Yesterday I worked for Bec's Treehouse Art School at the Christmas celebration in Greensborough, which is located in the north of Melbourne. I must say, I might never get used to Christmas celebrations in 32 degrees, but luckily the kids here don't know any better! 

With the three of us we set up the stand and within no time the kids were running around in our stand. We provided them with different templates for Christmas tree decorations, christmas cards and little Christmas trees (the latter I remember making when I was in primary school a long time ago).

It's great that Bec's Treehouse works all over Melbourne, because I really get to see different sides of Melbourne. Children from all different neighbourhoods and areas are able to enjoy some arts and crafts and most of the art workshops are also for free.

Next to our stand, there were many other stands and also a stage where Christmas carols were sung. It's wonderful to see how extremely excited these children get with Christmas around the corner. They are more than happy to tell you that they wrote a letter to Santa with all the presents they would like to have. Usually not without mentioning they have been very good this year, so surely Santa will give them these presents.

I have one more workshops with Bec's coming up later in December and today is actually my last workshop at ArtPlay. I can't begin to tell you how much I have learned with both these organisations about art workshops and education. It's very exciting to be involved in something you really like, and being in arts education, that is exactly the case.

WHO: Children and parents of Banyule
WHAT: Christmas art workshop By Bec's Treehouse Art School
WHERE: Greensborough, Victoria

NB. Parents have signed photography consent forms for these photos to be published.



Someone who is able to combine my big passions of art and Scandinavia is a person who knows good stuff. And she does. I met Siobhan through ArtPlay here in Melbourne. She is an artist and creates wonderful art, mostly oil paintings and drawings. She is inspired by Scandinavia, a passion we definitely have in common. It is easy to see that she is inspired by the Northern lands, which comes from the fact that she has lived in Norway for three years.

What strikes me most about her art is how delicately she uses her pencils and brushes. The details and precision used in her works makes her work very refined, yet with a strong message. A lot of her works portray the special band that children and animals can share. I also love the fact that she keeps her art works so clean and minimal, just like the Scandinavians are. It shows that a good message through art doesn't necessarily comes forth from very busy, complicated pieces. I very much prefer the minimal, yet powerful art pieces. To me it very much resembles the way people in Scandinavia are. They are humble, have a strong culture and language with lots of mystery to it, but would never force any of that upon you. So often, less is more.

I hope you will get as mesmerized by her mythical work as I did. And although she is way too humble herself to take much credit for the highly qualitative art pieces she creates, I am happy to say I think she is a great, great talent. 

WHO: Siobhan McMahon
WHAT: Scandinavian inspired visual art
WHERE: Based in Melbourne, Australia

WEBSITE: http://siobhanmcmahon.schmolio.com/albums

The following pictures are owned by Siobhan McMahon and come from her website.



As the Icelandic title translates: Coldest and most northern. It is not a secret that I have some fascination for very northern and cold settlements. Not only do I think it is interesting because it is extreme; the people who live in these places are often native inhabitants and have very strong beliefs and ways of surviving which many of their ancestors did exactly the same. 

The photos below are portraits of children in these places. Some of the settlements they live in are in the list of coldest places on earth, others make it on the list of most Northern. Longyearbyen in Svalbard is seen as the most northern inhabited settlement on earth and is part of Norway. There are flights going from larger cities in Norway, something I might consider doing some day.
The coldest settlement is thought to be Oymyakon in Russia. The record of the coldest temperature is measured at -71.2 C in 1924. There are actually some daring tourists these days that visit Oymyakon, so they can experience the utter cold days the city faces each year.

In case you are interested in getting to know more about extreme living conditions in the cold, I would recommend watching a documentary by National Geographic, called Life below zero. It follows several people who live in extremely remote areas of Alaska, most of them above the Arctic circle.

But for now, enjoy the photography of these children living in these extreme settlements.

Note: none of these photos are taken by me. Photo 3 taken by Andrea Gjestvang. Photo 4 taken by Alex Saurel.

 Child in Oymyakon, Russia. Coldest temperature: -71.2 C
 Child in Qanaaq, Greenland. Coldest temperature: -58 C
 Child in Svalbard, Norway. Coldest temperature: -46.3 C
 Child in Verkhoyansk, Russia. Coldest temperature: -69.8 C
Child in Yakutsk, Russia. Coldest temperature: -64.4



My friend Siobhan and I decided to go to the NGV - Ian Potter gallery in town after some coffee. The Ian Potter Gallery has changing exhibitions and often initiatives that include the gallery visitors to be interactive.

