Making an entrance – first impressions

Having just been to Morocco I’ve been reflecting on the many intricate and beautifully embellished doors and gateways I saw, and how these enticed me to enter with an expectation of grandeur beyond. And yet, I also entered astonishingly beautiful establishments via obscure, plain doors, often in non-descript walls that gave no hint of the architectural treasures inside.

As a graphic designer, I have always placed emphasis on the ‘visual gateway’. In relation to content, this may be the cover of a book, a wine label or the home page of a website. Yes, I know, you should “never judge a book by its cover”, and yet I am intrinsically drawn to a book by its cover, meaning that I have consciously made a selective decision before I read any content.

After my Moroccan experience I still feel that first impressions are really important, but I will try to be more aware of ‘hidden gems’ behind plain facades. I know I already do this with people – rather than make judgments based on exterior personas, I look for the true character within. Maybe I need to be more sympathetic to visually unappealing gateways, but when it comes to content, I know I will always promote the importance of a well designed and visually appealing entry image for a first impression.


Behind this beautifully adorned window is a small, simple room once used by students


Old Medina alleyway, Marrakech


A beautiful doorway in a nondescript lane, Marrakech


Peace and tranquility pervade in the proportions of this courtyard, Marrakech


Courtyards provide quiet spaces filled with light, Casablanca


Entrance to a suburban home in Casablanca


Inner spaces open to the sky


This beautiful Riad couryard with pool is behind a relatively unassuming door in the old Medina of Marrakech


Beautiful entrance, Casablanca


Beautiful camouflage

I always loved using camouflage as a theme when teaching art because it generated such a different way of seeing and thinking. I found it often inspired students to think more creatively. Artists have embraced the concept of camouflage in may varied and beautiful ways. I have chosen a few examples that visually inspire me as an artist, but the theme can be useful for any area of study that requires creative and innovative thinking.

Art Wolfe-Impala in brush

Art Wolfe – Impala in brush

Camouflage dog

Dog camouflage

Body Painting-by Cecilia-Paredes

Body Painting-by Cecilia-Paredes

Body Painting-by Cecilia-Paredes

Body Painting-by Cecilia-Paredes

Body Painting-by Cecilia-Paredes

Body Painting-by Cecilia-Paredes



Emily Hadden

Emily Hadden – shirt

Emma Hack 1

Body painting by Emma Hack

Body painting by Emma Hack

Body painting by Emma Hack

Body painting by Emma Hack

Body painting by Emma Hack

Floral floral

Floral overlay


Black and white is always impressive

hand book

hand book

Rene Magritte National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Rene Magritte National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Steven Meisel

Artist – Steven Meisel

Street Art

Street Art – artist unknown

Tree hotel Sweden

Tree hotel Sweden

Photo by Valerie Belin

Photo by Valerie Belin

Indian bridal henna

Indian bridal henna

Photographer- Renee Keith

Photographer- Renee Keith

all images via

I particularly love the work of Emma Hack and Cecilia Paredes.

Emma Hack is an Australian artist. Her recent collection of work was inspired by Verushka who in the 1960s and 70s painted herself into rustic walls and naturalistic settings. Emma’s first ever human body art wallpaper camouflage took 19 hours to paint.

Cecilia Paredes was born in Lima, Peru, and currently lives and works between San Jose, Costa Rica and Philadelphia. Her artistic career began as a painter but her creative concepts evolved, revealing themselves first in three-dimensional objects, then through photography. Paredes paints her own body to blend in with the background.

Transition to autumn

A new season is upon us in southern Australia and this brings a sense of change and anticipation, so I have used autumn as my inspiration for a selection of images and a palette of colours.

Whether you teach in the field of physics, art, music, languages, community services, engineering or construction, images combined with a theme can add a new dimension and interpretation to concepts you want to get across.

Themes that I want these images and colours to connect with include ‘transition’, ‘modulation’ and ‘evolution’.


Paul Klee colour

Paul Klee colour field



Orange dress

Chinese lantern

Chinese lantern flowers


Country gate

Country gate

Bicycle and autumn leaves

Bicycle and autumn leaves



All images via

happy easter

Contrast or harmony?

Here’s a collection of images that can be viewed in the context of contrast or harmony.

Not everyone will agree on which of these images could be categorised as contrast or as harmony (or both), and that’s the wonderful thing about imagery – it’s so individual. Most of us will perceive and interpret images based on our personal experiences, situation, mood or circumstances. Some of you will be analytical about your categorisation, most will react spontaneously and intuitively.

Look at these images and once you’ve made a choice, try to define what the elements are that helped you to decide if the image represents contrast or harmony, or if  (and how) it can be described as both.

Images are a good way to promote discussion in a learning environment. No one sees exactly in the same way – looking, re-acting and then analysing images allows us to ‘see’ through other people’s eyes and to learn about each other’s sense of perception. Initial reactions are a start, but when you take the time to think more deeply about what an image ‘says’ to you, a new level of understanding will emerge.

