Create a collage

Students make artworks for a variety of audiences using different forms and techniques to convey meaning and represent the likeness of things in the world.
Focus Artwork #1: 
Ann Piper and her Children by Augustus Earle 1826


MAKING:  Students learn to:

  • organise and assemble materials in various ways in the making of artworks suited to particular purposes and think about the meaning of their decisions

APPRECIATING:  Students learn about:

  • how concepts and materials are thought about, organised and assembled, and serve different ends in artworks that they and others make

Background notes for Teachers

Not many people can afford to have their portrait painted by an artist, but back in 1826, Captain John Piper had this one painted of his wife Ann and 4 of their 7 children. He also had a full length painting done of himself, complete with gold gilt frame. He employed the artist Augustus Earle to create the paintings in a style that was fashionable at the time, showing off what he owned, his house, his estate and his large family. This painting has become part of the State Library collections through donation and was presented by Mrs. B Hale and Mr R.H.Cox, who were grandchildren of John Piper, in 1921.

Ann Piper, whose maiden name was Mary Ann Shears, was the daughter of Norfolk Island convicts and in 1810, at the age of 15, she met Captain John Piper - military officer and public servant. She married him 10 February 1816.

The background of this rather large painting shows the interior of their family home called Henrietta Villa, which was built at what is now known as Point Piper. As you can see, it has a rather grand hallway, high ceilings and an enormous fireplace, included in the image.

This painting, complete with its gold gilt frame measures a huge 237.1 x 163.6 cm. The hallway has an intricate light fitting and the attention to detail on the furniture is notable. It has clearly been created this way to impress the viewer.

Even though this image portrays a family of means, which was the purpose of the exercise, it tells a tale of fortunes gained and eventually lost. John Piper accrued a much larger salary than he was actually entitled to, which was discovered by the authorities.

As a consequence, he and his family ended up having to sell off most of their property to pay back the money they owed. The family then moved to a modest house in Bathurst, where John and Ann Piper lived out their days in relative anonymity.

Ann and John Piper had seven children in total, although only four are pictured here.

Using this painting as a starting point, you can create a family portrait of your own by following the steps below. You can make your background similar to Henrietta Villa as in the activity example. Alternatively, you can use one of your own photographs as inspiration for your background.

Student Activities

Observing the painting

Students study the painting Ann Piper and her Children and answer questions about what the painting communicates. 

Number of set tasks: 1

Making the collage

Students use the painting Ann Piper and her Children as the basis for constructing  their own family portrait collage. 

Number of set tasks: 1

Activity notes for Teachers

Students will be assisted in:

  • discovering ways to create images from their own personal stories
  • exploring drawing, watercolour and collage materials and techniques
  • applying this knowledge to begin an artwork of their own

Create a mixed media collage:

Students will use a step by step guide to make a mixed media collage. This guide is available as downloadable resource in Activity 2.

Materials needed for this art activity:

  • Cartridge paper – good quality
  • Lead pencils and erasers
  • Watercolour brushes – medium and small
  • Watercolour tablets (preferable) or use thinned down regular paints
  • Glue and scissors
  • Assorted magazine images to add details to the scene
  •  A colour copy of the painting Ann Piper and her Children by Augustus Earle to work from
  • Copies of photos of actual family members (of your own) - Collect images of your family that you can draw from or cut up to add to your artwork. Black and white or colour copies can be used.

Additional resources

More images from the State Library collection relating to Ann Piper and Henrietta Villa :

Creative Arts Syllabus K-6

A student:

  • VAS3.1 Investigates subject matter in an attempt to represent likenesses of things in the world.
  • VAS3.2 Makes artworks for different audiences assembling materials in a variety of ways.
  • VAS3.3 Acknowledges that audiences respond in different ways to artworks and that there are different opinions about the value of artworks.
  • VAS3.4 Communicates about the ways in which subject matter is represented in artworks.

Typically teachers of Stage 3 students will:

  • provide opportunities for students to analyse and interpret the qualities and details of selected subject matter using various methods to assist them in their investigations in making and appreciating, and further consider how artworks are made as representations
  • discuss how artworks may be ambiguous in their form, content and meaning, and subject to different interpretations