Inquiry Focus

Audrey Mabee Art

Prior to Audrey Mabee coming to our class, we studied her style of minimalist people and mimicked her technique. The focus of this task was directly opposite to our task in the Narcissus self-portraits. We went from detailed studies to using the bare minimum of marks to create a person or the suggestion of a human figure. We noted she used a variety of mediums to draw her figures, therefore we used both ink and charcoal to draw the pictures.

Another important aspect of this artwork is the fact that the painting goes not on the positive but the negative space in the picture. Negative space is the space between objects or parts of an object, or around it. Studying this can have a surprisingly positive effect on an artwork—pun intended! Too often when we paint something, we stop observing and start drawing from memory (as indicated in the Art page of our “Flower Power” inquiry Website. Instead of painting what is in front of us, we paint what we know and remember about the subject. So, for example, when painting a mug, we start thinking "I know what a mug looks like" and don't observe the precise angles of that particular mug. By changing your focus away from the mug and to the negative spaces – such as the space between the handle and the mug, and the space underneath the handle and the surface the mug is sitting on – you have to concentrate on what's in front of you and can't work on 'autopilot'.

Audrey’s work introduced negative space, minimalist figure creation as well as the careful investigation to a local Calgary artist and celebrity in the eyes of the Kindergarten students! Below, Hassan is demonstrating the steps involved in the art making of this project.

The first job is to draw the minimalistic figures in either charcoal or marker.
Next, we paint the negative space with colours which add to the mood of the piece.
Finally, we display our wonderful, negative space art with pride and celebration. This project will always remind us of the local Calgary artist, Audrey Mabee.

When Audrey Mabee came to our class, our first job was to create a rough copy for both the ink and the charcoal piece on newsprint. It was essential to practice to ensure that we kept the watercolour within the negative space and not the positive space. The marks were encouraged to be few and simply the bare essentials to suggest a person’s face. Each face should show an emotion—and we practiced making various emotions with our facial expressions prior to the making of the art. Once the drawing was complete, the negative space was painted with watercolour paints. Children were encouraged to use colours that emphasized the emotion that their figures were imparting. After the rough copies were complete, the same procedure occurred twice on larger, raw paper (which also added to the authentic Audrey Mabee artwork replication).

Here is some art we call Audrey Mabee work. She also taught us how to make Negative Space Fish. We enjoyed exploring with negative space instead of the positive space that is usually focussed on in an art project.


Most important to her visit was the time that Audrey Mabee took to critique our art with each artist. She took care to comment on what part she liked the best and the students talked about what they thought they might do better, change or liked. Our art was on display when Audrey visited our classroom. Now it is in our portfolio, and our hearts forever.

To thank Audrey for her volunteering and adding to our art skill, each class gave her a framed painting with comments from the artist. In the top left corner you can see Emily's piece representing the afternoon class. The top right corner photo is Nicholas' gift from the morning group. Audrey was so thrilled with this gift that she promised to hang it in her art gallery, beside the art done in this style. Mrs. Patsula saw the art there over Spring Break and it looks wonderful. Audrey Mabee said she gets lots of comments on this work.

To Glendale School's Current Inquiries page or Kindergarten Newsletters.