Hi there!

My name is Julia and I am a practicing artist and student teacher. I created this blogspace as resource for art teachers/any teachers, future or current! My goal is to discover new exciting material and ideas to engage students by embedding popular culture themes and concepts into our classrooms.

Manga in the art classroom

How can we support student’s development in visual art when all they want to do is draw in a certain style?

That style is manga cartoons and for a long time as a young artist I was fascinated with them too. This is a matter I have encountered recently spending time at a school as an artist in residence. While moving around the class to check on their work I noticed two groups of students drawing manga characters. Their work was incredible, and they were supremely talented at drawing, but they were not interested enough in the class content to stop drawing their manga characters. I thought maybe that it was about my teaching style. I should be doing more to engage them, and I was at fault… but then I noticed it occurring in other visual art classes, regardless of the content being taught. These students just loved manga characters and all they wanted to do is draw them. As an art teacher it’s hard to tell students to stop drawing when they are being creative, but they still need to learn the curriculum content. So how can we encourage their drawing skills but still teach them the curriculum? I decided to research manga a bit more and see if I could come up with some ideas.

Manga is a rich cultural artform that originated in Japan. It is difficult to reveal its specific origins but the artform itself is noted to have been around since ancient times dating back to approximately 670 CE where, “caricatures of people and animals…were found on the backs of planks in the ceiling of the temple” (Ito 2005, p.3). This was uncovered while the Horyuji Temple was being repaired in 1935. The style has changed and progressed over centuries and no matter how far back we trace its origins it began to dramatically gain global popularity in the 1980s. Since then its popularity has only grown and today we can thank manga’s influence for large parts of our, “animation, video games, film, the music industry, ‘character goods’ and… the emoji we use every day on our smart phones” (Pasfield-Neofitou, Sell & Chan 2016, p.11). When you think about manga and everything it has influenced it makes sense that students would be fascinated by it. All over the world adolescents are still engaging with this art form and in Australia, “a recent survey of children’s programming …showed that three out of the six half-hour timeslots on one popular free-to-air channel were held by Japanese animations – Beyblade, Bakugan and Pokémon” (Pasfield-Neofitou, Sell & Chan 2016, p.6). This artform has been around for so long and influenced so much of our current technology and subcultures that it can not be ignored especially in a visual art classroom! We can find meaningful ways to encourage and include this content, “ by  recognizing  our  students’  interests in pop  culture  products…teachers can identify techniques in form and content that complement and enhance the topics taught in their courses” (Seelow 2019, p.79).

Katsushika Hokusai – ‘Gust of wind’ 1820, colour woodcut on paper
Image sourced from – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gust_of_wind._Manga..jpg

I have compiled some ideas for art teachers who would like to engage their students when they recognise their interest in manga. I have included in my references two really helpful books for gaining a better understanding of manga. I would also ask students who the characters are to find out what tv shows, movies or graphic novels they come from. Always remember that, “comics offer a range of art learning possibilities, such as visual perception, drawing and design, art history, and the aesthetic and cultural  knowledge  associated  with  the  visual  arts” (Seelow 2019, p.57). Try to find ways to embed this in your delivery of content. I have included some ideas below.

  • Ask students to bring in a comic/graphic novel that influences them and If they are comfortable with it share it with the class – bring sections of it up on the projector and analyse it for its artistic elements
    – Line work
    – Characters emotions
    – Symbolism
  • Show students examples of artists whose work has been influenced by manga (Takashi Murakami, Roy Lichtenstein, Aya Takano) – You could engage them in reverse chronology activities where they work backwards to discover these artists influences
  • Teach them skills that connect to their interests (Human anatomy vs. Anatomy of an anime character)
Takashi Murakami
Image sourced from – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bflv/3923049233
Roy Lichtenstein
Image sourced from – https://www.flickr.com/photos/kurbanowicz/4413823370

There are endless unique ways you can work manga style into your teachings. These students are interested in drawing and their choice of style should not be discredited but encouraged. I think it is amazing to see students so passionate about art. If we can show them that we appreciate their interests, we can teach them skills that relate to them and still work within the curriculum!

References –

Ito, K. (2005). A History of Manga in the Context of Japanese Culture and Society. Journal of Popular Culture38(3), 456–475. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-3840.2005.00123.x

Pasfield-Neofitou, S., Sell, C., & Chan, Q. (2016). Manga vision : cultural and communicative perspectives . Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Publishing.

