Book review: Mamie by Tania McCartney
Where do I start with this beautiful illustrated story about the childhood of Australia’s sweetheart, May Gibbs (aka Mamie)!
Tania McCartney has brought the little girl ‘Mamie’ to life in this book filled with references to May Gibbs’ original stories and illustrations.
I highly recommend this book for homes and schools that want to encourage a creative culture for two main reasons. Firstly, this book gives children access to the history of an iconic Australian artist and author, which is great for English, history and Art subjects, in a way that children will enjoy. Secondly, the book describes Gibbs’ inspirational creative way of seeing the world. She spends plenty of time playing in nature, using her imagination and practicing her artistic skills. We get to see Mamie sing, draw, paint, dance, play, bake, sew, explore, observe, imagine and dream. These words and images will make the creative types feel like they’ve made a new, kindred friend.
An adorable, whimsy tale of an inspirational Australian child.
To extend the learning from this book you could:
- Read a May Gibbs book and discuss the similarities and references in Mamie.
- Explore the other wonderful Australian works by Tania McCartney.
- Find some gum blossoms and leaves to paint or draw. Perhaps you could turn some of your illustrations into characters.
- Visit the original home of Mamie, May Gibbs’ Nutcote.
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An art bag is a really important item and needn’t cost you anything. You’re going to want a bag or large pencil case of some sort to be able to get out and about with your art materials. You can use a bag you already have or find something at a second hand shop. Something that can carry an art diary or journal and some pencils or watercolours so that you can get out into nature and amongst the inspiration!
Acrylic paints are a fantastic addition to any creative space. Buy the best student acrylics you can. I recommend 5 basic colours as your first choice, anything beyond that is a bonus. The three primary colours, red, blue and yellow and a black and white will allow endless creativity when it comes to mixing colours. Letting kids mix their own colours is an excellent learning experience and teaches them a lot about painting.
I’ve said the phrase “buy the best you can afford” a few times in regards to materials and tools like paint, paper and paint brushes. Today is different. Today I’m writing about palettes and containers for cleaning brushes. Some artists have particular palette needs for the type of painting they do but if you’re just building a personal creative art supplies kit you can use any number of things that will rinse and mix your art materials. Buy some durable plates and cups to add to your art kit.
Now that you’ve gathered some art materials like watercolour palettes and watercolour pencils you’re going to want to invest in some paint brushes. As mentioned with paint and paper, paint brushes are also sometimes a case of “you get what you pay for”.
If you’re just looking for a variety of paint brushes to support a fun art kit, I would suggest getting a handful in different sizes. A house painting brush is fun for large projects. Some smaller, flat and round brushes are useful and some really fine paint brushes are good for fine work, including outlining. The paint brushes that come with basic water colour sets may get a little frustrating as the bristles are often quite unnatural. Buy the best you can afford and look after them! Here are some tips for caring for your brushes when using WATER BASED art materials.
- DO rinse water based paints immediately after using. Leaving them will dry the paint and that can be hard to fix. Sometimes it may be okay to use a little bit of mild soap to help with the cleaning. Rinse brushes gently in a cup of water.
- DO use cold water to rinse them as hot water can soften the glue that holds the bristles in.
- DO wash the bristles gently so they don’t become distorted.
- DO NOT wash paintbrushes with the brush facing up into the tap water as this will push the paint into the ferrule (the metal part that holds the brush to the handle, where the glue lives). It will also damage the glue, making it more likely that the bristles will fall out.
- DO NOT leave them brush down in a cup as that will distort the shape of the brush. Also, don’t leave them to sit in water as this will damage the handle and the glue inside the ferrule also.
- DO NOT use your painting brushes for glue!
As well as paintbrushes, gather some random painting materials, like sponges, sticks and rollers. Have fun exploring the different effects you can get with the different painting tools.
Watercolours! A colourful watercolour palette is loads of fun. The rainbow appearance definitely draws people in. For kids it can provide hours of painting fun. Add a colourful art diary and you have an inspirational creative gift!
A basic tray, like in the picture for this post, is a great place to start!
Serious watercolour artists are going to want something more substantial and expensive. It’s kind of a case of “you get what you pay for” with watercolour paints. Different watercolour brands have different pigment strengths and quality. If you are really going to get into watercolours, buy the best you can afford. Also buy the best watercolour paper you can afford. The best paints won’t mean much without quality paper. Go to an art supplies store and speak with the sales people about what you need. Most serious watercolour artists already know what their watercolour preferences are so if you are buying for an experienced artist, a gift voucher is a good idea as they will likely have their favourite brands of paint and paper.
Watercolour teaches patience and acceptance of one’s artistic mistakes. It is a beautiful medium that is definitely worth trying.