Aboriginal Bark
Grade Level: 6
Subject: Social Studies
Fine Art: Visual Art
How does art reflect how groups of
people communicate feelings and
• Students will describe (in writing) the characteristics that historians use to
organize people into cultures.
• Students will explore Aboriginal culture and visual art and
compare/contrast with Native American visual art (namely, Plains Indians’
cave paintings/pictographs) in discussion groups of about four students.
• Students will create Aboriginal bark paintings, using the contour line
drawing technique and stylistic elements, copying the Aboriginal style and
drawing animals as if they had X-ray vision.
Native American Culture
Great Plains Indians
Aboriginal Culture
Composed of various
tribes, nations, and
languages: Blackfoot,
Lakota, Wichita,
• Spiritualism:
Sweatlodge ceremonies
-Sun Dance, Ghost Dance
• Men were hunters,
warriors, protectors
• Women tended to
• children, homes, farms
-Cave paintings- tell
where food is/
story telling
-inhabited their land
before anyone else
and both have been
pushed back further
and further by others
who invaded their
land and took it over
-nomadic people,
traveling long
distances for food
-struck by European
-Composed of various
tribes usually based on
languages and
geography. (Aku
Ramul, Kambre, Panara)
-Spirituality: the
land/objects share the
same soul as the
people: Dreamtime
-folk style: didgeridoo
-Astronomy: night sky
tells stories/lawsStorylines
-Bark painting
• Describe the characteristics that
historians use to organize people into
• Australian Aborigines
• Plains Indians
Belief systems (Religion/Spirituality)
Rock art  Bark Painting
• http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/kids/peopleplaces-kids/australia-rockart-kids/
Aboriginal Art: Bark Paintings
• Illustrate stories told to young people about their spiritual
beliefs/customs. Some paintings illustrate animals as if they
had “X-ray vision” expressing how their ancestors were
responsible for creation (many show how animal and human
anatomy as well as spirit are similar)
• Art form involving painting the interior of a strip of tree bark
• They heated the bark over hot coals of a fire until they were
able to pound it flat
• They used paints made from ground rock (ochre), charcoal,
and chalk on the flat bark with pointed sticks.
• Originally, bark paintings were produced for
instructional/ceremonial purposes
• Some tell stories of Dreamtime- path of the creator spirit
Bark Paintings
• Historic bark paintings collected by Baldwin Spencer in 1912
Bark Paintings
• X-ray art shows the outside as well as some of the inside
parts, the spine and organs of an animal or person
• Kolobar Kangaroo, Yuwun Y. Marruwarr. 1971. Bark Painting,
27‖ x 15‖
Bark Paintings:
“X-ray Vision”
Bark Paintings:
“X-ray Vision”
Bark Paintings
• Several components:
• Begin with border of image- Contour line drawing
• Sketch of the outermost edges of image (used in X-ray images of
• Use dividing lines and feature blocks to help identify scenes in a story
• Figurative designs- resemble real or mythological creatures
• Geometric designs are representational symbols
• For example, a circle might represent a water hole, a mat, a
campfire, a nut, a hole left by maggots, etc., depending on context
• Techniques: Fill the space with designs, shapes, lines
• crosshatching (drawing two layers of hatching at right-angles in order
create a mesh-like pattern , dots
• Emphasis should be on lines, repeating patterns, borders
• Today, Aboriginal artists honor traditional DreamTime stories through
their art, using old designs (as listed above) and techniques with modern
materials such as acrylic paint and canvas
Plains Indians’ Cave Paintings
• Pictographs: drawings or paintings made on rocks/
form of communication using symbols because no
written language
• Illustrations suggest ongoing habitation, way of
communication about hunting/food, and
religious/ceremonial purposes (sacrifices)
• Many depict large wild animals: bison, horses, deer
• Pigments used include red and
yellow ochre, manganese oxide and charcoal
• Scenes were often of hunting scenes; thought to
bring ample prey for the next hunting season
Plains Indians
• Indigenous and nomadic people that lived in
the plains/hills of the Great Plains of North
America (modern western U.S. and parts of
• The Plains people did not have a written
language of words and letters. They used
pictures and symbols.
• The Plains people wrote on rocks, cave walls,
and on scraps of buffalo hide. These
pictographs told stories of their battles,
heroes, and daily life. They also acted as
Plains Indians’ Pictographs
What Does Art Communicate?
Pictographs/cave paintings
• Told stories of their battles, heroes, and daily
life. They also communicated as warnings (of
weather, predators, harvest growth)
Aboriginal bark paintings
• Communicate Dreamtime stories or their
spiritual beliefs about how humans, animals,
and plants have traveling spirits/souls
• Pass on ceremonial traditions
• Reflect and instruct clan members and ancestors
of their beliefs and customs
Aboriginal Bark Paintings
• Contour line drawing: technique when drawing the
outermost edges of an image to make the item you are
drawing look realistic
• Stylistic Elements: Contour Lines in X-ray bark paintings of
animals to represent the outside as well as some of the
inside parts, the spine and organs of an animal
• Aboriginal artists drew in X-ray vision style on the inside
of the contour drawing of their animals.
• They drew shapes and designs (cross-hatching,
figurative blocks/lines, and geometric figures) to
represent what they imagine the inside of the
animals would look like
Teacher’s Example
How To:
1. Begin with a brown piece of construction paper (12” x 18”)
2. Choose an animal to draw
• Teacher will have visual examples of some animals to refer to
when drawing the contour (outside edges of the animal)
3. Draw the contour edges of the animal in pencil
4. Draw realistic “insides”/“X-ray” of the animal (spine, organs,
bones etc.) using elements & features discussed, in pencil
• Copy the aboriginal style using cross-hatching, blocks, and shapes
5. Trace the pencil outlines in black sharpie
6. Color “X-ray” Bark Painting in with crayons
7. Tear the outside edges of brown construction paper to look
like bark
8. Mount “bark” on piece of black, red, yellow, or white
construction paper (12” x 18”) with glue stick
Elements & Features