Magpies Over a Dam
Term: 3 Year: 2007
This artwork was inspired by Rick Amor’s painting Magpies Over A Dam. Magpies and muddy dams are familiar
images for the students living in Christmas Hills and Toolangi, in the Yarra Valley, Victoria.
In the first lesson (1.5 hours) we discussed dams – what colour they were, how much water they had in them and
how the water changes colour depending on whether it is sunny or overcast. The students had to decide on
the viewpoint they would use and we discussed what an aerial view would look like, a side view etc. What
colour would their dam be? What would the edges look like? Would there be reeds, grasses or trees around
The students made quick sketches to decide what view they would use. I explained that the
dam would be painted on thin cardboard, but no brushes were allowed. Some of the tools used to apply paint
were rollers, sponges, rags, sticks and leaves. To mix brown I used a recipe that required the students to
use a 50 cent sized drop of yellow, a 10 cent sized drop of red, and a dot (less than 5 cents worth) of black
or blue. Pieces of bamboo, sticks and the edges of firm cardboard were all used to print grasses and trees
around or over the dam. Most of these were printed using a black or dark coloured paint.
photocopied magpie pictures from a bird book, and we discussed the shapes and black and white design of the
magpies. The students then made charcoal sketches of magpies on to newsprint.
In the next lesson, I introduced Rick Amor’s painting, Magpies Over A Dam. We looked at the images in the
painting and talked about and compared the colours and shapes with the students’ paintings. We briefly
discussed what the figure was doing in Amor’s picture, but did not dwell on this aspect of the work.
The students then drew two or three large birds on Cartridge Paper. The students chose what media they would
use to achieve a flat, sharp contrast. Most used oil pastels (use white first to avoid black smudges), markers
When finished, the birds were carefully cut out and arranged over the dam, and finally glued
into place. The finished pictures were discussed by the students and compared to Rick Amor’s work.
Visual Arts Teacher
Christmas Hills and Toolangi Primary Schools