Educator's Guide

Exhibition Themes and Activities

Thauberger Educator’s Guide (PDF 556 kB)

The Mendel Art Gallery and the Mackenzie Art Gallery are pleased to provide you with this education package. The activities primarily address the visual art curriculum for Saskatchewan schools (critical thinking, research, creativity, collaborative inquiry, cultural/historical/contemporary contexts, and the connection to human experience).

Within visual arts, language arts, mathematics and social studies, the following mini-units are addressed:

The activities are ready to use. Each can stand alone, or be done as a related series. Do as many as you like and have time for.

Every activity is relevant to exhibition tour content and can be adapted for all age groups. They can be used as preparation or as follow-up to your gallery tour.

The activities are divided into three categories that directly relate to David Thauberger’s artistic practice:

After a year of teacher’s college, David Thauberger took an introductory art class which inspired him to become an artist. He began with clay, and he credits his stylistic influence to sculptor David Gilhooly, who was one of his teachers. Around 1974, he changed his focus to painting so he could explore a frontal point of view and the flat picture plane. He transferred his textural skills from clay to his two-dimensional work, and he experimented with adding physical elements like glitter and sand.

“I have found that working in clay, working in painting and working with prints (printmaking) are all three very connected…they are very physical and very tactile.”  —David Thauberger, ARTSask website

Funk Art Sculptures


A Volkswagen Piece, 1974
ceramic and mixed media on fibreboard base
Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, gift of Veronica and David Thauberger 2002-65.

Funk Art reflects popular culture and often involves humour. In 1960s California a group of artists used clay to create Funk Art, breaking from the traditional use of clay for functional objects like tea pots and bowls. David Gilhooly was a California Funk artist who moved to Regina in 1969 to teach at the University of Saskatchewan. Gilhooly inspired David Thauberger and other artists in Saskatchewan to make art about everyday subjects—about familiar people, places, and things. This use of pop culture as a subject for artists is a focus of the Saskatchewan grade 5 arts curriculum.

For the 3:35 min. video “Interview with Timothy Long – Funk Art and the Regina Clay Movement” visit the ARTSask website (link below). This page also has instructions for creating a ceramic artwork inspired by the Funk Art movement:

The MacKenzie Art Gallery’s Regina Clay: World in the Making website has tips on working with clay, and clay activities organized by grade level:

Watch short videos (ranging from 1:22 to 5:59 min.) of Thauberger discussing and showing some of his Funk Art clay pieces in context of his life and art.

Repetition with Stencils


Black Velvet Bunnies, 1977
screenprint on black velvet, edition 24/35
Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery 1992-9.

In his early prints and paintings David Thauberger used the repetition of a particular motif to create images with a strong visual impact.

By creating stencils, students can experiment with repetition in a similar way. This activity is fun and challenging for all grade levels, and it is directly connected to the Grade 1 art and math focus on patterns.

-paper to paint on
-card stock or other heavy paper for stencils
-pencils, scissors, sponges
-tempera paint, brushes
-water and water containers


Students can decide on a shape for their stencil and draw it on card stock or heavy paper. Basic shapes (triangle, circle, organic blob) work well for younger students, while older students can draw the outline of an object, like Thauberger’s animals and buildings.

There are two approaches for cutting the stencil. Younger students can cut around the shape and use the positive as their stencil (paint will be applied around the outside edge of the shape). Older students can cut out the inside of their shape and use the negative as their stencil (paint will be applied within the cutout).

Place the stencil on a larger paper and tape the edges lightly with masking tape if needed to keep it from moving. Dip a damp sponge in paint and dab it over the cutout area. Repeat, moving the stencil to different areas of the paper. When students are finished with the stencil, a paintbrush can be used to add details to their pattern and to the background. Conversely, a background scene could be painted first and allowed to dry before stencil shapes are added on top.

Variation #1: Instead of using a sponge, paint can be spattered with an old toothbrush. Students dip the toothbrush in paint diluted with a bit of water, then run a finger over the bristles to spray the paint onto the paper. It’s best to do this outside or on a table covered with paper.

Variation #2: As an alternative to cut-out stencils, leaves, sticks, small flat rocks, or any disposable objects with interesting shapes can be used. Students place the objects on the paper, then spatter paint over the entire page with a toothbrush. When the objects are removed, the object shapes will show as unpainted paper. Different spatter colours can be layered overtop.

Mixed-Media and Texture Painting


David Thauberger, Some Acid Rain, 1985,
acrylic, glitter, letraset and nails on canvas.
Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina Collection, gift of Stephen Arsenych and Susan Whitney.