Seelow, D. (2019). Lessons drawn : essays on the pedagogy of comics and graphic novels. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Don’t let curriculum suffocate creativity

A lot of points raised in this post resonated with me.

What kind of art teacher will I be and how can I teach to the curriculum without suffocating my students creativity?

Ross Mountney's Notebook

There’s an exhibition about the work of Quentin Blake touring the country at the moment and I was lucky enough to see it.

If you’re not sure who he is just think about your Roald Dahl books, as most of us are familiar with his work through his illustration of them – the BFG or Matilda being among them. Quentin Blake also produces his own books in collaboration with John Yeoman.

I suspect most parents who’ve read a Roald Dahl book to their kids will be familiar with Blake’s beautiful scribbly drawings, the characters and their expressive faces clearly displaying the emotion and telling parts of the story the writer cannot with simple words! He is extremely clever.

The beauty of his drawings when you consider them as art works, particularly as an example to our children, is that they’re not exact representations of what people actually look like. They’re…

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Art inspired by film

I am always on the hunt for interesting ways to engage students in visual art. A lot of students lack the confidence to apply themselves in an art classroom for fear of failing and creating work that their peers will think is bad. Because of this I am always trying to find ways students can show their creativity outside of simply being able to draw or paint ‘good’. A great way to initially trigger students’ engagement is to allow them to create work from their interests and then provide them with the tools and knowledge to do this well. Once they are creating within their comfort zone you can begin to teach them about art history and techniques.  

Recently I came across the work of a designer who challenged himself to create an alternate movie poster a day for an entire year. This graphic designer’s name is Peter Majarich and his 365-movie poster project is an amazing and simple way to create art about and for pop culture. My first thought when seeing his project was how cool and simple it would be to adapt for a visual art class. The beauty of his project comes from the simplicity of his designs. Having seen a lot of the films myself the designs seem so obvious that they could have been the original posters.

Artist – Peter Majarich
Images sourced from – https://amovieposteraday.tumblr.com/

My idea for adapting this into a visual arts classroom would be to allow students to pick their own films, design and create the poster and then present it explaining their artistic choices to the class. While this idea might seem obvious and sound a bit like something students might do in a media studies class there are a number of ways you could adapt this to make sure the work has and references visual art elements. It also provides a great segue for teaching students about minimalism and different art avenues for people who want to pursue a creative career.

  • Start by introducing students to the work of Peter Majarich. His project is available to view in its entirety on his Tumblr – https://amovieposteraday.tumblr.com/ or the VIMEO video posted below.
  • Hold an in-class discussion about his work
    – critique it with the students
    – is this art?
    – what films have they seen out of the posters?
    – are his adaptations effective?
  • Ask students to choose a film over the weekend and when they return to class, they will begin working on their own poster

Students must include at least 3 of the following in their poster –

  • Some aspect must be hand drawn but the majority of the poster can be done using editing software if desired
  • Symbolic elements
  • Colour, linework and shading
  • Photography
  • Text
Peter Majarich – ‘A Movie Poster a Day’

In the creation of this project there are a number of stages where you can introduce students to other artists who reference film and tv in their work. Some of these include – Cindy Sherman, Takeo Hanazawa and David Lynch

Cindy Sherman – Untitled Film Still #21
Image sourced from – https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/cindy-sherman-untitled-film-stills-1977-80/
Takeo Hanazawa – ‘let’s groove (the temptation of st anthony)’
Image sourced from – https://www.galleryside2.net/artists/hanazawa_takeo/

At the conclusion of this project students work would be laminated and line the walls of the classroom/library and this could be something that goes on for years and spans across many classes creating a catalogue of student designed movie poster art works!

Links for further information –



Instagram Poetry

Instagram poetry…. Who would have thought that those two words together refer to a rapidly growing subgenre of poetry that emerged on a social media site? I’ll admit I have liked or shared this poetry without even considering where it came from or its literary merits. After learning about the intensity and growth of this subgenre I became immersed in the idea of it and began trawling through the pages of Instagram poets. There is a massive range of pages dedicated to this subgenre. Some are inspirational and uplifting while others deal with depression and heartbreak. Seeing the number of followers and likes these pages have garnered made me want to learn more so I started researching Instagram poetry to see what I could find out.