As an artist, the images I have chosen have an artistic appeal to me in relation to colour, space, design and form. As an educator, you could choose any range of images to promote specific discussion related to your area of expertise.

MARIMEKKO patterned hat spring

MARIMEKKO patterned hat spring 2013

Face design

Face design:

Boy and water

Boy and water lilies

Red and

Red and Paris


Super dad

Pink Orange Blue

Pink Orange Blue

Victor Vasarely

Victor Vasarely

Surma Man, Ethiopia

Surma Man, Ethiopia

George Harrison & Bob

George Harrison & Bob Dylan

Black and

Black and White

Village WindowPhotos by Tony Kearney on Flickr

Village Window
Photos by Tony Kearney on Flickr


Twigs Sculpture


Spiral stairway


Organic highway


People and their

People and their shadows



Bror Johansson




prickly pear frozen

prickly pear frozen margarita

Turkish artist Mehmet Ali

Turkish artist Mehmet Ali Uysal

a moment. a

a moment. a shift

Jonathan Delafield Cook ’s drawing “Bird’s Nest, 1998”

Jonathan Delafield Cook ’s drawing “Bird’s Nest, 1998”


Orange Blue

Explosion of

Explosion of colors

White Center.  Mark Rothko

White Center. Mark Rothko

The forms are similar, the patterns contrast, by Kelly Jean

The forms are similar, the patterns contrast, by Kelly Jean Ohl


White Birch

San Josemaría Escrivá Church by Javier Sordo Madaleno Bringas

San Josemaría Escrivá Church by Javier Sordo Madaleno Bringas


Purple yellow

H. Palleiko Designsfrom Flickr

H. Palleiko Designs
from Flickr


Botrylloides magnicoecum


Giuseppe Guadagno

Contrast or

Contrast or harmony


all images via

Beautiful grids

” Once a grid is invented it may bend, crumble or shatter, but its organising principle never disappears” Hannah, H Higgins, The Grid Book.

The grid creates an underlying structure that is used in art, graphic design, structural design, architectural design, typography, packaging, websites, maps and databases. Grids are all around us; they can be organic, man-made, natural, distorted, 2D, 3D, simple and complex. Some designers now see the grid as a conservative organisational principle, however the beauty that emanates from its use cannot be denied.

By thinking creatively, educators can build many different learning experiences using the grid as a theme.

Here are a few images to illustrate the diversity, complexity and beauty that can be evoked from grids.

Victor Vasarely

Varvara Stepanova-1920s

Varvara Stepanova-1920s

Tom Davie | Grid Posters

Tommaso Sartori

Winter Sinking Strokes: Modern architecture of Tokyo

by safa pirshiri

Light of Hope, Sheykh Lotf Allah Mosque
by safa pirshiri



pineapple skin

Pineapple skin

Mosque of Herat, Afghanistan

Morrocan Trade Bank by Norman Foster

detail from ceiling of the main mosque in Rajah Bazaar

Detail from ceiling of the main mosque in Rajah Bazaar

UK-based studio random international

Interactive light installation
UK-based studio, Random International

Indian hand-drawn patterns


#floorstract #deco #interiors

University of Oxford HAWKINS\BROWN

University of Oxford HAWKINS\BROWN


Badshahi Mosque – Lahore – Pakistan

Winter Sinking Strokes: Modern architecture of Tokyo #architecture


Alexander ceramic tile │Giles Miller Studio

Al-Rifa’i Mosque Window

Aerial views of the Dutch landscape by Gerco de Ruijter.



Safavieh rugs paro

Safavieh rugs paro grid

All above images via

Shades of blue

I love colour saturated images. The beauty of any colour is enhanced through a subtle combination of its various hues. Here’s a range of cool blues that anyone would find hard to resist. I find colour and images like these inspirational.

Gur Emir Mausoleum,

Gur Emir Mausoleum, Samarkand

intense blue

Antonio Basso,

Antonio Basso, Ibiza

Blue, Matilda Bay,

Blue, Matilda Bay, Australia

blue ceramic pattern


by laura.bell

Blue Footed Booby ~ Galapagos

Blue Footed Booby ~ Galapagos Islands

All above images via

Artists use colour to express emotions and moods. Here’s Head of Woman from Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (1901–1904).

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

What’s in a brief?

I’ve just been reading a blog by Krishna and am impressed with this statement that appears on it:

“We see what we expect to see. What we know, or think we know, influences us so strongly that we
 are often blind to change, to new 
views and new opportunities. This 
is true in all aspects of life.

The challenge is to see and learn
 everything around us with fresh eyes.”

I love it!

