Visual arts


Biography of Tom Roberts

                     Thomas William Roberts was born on the 9th of March 1856 in Dorchester England. His family immigrated to Australia in 1869 and settled in Collingwood Victoria. During the day he worked as a photographer’s assistant during the 1870’s while studying art at night under Lois Buvelot. He later returned to England to study art full time at the Royal Academy Schools for 3 years from 1881 to 1884. Through the 1880s and 1890s he worked in his art studio at the famous studio complex of Grosvenor Chambers at 9 Collins Street Melbourne. He married Elizabeth Williamson in 1896 and later had a son named Caleb. Many of his famous paintings came from the late 1880’s and the 1890’s.

            He was also an expert maker of Picture Frames and between the years 1903-1914 much of his income came through this because he produced very little art work. He spent World War 1 in England assisting at a hospital. After the war he returned to Australia and built a house at Kallista near Melbourne. His wife died in January 1928 and Robert remarried later that year to Jean Boyes. He died of cancer in 1931 in his home of Cancer.

            Robert painted many fine oil landscapes  and portraits throughout his years. His two most famous paintings were the large works of Shearing the Rams and The big Picture. Both these large pieces of art depicted ways of Australian life in the late 1890 and early 1900’s. The Shearing of the Rams is based on a Brocklesby sheep station and depicts the wool industry which was Australia’s first export industry and a stable of rural life. The big Picture was an artwork that depicted the first ever sitting of the Parliament of Australia. Both artworks were very large but still manage to possess fine details which are extraordinary.

            Tom Roberts is appropriate for teaching and learning in the class room because his artworks show how people lived and how Australia functioned back in the 1890’s and early 1990’s. The children can also relate to the paintings because they might have seen shearing sheds or forms of parliament in their lives. The students can also compare how things were done in those times and how they are done now.   


Australian Dictionary of Biography. Roberts, Thomas William. Retreived 4th April, 2012 from

Australian Prints. Tom Roberts. Retrieved 3rd April, 2012 from


Works by Tom Roberts


Shearing of the Rams

The picture depicts a Brocklesby 1890’s sheep station and shows the wool industry in Australia which was are largest export indust


Image retrieved on the 4th of April 2012 from


The big Picture

The following artwork depicts the first siting of Australian Parliament in 1901.

Image retrived on the 2nd of April 2012 from

Art Appreciation

            Art appreciation is where you observe an artwork and then form your own opinion of the piece. You do not have to be an expert in the field to appreciate art. It is extremely important that teachers encourage art appreciation with their students so they can broaden their view’s on art and how art affects different people in different ways. Teachers can do this by studying certain artist’s and artworks with children and asking the students to express their thoughts an idea’s of art. It is important we help the students explore their own ideas on art by asking meaningful, thoughtful and interesting questions.

            The first lesson will be dedicated to exploring Tom Roberts as an artist and giving some background information on him and showing some artworks he has done.

            Lesson 1- Tom Roberts

Topic: Tom Roberts.

VELS Domain: The Arts

VEL Diimension: Exploring and Responding.

Grade level- Grade 3-4 (VELS level 3).

Duration: 30 mins.

This lesson will focus on the Artist (Tom Roberts) and the artworks he has created. The teacher will start the lesson by asking if anyone has heard of him before. The teacher will then give a photo of the artist and give a brief introduction of the artist. The teacher will then tell the children what era he was born in and that most of his paintings showed the Australian lay of life in the 1890’s and early 1990’s. The teacher will then show the student’s pictures of “The Shearing of the Rams” and “The Big Picture”. The students will then be asked to spilt in groups and discuss what each picture is about and how the pictures are different to the current time. The students will then all come together and there will be a class discussion on the pictures and the changes between life back then and life now.

            Key questions when looking at Tom Roberts work

What do you think about when you see this work?

What do you feel when you look at the two artwoks?

What are the artworks depectiting?

Why are the paintings so large?

What are the differences between these pictures and modern day life?


To able to identify Tom Roberts and his artwork

To be able to form a opinion of artwork

To be able to identify the differences in the painting compared to modern day societ

            This lesson plan focus’s on the artist (Tom Roberts), artwork(Shearing of the Rams and The big Picture) and subject matter (sheep station and parliament house). It includes the domain of Histtory (Humanities) by looking aspects of how Australians lived over 100 years ago. It also includes the domain of Civics and Citizenships because the lesson include aspects of parliament and hot the country was governed.


            Lesson 2-Shearing of the Rams

Topic- Shearing Of the Rams.

VELS Domain: The Arts.

VELS Dimension: Exploring and Responding.