David also uses sand and flocking (a technique of adhering tiny fibres to a surface resulting in a velvety texture) on some of his artworks.

The following activity explores a broad range of tools and methods with which to apply paint. Educators and students need to be prepared to get messy and just enjoy the process…well worth the preparation and clean up! Consider claiming a large space for a day and invite other classes to share the experience, with one big clean-up at the end.

“Painting the way I approach it is also very tactile where areas are masked out, and paint is sort of slathered on thickly, or I drag a comb through it, or I flick it on with a toothbrush, and all of those kinds of things that give a great deal of texture and physicality to the surface of the picture so that it’s really a temptation always to run my hands or run my fingers over the surface”

—David Thauberger, excerpted from ARTSask’s video “Adding Physical Elements to His Paintings”

-Heavy paper, primed canvas or hardboard wood panels to paint on
-thick paint: acrylic works best, or thickly-mixed powdered tempera, or white glue, water and water containers
-a variety of paint applicators (such as brushes, sponges, cotton swabs, toothbrushes, combs, straws, and fingers)
-textural materials like sand, sawdust, glitter and flocking powder
-small, lightweight objects like rice, window screen, papers and fabric


Discuss some goals of texture and paint application, and some basic rules of respect for the space and for one another’s work. Ask students to be inventive with the ways in which they apply paint. Consider playing different types of music for ever-changing mood and inspiration. The idea is to experience gesture-making and surface texture. Suggest they think about how they are using their own bodies— the wrist, hand, arm, and whole body. Do not be afraid to experiment, and accept that not everything will work.

- Ask students to apply thick paint to the surface, then use the variety of application tools to push/smudge/spatter/stipple/scratch/smear it around.

- Textural materials can be mixed right into acrylic paint, just experiment with the ratio. Alternately, thick paint or glue can be applied, with texture sprinkled or pressed on while the paint is wet.

- Clear acrylic medium or white glue can be used to add collage elements by first painting a wet layer, pressing on thin fabric or paper, then brushing more medium or glue overtop.

- These techniques can be used in an experimental way over a whole surface, or as smaller parts of paintings in the way that David Thauberger uses them. Masking tape, strips of paper, and stencils can be used to mask off areas of an image. If used at the beginning, the masked areas can be uncovered partway through the process to reveal the paper colour. Different paint techniques can then be added to the unpainted areas if students desire.

For discussion afterwards, ask students:

Did they use the tools in a new way? Is there variety in the marks and textures? Was it fun? Meaningful? What did they learn that they can re-apply in the future?

One of the main inspirations for David Thauberger’s work is “place.” Most things in our lives are connected to place—where we live and journey, how we situate ourselves between here and there, the significance of time, our positions within our many local and global communities, and who we become. In Thauberger’s artwork, we can view both built and natural environments and think about how they connect to our own lives and values.

“Through meeting the folk artists I began to be more and more interested in paintings and making paintings of this place, you know, of Saskatchewan, of Regina, of the rural kind of lifestyle that we live here or that I had sort of grown up living in…and tried to incorporate that as a subject in my paintings.”

— David Thauberger, from ARTSask’s video interview: “How Saskatchewan folk artists influenced his work” which can be viewed here:

The concept of place is of interest to students of all ages, and is a specific curricular focus for grade 7. Grade 6 students can explore how places we live and visit influence individual and regional identity. Grade 3 students can express their ideas about natural, constructed and imaginary environments. Grade 2 students can investigate how ideas for art expressions come from the artists’ own communities (in both their own artworks and David Thauberger’s). Kindergarten students can explore the difference between natural and built environments, and express their observations and ideas about the world.

Portrait of a Place


White Hall, 1996
acrylic on masonite
Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery, purchased with support from the Canada Council’s Acquisition Assistance Program.

Thauberger’s artwork often portrays a unique place in the world. Throughout his career his architecture and landscape subjects range from the ordinary to the fantastic, and he often depicts places close to home that are well known to him. He paints buildings to reflect a place, culture or way of life, creating a feeling of a portrait rather than strictly representing reality. His style of painting incorporates clean lines, defined shapes, and intense colour. He focuses on the essential parts of an image—he borrows elements from different photographs he has taken, and eliminates details he deems unnecessary. His buildings are idealized, yet familiar.

Students create a portrait of a structure, inspired by David Thauberger’s connection to individual buildings.


-paint or coloured drawing media (oil or chalk pastels, markers, pencil crayons)
-pencils, water containers and water if needed


Ask students to find or create an image of a structure that has personal meaning to them. The building can be contemporary or historical, so long as the student feels drawn to it for one reason or another. There are many types of buildings, including houses, barns, arenas, theatres, churches, tents, tipis, tree houses, dog houses and apartment buildings.