Today we found two interactive installations. The first one was made by Emily Floyd, which included cutting and folding a little booklet and then using a good old typing machine to include some words. Seeing a typing machine makes me smile, because I used to have one as a kid, and I loved to type short stories. Not only was I born in a period of time where computers were not all that common, I also just enjoy the simpleness of a typing machine. No internet, no distracting gadgets and tools, just a machine to type words. Without sounding too melancholic, I do sometimes miss those days where things seemed more simple. 

The second installation included hundreds or maybe thousands of PVC letters. We were free to make words or sentences, and I made one of my favourite sentences from lyrics by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Siobhan chose to make her favourite Norwegian word: Kjærlighed.

I always enjoy it when museums are interactive, but to a certain point. I often read about people finding that certain museums have too many gadgets and technology involved, and how it sometimes distracts them from seeing the art for what it is. At the NGV they balanced the interactivity with the 'passive art'. It was just enough to feel like a kid again, and to play around like we used to. But also just enough, to feel like adults, when we were discussing some serious Australian art from the 19th century.

WHO: Ian Potter Gallery
WHAT: Interactive installations
WHERE: Fed square, Melbourne

 Siobhan & the typing machine
 Walking on letters

Og ég fæ blóðnasir, og ég stend alltaf upp



As you might have read, ArtPlay is the art centre for children where I have been volunteering at art workshops.
Last Sunday I was involved in an art workshop about making fish using branches and wool. This workshop was for 2-3 year olds, which is a challenging age. Therefore, parents are usually involved to help their children during these workshops. It's not only interesting for children to learn about arts and crafts, but it also strengthens the band between parent and child.

After the workshops ended, the three of us gave some feedback on the workshop. Feedback and reflection are very important, as there are always ways to improve. Questions that we asked one another were:

- Was the workshops too long? The children at this age have a short attention-span and perhaps it would be better to shorten the workshop, as they started running around after 45 minutes.

- Would it be better to give the instructions beforehand, sitting them down on pillows on the floor? Children at this age easily get distracted and whilst explaining them the goals of the workshop, they were already twiddling at the leaves and wool. 

- Should the process of the fish-making be more detailed? Some parents got the idea of making fishing rods when they were done making the fish with their child. It added an extra effort and in the end the kids were hanging their fishing rods over the railing as if they were fishing, they loved it!

Although giving feedback can sometimes be hard - artists can easily get the feeling they are being criticized - it is very useful in the process of making the workshops better than they already are.

WHO: Children aged 2-3 and their parents
WHAT: Making fish
WHERE: ArtPlay, Melbourne

PS: Excuse me once more for the quality of the photos taken through my phone.

 Preparing the workshop
The impressive preparations of another workshop



As many of you know, I have always been very interested in tribes and indigenous people. I find it so interesting that they have had their own values and ideas for so long, and that even though society has changed tremendously over the past centuries, many of these tribes still believe the same as their ancestors.

One of these examples in Australia are the indigenous people (or Aboriginals & Torres Strait Islanders). The art you will see by the indigenous people does not only incorporate their most important elements (fire, water, wind and earth), but also tells stories about social change. I believe it is important to see how many of these indigenous people feel about these changes that are happening in their lives and how they feel they need to adjust to modern society. The art is often made with natural materials, including wood, fibres, earth pigments and feathers. It shows the core of the earth by using its original materials and through this, it shows the power of the indigenous beliefs.

I mostly like indigenous art that was made before commercialization started. A lot has been written and said about the exploitation of Aboriginal art for economic purposes. Although I do not know enough about it to discuss it in great depth, I do know that I like the art before it was 'art'. When the purpose of making it was solely for the people themselves, for expressing their feelings and beliefs, and not to sell it for commercial purposes.

Even though there are non-aboriginal artists that use dot-painting techniques to resemble the aboriginal art, you will never see me buy that art. I enjoy the real expressions of the indigenous people, I want to hear their stories, their history and their heritage. I am interested in the how and why of their art and what it means to them. To me, art is not and will never be about money, and certainly not about exploitation. Some people might think I am oblivious to the changes, which I am certainly not. But as conservative or naive some may think it is: I will always believe in art for art's sake.

WHO: A variety of Aboriginals & Torres Strait Islanders
WHAT: Indigenous art
WHERE: NGV, Ian Potter Gallery, Melbourne