I’ve been thinking about the way I interact with clients who find it hard to articulate what they want when it comes to a visual design brief. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they don’t have a literal concept in mind – no designer wants to be ‘the pencil’ for someone else’s visual concept, but I do need a brief to help me meet their expectations. However, I also want enough latitude so I can provide concepts that allow the client to “see and learn with fresh eyes”.

I have a wonderful client who willingly embraces the opportunity to see and learn with fresh eyes and who trusts me with total creative freedom. Her briefs are usually something like this:

Client: “I want some images to work as inspiration for some yet to be developed courses that will be aimed at people of different ages, experience and background”

What a wonderfully ‘open’ brief, but I need to get a narrower perspective. I don’t want to set any pre-conceived notions so I try to get more information by asking the client to describe her big-picture thoughts through abstract terms such as emotions, colours, style, relationships and metaphors; eg “if this project could be described as an animal what sort would it be?” “what colours do you spontaneously think of when you think about this project”,  “give me 10 key words that immediately come to mind when you think about this project”, “what’s the main effect and outcome you want”, “what don’t you want” (usually clients are quite clear about this one).

My client really appreciates this approach and from it has evolved a really good working relationship.

Here are some images that I created for such a project. These images were used to inspire creative course titles and content in the early development stages of a learning program, and were then used in a successful marketing campaign for that program.

Revealing the inner self

Revealing the inner self © Bev Puckridge

Fisher in the ocean of opportunity

Fisher in the ocean of opportunity © Bev Puckridge

The voyage of dreams © Bev Puckridge

The voyage of dreams © Bev Puckridge

Flightpath  © Bev Puckridge

Flightpath © Bev Puckridge

Playing with perspective

In the 1920s artists and photographers introduced a new way of looking at the world around us by playing with the rules of perspective. They called this ‘new vision’ photography.

Instead of taking photographs from a normal eye level perspective, they experimented with low angle and high angle shots to create a greater sense of drama in their images. They also rotated and boldly cropped images, emphasised angles, focused on repetitive forms and used strong tonal contrasts. These different ways of playing with perspective created new tensions and intrigue in their work. One of the most prominent photographers during this time was László Moholy-Nagy.

Today we are very familiar with camera angled shots that use forced perspective.  We see them used professionally in painting, photography and cinematography, and often in a fun and spontaneous way by ‘happy snap’ amateurs (I am definitely in the latter category). Understanding the basics of these techniques can help all of us to bring a new vision to our work.

Here are three photographs which illustrate the new vision concept. They were all taken in the 1920s by László Moholy-Nagy .

Bauhaus Balconies 1926

László Moholy-Nagy, 1926, Bauhaus Balconies

This low angle shot features repeating angles and strong diagonal lines. It’s been further enhanced by the angle tilt of the camera and dramatic cropping.

Oskar Schlemmer in Ascona, 1926

Oscar Schlemmer in Ascona

This high angle shot is given more complexity through the play of diagonal shadows that envelop the figure and confuse the eye. Strong tonal contrast adds to this dramatic effect.

Lago Maggiore, Ascona, Schweiz, ca. 1930

Moholy-Nagy_Lake Maggiore

This is simultaneously a low and high angle shot, further enhanced by the diagonal lines of the boards. We are drawn into this image via the legs of the bathers, moving on to the boaters and swimmers below, and then finally across the lake to the distant shore.

Finally, for Father Ted fans, here’s a completely different ‘play’ with perspective.

Forced perspective confusion

Using visual metaphor in the classroom

Images can be a powerful way to generate ideas and promote creative discussion in a classroom. One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of visual metaphors.

“A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. Metaphors “carry” meaning from one word, image, or idea to another”.

A visual metaphor improves the ability to reason about complex systems.

“Metaphors help us describe, visualize, and make sense of the world around us. For example, a possible metaphor for the brain is a computer. The images this metaphor creates help us to make sense of something complex — many would consider the brain, like the computer, to have intelligence, memory, and organization, and perhaps even to be user-friendly.

“Modern advertising relies heavily on visual metaphors. For example, in a magazine ad for the banking firm Morgan Stanley, a man is pictured bungee jumping off a cliff. Two words serve to explain this visual metaphor: a dotted line from the jumper’s head points to the word “You”; another line from the end of the bungee cord points to “Us.” The metaphorical message–of safety and security provided in times of risk–is conveyed through a single dramatic image”.

Visual metaphors used in advertising are often simplistic and shallow. When used by filmmakers and artists they are usually more profound and complex in the conveyance of meaning as well as reality.

Look at these images. Each one could be used as a visual metaphor. What implied comparisons do they convey to you? How could you use images to promote complex reasoning and discussion in your classroom?

Michelangelo. Detail from The creation of Adam.


Henri Magritte. Time Transfixed

Magritte_Time transfixed

Salvador Dali. Detail from The persistence of memory

salvador-dali-the persistence of memory

Edvard Munch. The Scream

Edvard Munch-The-scream-1893