Students can start by sketching the building on paper, beginning with the outline. Details can be left out or added as the student chooses. Remind them that everything included in the image becomes part of the story. Students could include more details on the parts of the image that feel important. For example, a front yard might be more important to some students than others, depending on memories formed or time spent there.

Colour can be added to the image to tell more about the story of the building, and about the student’s feelings toward it. Realistic colour can reveal the materials and character of the building itself. Symbolic or imaginative colour can express a time of year, or specific emotions about the place depicted.

To ascertain the impact of the project, students can discuss their artworks either informally in small groups or presented individually to the class. Consider asking students to describe their process and attachment to a place through a writing assignment. Displayed together, these works can tell an interesting story about their community.

What’s Missing?



At Home, 1983
serigraph on paper
Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery. Gift of Gordon Kushner 1986.

David Thauberger’s images are characterized both by what he includes and by what he doesn’t include. In his depictions of the constructed landscape, or structures built by and for humans, human presence isn’t evident. Choose images from the Thauberger website and discuss as a class what is missing from them. Ask students to imagine stepping into one of his artworks and to visualize what would be there in reality. If they turned away from the building and looked in the other direction, what would they see?


- paper
- any drawing media, or paint, brushes, water and water containers


Have students choose an artwork by David Thauberger. The images can be printed or sketched from the website. Start by making a list of all the evidence of daily life that might be missing from the picture: people, animals, objects, debris, other buildings, paths and so on. Students can then create a new image that includes the listed items.

Ask for a few volunteers to compare their two images in front of the class. Discuss the messages conveyed by each pairing.

Variation:  Ask students to make an artwork to depict “What happens next?” How would the scene change in one hour, one week, one year, or many years later?

Postcard Vacation



Steel Pavilion, 1986, acrylic and glitter on canvas. Collection of the Art Gallery of Windsor.

During the 1980’s, David Thauberger explored far-away places through postcards. His collection of images inspired many paintings, including the Rocky Mountains, the Niagara Falls, Manhattan Island, and Machu Picchu. His attraction to the postcard images is reflected in his artworks—the intensely-coloured and dramatic paintings could be used to attract tourists or as souvenirs to remind them of their visits.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.18.20 PM     Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.18.43 PM

Images left to right:
US Steel photograph, Courtesy World’s Fair Historical Society, from
The United States Steel Building 1939 NY World’s Fair postcard, from

This pavilion was part of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. More examples of fantastic architecture and natural wonders can be viewed on his website.

In this activity, students create a collaged postcard-style image of a place they have never been. Like Thauberger, they can travel in their imaginations without leaving home!


-large paper
-brightly coloured paper to cut up, scissors, and glue


Students can use the internet, books, or travel brochures to research a place they have not visited, but would like to. They can create an exciting, yet simplified image of that place by cutting and overlapping cut paper shapes. Suggest that they convey the attractive qualities of the destination through their use of colour and composition. If desired, details can be drawn in pen or marker on top when the glue is dry, and a place name and slogan can be written in the border of the picture.

Ask students to share their stories about why they chose a particular location. Reduce images on a photocopier to postcard size, and students can write on the back to describe their imaginary vacation at their chosen destination. Further, students could review their classmates’ postcards, visit them in their imaginations, and write travel diary entries describing their journeys to a few selected destinations.


“And one of the particularly exciting artists for me was Wayne Thiebaud, who was an artist who had a lot of history in the Sacramento area and I had never seen that work before. And I remember seeing at the local museum a painting of slices of pies, and that really got me excited about making paintings…I want to make paintings that look and feel and probably taste as good as something like that, if that would be possible.”

—David Thauberger.

David Thauberger collects widely and draws inspiration for his work from items in his extensive collection. His early collecting interests were stamps and coins, and as an adult he began to collect artwork by other artists, including ceramics, paintings and prints. He visited second-hand stores for inspiration for his art practice, where he purchased mass-produced items like figurines, postcards, and Hawaiian shirts. In the 1970s he used some found objects directly in his sculptures—pressing collectable animal figurines right into the clay. His more recent collecting practice includes Tiki mugs (ceramics depicting tropical cultural imagery) and whiteware (white fine china dinnerware). The Thauberger exhibition allows an opportunity to consider the items he collects within the context of his own artwork. Some items he has found in thrift stores inspired artwork in the exhibition, as in his images based on postcards.

Artworks in the Thauberger exhibition were gathered from private and public collections, including the Mendel Art Gallery’s and Mackenzie Art Gallery’s permanent collections. To aid students in discussion about the differences between private and public collections, information can be found on the ARTSask website about institutional collecting.