Grade level- Grade 3-4 (VELS level 3).

Duration: 45 mins.

This lesson involves the children and the teacher to travel to a nearby shearing station of farm. While there the students are to look at and explore the parts of a sheep station and to be able to understand how it works. The children will have a copy of the painting and will be asked to explore the similarities and the differences between the painting and real life. They will be asked to point out apsects of the painting that exist in the real shearing station. The children will then be asked to act out the painting in the shearing station. Each student will be asked to imitate one of the characters in the painting and must find out where they need position themselves.

            Key questions

Can you identify parts of the sheep station that are in the artwork?

What are the similarities between the painting and the real life shearing station?

How does it feel to be acting out the artwork?

What are the differneces between the painting and the real life shearing station?

Do you think shearing stations are as important to our life in Australia as the used to be 100 years ago?


To be able to understand how a shearing station works

To see the differences and the similarities between the artwork and the real life shearing station.

To get a understanding of what it would have been like to work in a sheep station 100 years ago.

            The following lesson plan focuses on the artwork and the subject matter in relation to the conceptual framework. It incorporates both the history domain and the personal learning domain of VELS. It incorporates the history domain by showing the children how the sheep stations use to work and what they looked like 100 years ago. It incorporates the personal learning domain because the lesson gives the students the opportunity to discover and learn new aspects of the way of life.

Art Practise

          Lesson 1: Landscape/ event Painting.

Image retrieved on the 4th of April 2012 from

Artwork: Recreation of shearing of the rams

Artist: Tom Roberts

Subject matter: Shearing shed

Lesson Topic: Oil painting

VELS Domain: The Arts

VELS Dimension: Creating and Making

Grade: Grades 3-4 (VELS level 3)

Duration 45 minutes

Background to lesson

            The children have already explored the works of Tom Roberts, the way he paints, the subject matter he uses and his large scale artworks. They have specifically looked at his “Shearing of the Rams” artwork and have been to a shearing shed to explore and understand the painting more. The students are now trying to recreate this work in their own way with their own spin on the artwork. There is no need to introduce the topic or have questions on making art world connections because this has already been covered

Visual Art Content

This art activity is designed to introduce the students to oil paintings and to be able to study an image and recreate it. The students will take on the role of the artist and create an oil painting which is their own representation of the work of Tome Roberts. At the end of the art activity the students will become the audience and appreciate their own and each other’s work.


            Pictures of “The shearing of the rams”

            A2 pieces of paper

            Table space

            Oil paints


Sequence of Lesson


To develop an understandings of oil paintings and the techniques used.

To be able to work together and create a piece of art

To become the audience and evaluate each other’s work

1 Demonstration

The teacher demonstrates how the artist uses the oil paints to make pictures and some basic techniques on brush use. The teacher stresses to the children that it doesn’t matter on whose is the best piece as long as they are having a go and putting in the effort. The class is told to watch carefully how the oil paintings are used and they discuss and go through the processes together before attempting it. The teacher stresses that the equipment is expensive and to use little amounts only.

2 Painting

The children are to spilt into groups and each group is giving a blank A2 piece of paper. Each group is then instructed to try and recreate the artwork and are encouraged to put their own spin/flare on the painting. The teacher is to stress to the students that it is not about whose is the best painting, it is about experiencing art and learning how to produce art. Each group is given 25 minutes to complete the task. The teacher is constantly going to each group and encouraging them and giving them ideas and help if needed.

3 Exhibiting the artworks

After the students have completed the work the students display their work infront of the class and become the audience and discuss their work.

Which paintings are the most interesting? Why?

How similar are they to the work of Tom Roberts?

Could you give these paintings are more exciting name?

4 Documenting and Evaluating

Did you enjoy making the paintings? Why or why not?

What could be changed to make it more fun?

Why did we paint these paintings?


 Follow up activities, early finishes

This could involve the individual student to create their own oil painting of a small object on A4 piece of paper.

Lesson Plan 2: Drawing your own scene environment

Artist: Tom Roberts

Artwork: Shearing of the Lambs

Subject Matter: Students choice

Lesson Topic: Recreating an environment

VELS Domain: The Arts

VELS Dimension: Creating and Making

Grade: Grades 3-4 (VELS Level 3)

Duration: 45 mins

Background to lesson

After having recreated their own version of “The Shearing of the Lambs” in groups, the children now get to expand the work of Tom Roberts individually. After having studied Tom Roberts shearing shed the students now get to pick their own environment to make a piece of art.

