc Chagall did in his painting The lion and the rat, 1926.
    5. Allow your work to dry.
    6. Mount your composition onto a larger piece of cover paper.
  • Present & reflect

    Students can share their portrait with a partner or the group, considering:

    • Which animal did you choose and why? Which mood or feeling does your work create?
    • How did you take inspiration from the works from the NGV Collection when creating your own work?
    • What decisions did you make to make the composition more effective?