Art Inspires Art



W.C. McCargar
Midnite Express, circa 1962
oil and crayon on masonite



McCargar’s Print (day), 1981
screenprint with flocking on paper.
From the University of Lethbridge art collection, gift of the Ruskin family, in memory of George Ruskin.

David Thauberger enjoys artwork by other artists and actively collects objects in a variety of media. Between1974 and 1978 he worked at the Saskatchewan Arts Board as a Visual Arts Assistant, and he catalogued their permanent collection of about 800 artworks. This exposed him in particular to Saskatchewan Folk Art which helped form his sense of regional identity, and influenced his artistic and collecting practices. One of the artists he discovered during this time was W.C. McCargar.

Thauberger takes inspiration from other artists without copying them directly. He appreciated McCargar’s contrasting night and day themes, and produced a pairing of works with a similar idea and subject matter, which features a strong shadow. He named his prints after the artist.

View the video “How Saskatchewan folk artists influenced his work.


Ask students to find any artist they admire and to make an artwork inspired by aspects of the artist’s style. Challenge students to determine what qualities they admire, and then to translate those into their own style of artwork. Allow choices in media, so a painting could inspire a sculpture, a print, or a drawing, for example. Remind them that being inspired by something is not about direct copying. In tribute, students could include the original artist in their titles.

For discussion, ask students to lay out their creations in the classroom to view as a group. In a separate area, lay out the original inspiration works. Can they guess which pre-existing artwork inspired each new piece, and identify the differences and similarities?

Collaborative Collections



Shirt Study II, 1974
watercolour on paper.
Archives and Special Collections, University of Regina

Thauberger’s thrift-store find—a Hawaiian shirt—inspired this self-portrait artwork.

Create a class “collecting project” by first asking students to establish the parameters as a group, and then inviting students to contribute items to exhibit (which they can later reclaim). Remind students that although some people collect items that are valuable, many collect for other reasons such as interest, beauty, joy, nostalgia, and knowledge. Encourage students to be imaginative when determining the parameters of the class collection, and to ensure that it is broad enough so each classmate can contribute. Keep in mind the space in which the collection will be shown. The collection could develop over the course of time, or it could be an immediate spur-of-the-moment project.

For collecting projects with a homework component, consider ideas such as:

-ephemera (used envelopes, receipts, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, gift wrap)
-recycling bin items (colourful plastic bottle lids, small cartons, old toys)
-items smaller than a dime
-items students have lost and then found

For spur-of-the-moment classroom collecting projects consider:

-the items students have in their pockets
-things in the classroom that are made of metal
-names of the first song each student thinks of

After the collection has been gathered, diplomatically discuss whether each item fits the criteria. Did the parameters require renegotiation throughout the process? Taken as a whole, what does this collection say about the collectors—their values, their lifestyles, and the things that interest them? (This can be connected to the grade 2 curriculum focus on community.) Can the students identify subcategories or mini-collections within the overall collection?

Variation: The collaborative collection can serve as the basis for a related (individual or group) art project. Disposable objects could be used directly, by collaging or assembling them together with other materials. Students could also use the collection as inspiration, by taking cues from the aesthetics of the objects or the story behind them.

Collection Catalogue

Individual and institutional collectors develop ways to catalogue and record their collections. Cataloguing helps collectors keep track of what they have and what they would like to add. It can make a collection more valuable or more interesting. The Saskatchewan Arts board hired David Thauberger to catalogue its art collection in 1974 to ensure that the information about each artwork would be available in the future. In the process of recording and organizing the details, Thauberger learned about artists in Saskatchewan, and he learned about what kinds of artwork interested him personally. Grade 6 students can investigate what a collection reveals about an individual’s history, interests and overall identity.


Invite each student to bring a personal collection from home—either a selection of the objects, or a photograph of them. If they do not already have a collection, they can bring things they like that are somehow related.

Students can create a catalogue with one page for each item in their collection. Include a photograph or sketch of the item, and the (approximate) date of acquisition. What is the source and the history of the item? Is it handmade or purchased? What materials is it made of? Were there previous owners? Has it ever been damaged or lost? Some collectors assign a registration number to each item to easily identify it. The registration number can include the date the item was obtained or the order it appears in the collection. It can be written directly on the item in pencil, or attached to it with a tag.

The catalogue pages can be handwritten, typed and printed, or stored on a disc as a digital record. Some collectors keep a small book to journalise details about their items. Download this sample catalogue worksheet, which can be adapted to suit the grade and specific collection.

Additional Resources