Attention to details

Looking at the finer details of objects provides a new perspective and appreciation of their design, colour, texture and form. Here’s a few images that have inspired me.



Storytelling from images


Retina | Day 320365. Photographer: Marius-Vieth

Image source

Images are a great way to promote creative thinking. Find a collection of interesting images relating to a theme and then ask your students to study them, choose one or more of them, and then write a short story about what they think might be happening to the characters in them.

If you have chosen interesting images to start with the students may surprise you in their interpretations. You can then use their stories to promote meaningful discussions relating to your specific subject or workplace situation.

If you are prepared to be adventurous, don’t choose images that are targeted to a specific learning outcome or skill. To get the best results choose a theme that has no evident connection with your subject. This may sound frivolous, but if you really want to engage your students in a creative way give it a go.

As an example, look at these images:

Resulting stories from these images may revolve around:

  • appearances can be deceiving
  • some things can be overlooked
  • what’s in the detail is important
  • big versus small

Your challenge would then be to direct any resulting discussion from the students’ stories/themes back to the workplace or current subject area you are dealing with.

POSTSCRIPT: the images on this url change regularly, so what you see today may not be there next week – but the new ones will be equally interesting.

Colour Moods

I love colour, most of all when a group of colours work together to create a certain mood or ambience. Sometimes I need a colour palette that jumps boldly out and says “Look at me … I am fabulous!” Other times I need a colour palette that is less demanding, but still appealing, interesting and mood setting. How do I go about creating colour palettes for different needs?

Colour palette inspiration is all around us; we just need to look at our environment – both natural and man-made to find beautiful colour combinations that we can utilise for different themes or purposes.  There are times for “look at me” colour palettes, and times for something less bravado.

Today I’m focusing on a subtle colour palette; one that can evoke a sense of sophistication and serenity. I don’t want “boring” but I do want “ethereal”, “calmness” and “cohesiveness”. I call this a “soft palette”. The images below display a broad range of hues, but a delicate range of tones.  They are drawn from a range of sources.

Artichoke palette

Artichoke palette

Beautiful geometry

Beautiful geometry

Eggs in nest

Eggs in nest

Eucalyptus leaves

Eucalyptus leaves

Faded colours

Faded colours



Glazed hues

Glazed hues

Ibaraki ceramics

Ibaraki ceramics

Tray of jasper trials, ca. 1773-76, from Josiah Wedgwood's manufacture.

Tray of jasper trials, ca. 1773-76, from Josiah Wedgwood’s manufacture.

Rusty stuff

Rusty stuff

Sea Glass

Sea Glass

Soft texture

Soft texture

Sunlit Poppies

Sunlit Poppies

Tea Rose sketch and palette

Tea Rose sketch and palette

Teabag bundles

Teabag bundles

Soft colours

Soft colours

Vintage gas cans

Vintage gas cans

All images via

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.

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

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

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

The power of association

The combination of a specific word and an associated image can deliver a powerful message. Here are 3 examples. Each one uses the same word ‘Renewal’ with a different image, resulting in 3 different messages being conveyed.


In this example the image evokes memories of domesticity and past times, maybe shattered dreams. In association with the word Renewal, the message becomes one that relates to building something new and different from past experiences and memories.


This example is somewhat similar, but this time the image and word combination convey a message that relates to the possibility of restoration: pre-loved to new.


The same word combined with this illustration evokes a message about hope and expectation, the possibility of fulfillment of dreams and ambitions.

Other image associations could change the message, eg think about:

  • renewal of vows
  • renewal notices
  • urban renewal
  • health
  • beauty
  • nature
  • fashion and decor

The image needs to be compelling enough to suggest the message you want to convey.

Why understanding visual literacy is important for educators

RIM’s main focus is on the value and strength inherent in visual imagery, and how, in an e-learning environment, meaningful and carefully conceived images and design can enhance and strengthen textual content.

We tend to make an immediate appraisal of an e-learning object or course from its visual components (images and design) before absorbing the text content, so it’s important to get the visual impact right. This requires an understanding of the ‘messages’ contained within images. In an educational context, this equates to ‘visual literacy’.

Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image, extending the meaning of literacy, which commonly signifies interpretation of a written or printed text.

The power of imagery has always been an important part of communication. It started with cave paintings, and progressed through the development of art and design to the overwhelming and sophisticated array of visual media we are surrounded with today. But can we decipher this visual onslaught and determine the difference between the meaningful and the banal?

Educators need to learn about the hidden language of visuals if they want to help students to ‘read’ images and not be manipulated by media specialists who understand how to harness this power for their own purposes.

“Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading”. (Wikipedia)

Here are two examples that demonstrate the impact of visual literacy in education:

“This movie was made to inspire teachers of all subject areas to appreciate the opportunity for learning using visual imagery in their classes. It offers questions that can be asked of the students to promote higher order thinking skills and deeper levels of comprehension. Created for all teachers of every grade level”.

“Created by students for teachers, this movie shows students frustrated with the lack of visuals in the classroom. Teachers need to educate themselves on the hidden language of visuals. Examples of the visual language behind film with line and colour are shown to provide a taste of what viewers are not noticing. This highlights the importance for educators to recognize the power behind visuals, not just from a visual message an image may contain, but how the science of visual literacy is used to neurologically and psychologically “manipulate” viewers by media specialists. Since our students are continually bombarded with visual imagery, it’s time visually literacy was taught, not just as an extension of English and Language Arts, but in all curricular subjects.”