Visual Art Content

The students are asked to recreate an environment that appeals to them and use their creative skills and drawing skills to put it on paper. The students will take on the role of the artist and try to create their own environment and put it onto paper. At the end of the lesson the students will show theirs works take on the role of the audience to appreciate their own work.


            A4 piece of paper

            Grey lead and colour Penicils




To be able to visualize and recreate an environment in your mind

To be able to draw a specific environment that the student has imagined

To be able to work independently to create a piece of art


1 Demonstration

The teacher will give ideas to students on environments that they can create. The teacher will then proceed to create an environment of his or her own and outline key aspects and features of their work. The teacher is to emphasize that it is to be done individually and that it is not about the end product but about the process of getting.

What is your favourite place to go to?

What do you day dream or think about?

2 Drawing

The teacher will then give the students pencils and A4 sheets and paper and ask the students to think of a environment they would like to draw and draw it. They can wander around the school and create an environment that they can see or they can imagine it in their mind. The teacher will give them approximately 25 minutes to complete the task.

3 Exhibiting the artworks

The students will be asked to show their artworks to each other and step into the role of the audience. They will be asked to form opinions of each other’s works and discuss their onions.

What do you think about this piece of art?

What environment was created?

How is it different from other peoples work?

4 Documenting and Evaluating

Did you enjoy drawing the environments? Why or why not?

Is this art?

What would you change about the activity?

Why did we do this activity?

Follow up activities, early finishes

Some possible tasks could be to split up in pairs and have one student describe an environment and the other students draw the environment. Another possible activity could be that the teacher comes up with the environment and the students have to draw it.

Curriculum Frameworks statement

            The major curriculum documentation that teachers in Victoria have to abide by is Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS). The visual arts have been put into the domain of “The Arts”. This domain allows students to create and critically explore visual culture, performances in contemporary and traditional genres, and works that involve the fusion of traditional forms with digital media. This domain is a very broad and includes the disciplines of Art, Dance, Drama, Media, Music and Visual Communication to plan programs.

            There are two main dimensions in the Domains or Art and they are Creating and making (art practice) and exploring and responding (art appreciation).  The Creating and making dimension focuses on ideas, skills, techniques, processes, performances and presentations. Students explore experiences, ideas, feelings and understandings through making, interpreting, performing, creating and presenting. Creating and making artworks involves imagination and experimentation; planning; the application of arts elements, principles and/or conventions; skills, techniques and processes; media, materials, equipment and technologies, reflection and refinement. Individually and collaboratively, students explore their own works and works by other artists working in different historic and cultural contexts (VELS, 2009).

            The Exploring and responding dimension focuses on context, interpreting and responding, criticism and aesthetics. It involves students analysing and developing understanding about their own and other people’s work and expressing personal and informed judgments of arts works. Involvement in evaluating meaning, ideas and/or content in finished products is integral to engagement in the Arts (VELS, 2009)

            The conceptual framework provides students with a tool to analyse artworks through exploring 4 main components. The 4 components are the artist, artworks, audience and subject matter. The artists are the person who made the artwork or the person that the students are looking at. The artworks are the pieces of art that the students are looking at. The subject matter is what is being portrayed in the artwork. The audience is who is appreciating the work or who the artwork was made for. The conceptual framework is also an important tool for the teacher because it allows the teacher to focus on certain aspects of art for certain lessons.  . Once this focus has been determined, the Conceptual Framework can be used to assist students in exploring the connections between each of the four concepts. It is also very important for the teacher and the students because it helps break down art and make it simpler to teach and understand.

                The Australian curriculum is in the process of being made and will be used throughout every state in Australia. The Australian Curriculum describes a learning entitlement for each Australian student that provides a foundation for successful, lifelong learning and participation in the Australian community. It acknowledges that the needs and interests of students will vary, and that schools and teachers will plan from the curriculum in ways that respond to those needs and interests (Australian Curriculum, 2012). The curriculum has not yet published the arts section of the curriculum, where the visual arts will be included.

            The guidelines for the visual arts are very broad and there are not many specifics. The visual arts are also grouped with numerous other subjects, which make it seem less important in the eyes of the curriculum makers. The impact of this for pre-service teachers is a negative impact. It is saying that the visual arts are not very important and it doesn’t really give the pre service teacher many ways to implement the visual arts in the classroom. However the Conceptual framework has a positive impact on pre service teachers. It breaks up visual arts into 4 categories and gives the teacher different focus topics and numerous ways to plan lessons.



The Australian Curriculum. (2012). Overview. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from    

Victorian Essential Learning Standards. (2009). Structure of the Arts domain. Retrieved April 5, 2012          from

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