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Aboriginal Art Lessons - Symbols, Styles and Stories


Australian Aboriginal Art


In our Aboriginal Art Lessons we learn about the symbols, styles and stories of this enduring Australian art form and use that knowledge to create our own drawings and paintings.

  • Symbols and Images: For thousands of years, indigenous Australian artists have used a visual vocabulary of symbols and images to communicate information about their customs and culture. To help you with your Aboriginal inspired artworks, we supply free clip art sheets of the more common symbols and images used in Aboriginal art.
  • Dreaming Stories: These are the creation stories of the Aboriginal people. Each of the stories we feature is illustrated by one of our paintings that represents an aspect of its theme.


Aboriginal Art Lessons

Aboriginal Art Lesson 1

Aboriginal Art Lesson 1: Our first lesson uses our Aboriginal symbols and images to decorate boomerangs that would be used for ceremonial purposes or as art objects for display.


Aboriginal Art Lesson 2

Aboriginal Art Lesson 2: Our second lesson uses our Aboriginal symbols and images to explore the dot art painting techniques developed by the Papunya Tula artists, the style that defines modern indigenous Australian art.


Aboriginal Art Lesson 3

Aboriginal Art Lesson 3: Our third lesson uses Aboriginal symbols and images to explore the 'rarrk' technique of cross hatching that originates from the 'X-Ray' style of traditional bark painting.

Aboriginal Art - Recognizing the Past in the Present


MICHAEL NELSON TJAKAMARRA (b.1949) Five Stories, 1985 (acrylics on canvas)

Five Stories, 1985 (acrylics on canvas)

Aboriginal Art is the longest continuous artistic tradition in the world, stretching back generation after generation for over fifty millennia. It preceded all the great civilizations and survived as each of them faded. From the 18th century it endured the colonisation, marginalisation and oppression of the British Empire, yet still managed to prevail in the 21st century as the only notable Australian art movement to register on the international stage. Unlike the art movements of the west which have a limited timeline, Aboriginal art continues to evolve by drawing on a range of styles and techniques that link the past to the present through a visual tradition founded on the cultural stories from 'The Dreaming'.

Aboriginal Art plays a major role in keeping indigenous culture alive. It is a powerful educational tool that operates on many levels: it can be a reference manual for survival in the bush, a record of historical events, a code of cultural behaviour, a guide to spiritual knowledge, or a map or title deed for a specific territory. Whatever its meaning, it reinforces the holistic values of Aboriginal life that are suppressed by the modern world and offers an honorable identity that helps to inspire a sense of community, both in Australia and around the world.

The Painting Process for our Page Illustration

Many of the topics in our Aboriginal Art lessons are illustrated with a painting that was inspired by the theme of that page. To help you understand the technique used for each painting, we have deconstructed its development in the form of a slide show. Once you see a step by step analysis of how each image is constructed, it may provide you with a model that you can adapt for your own ideas.

(Click on the play buttons or swipe back and forward to explore each stage of our painting.)

The images and symbols used to create our illustrations can be found in our menu at the foot of the page. They are available for you to download to help with creating your own artworks.