This social media-based poetry emerged not long after the application Instagram was released in 2010 but over the last five years it has really gained momentum. To break it down Instagram poetry refers to short, “multimodal poetry… utilising images, text, filters and hashtags, to publish work… and gain feedback from, a global audience, consisting of the app’s 700 million active monthly users” (Kovalik & Curwood 2019, p.1). These posts are sometimes accompanied by drawings or appear as text layered over an image. This is a form of poetry for the 21st century and has become significantly meaningful among millennials because, “as a subgenre, Instagram poetry combines poetry and self-help literature” (Pâquet 2019, p.1). It allows readers to create their own meaning from the work and reaches different audiences in diverse ways. Since it has gained popularity critics have been quick to discredit it and not consider it as a true literary from. However, “to argue that as academics such a popular form of poetry is too lowbrow to be considered serious sets up damaging binaries that ignore the importance of the poems as popular cultural products” (Pâquet 2019, p.7). More and more ‘Instapoets’ are becoming published authors and we can not ignore the merits of this art form.

Through my research I soon began to realise how something like this could be used to facilitate learning in a variety of educational contexts and I will elaborate on some of the ideas I came up with below.

In a classroom this subgenre could prove extremely useful for engaging students. It comes from a platform that so many of them know and use daily. Some of the poems deal with themes that relate to the adolescent experience. One obvious example of how this could be applied would be within an English classroom, while teaching students about poetry. This could be furthered by engaging students in a debate on this art forms merits and whether they consider it to be poetry.

As a practicing artist and teaching student I immediately thought of the amazing applications of Instagram poetry for a visual arts class. It could be presented to students as an art form or even used as stimulus in the creation of experimental works. The ways it could be applied in visual arts are limitless and it makes for brilliant stimulus because it will encourage critical and creative thinking by helping students uncover meaning within art works!

Here is a little activity you could run within senior art or junior secondary art classes to use Instagram poetry as stimulus in your classroom.

  • Start by selecting a range of age appropriate poems from Instagram. I have included a handful below so don’t forget to take note of the authors and their pages.
  • Try to choose at least 30 you like and would be appropriate for your class.
  • Print and laminate them ready for your lesson.
  • Students browse through the poems you have selected and pick one that resonates with them or that they find intriguing.
  • Students will now create a series of works responding to that poem.
    – How they interpret it is entirely up to them and the materials they use are to be selected by them. With many of the poems available on Instagram already having artworks that correspond to them this simple activity allows lots of points of reference to help students gather ideas.
Authors – Rupi Kaur & Atticus
First two images sourced from – https://www.instagram.com/rupikaur_/?hl=en
Second two images sourced from – https://www.instagram.com/atticuspoetry/?hl=en

This activity could be adapted to work over a lesson or a series of lessons and it’s a great way to get students to consider how to take meaning from stimulus. To expand on this activity students could create their own short poems and create art pieces about them as well. There are countless ways to include this modern poetry medium in your classroom.

I think it is incredibly important to incorporate popular culture artefacts like Instagram poetry in the classroom because it creates meaningful learning experiences that relate to students lives.

“The poets create valuable cultural products and are therefore important cultural artists.”

(Pâquet 2019, p.7)


Kovalik, K., & Curwood, J. (2019). #poetryisnotdead: understanding Instagram poetry within a transliteracies framework. Literacy. https://doi.org/10.1111/lit.12186

Pâquet, L. (2019). Selfie‐Help: The Multimodal Appeal of Instagram Poetry. Journal of Popular Culture52(2), 296–314. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12780

Shusaku Takaoka Juxtaposes Pop Culture with Classical Art for Satire

This is such a wonderful idea and would be very useful for teaching students about remediation in visual art!

Scopic Impulse

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Shusaku Takaoka Juxtaposes Pop Culture with Classical Art for Satire.

Shusaku Takaoka is a Japanese graphic designer author of these witty and surprising illustrations. The artist is inspired by our modern society to juxtapose visuals who form a funny set and sometimes denouncing aspects of an ultra-consumer and over-connected world.

Mixed media art is something that fascinates us, because it leaves so much opportunity to see the old blend with the new.

Shusaku Takaoka, is taking this idea to a whole new level with their graphic design artwork that combines classic works of art with modern day photography and pop culture.

Opinions on the art could very easily clash due to some seeing it as an insult to the original pieces, while others praise the artist for their innovation.

On top of that, the stark contrast in certain pictures brings about the harsh realities of the differences between what was…

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