The Secret Colour of a Polar Bear

poem by Diana Murray , illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse illustrations more thoroughly so that I can apply more considered methods when experimenting with different styles of illustrating.


Success criteria:

  • I can make observations about illustrations using correct terminology
  • I can discuss the effects of different strategies used in illustrating
  • I can apply my understanding of illustrating styles and strategies to create my own character.


Essential knowledge:

Students should be familiar with the terms ‘framing’ and ‘salience’ in relation to images. The English Textual Concepts video Style may be used to help students identify aspects of an artist’s style.


Other resources needed:

Coloured paper, scrap paper, scissors, glue


Ensure all students have a copy of the magazine to refer to. Analyse the main illustration and ask students to make observations about it. Guide the discussion with questions such as:

  • Does the polar bear seem far away or close-up in the frame?
  • How much of its body is in the frame?
  • How has the artist created contrast between the polar bear and the background?
  • What colours has the artist chosen for this illustration? Why?
  • Has the artist chosen to create the polar bear in a realistic or stylised way?
  • Where is the polar bear looking in the picture?
  • Does the polar bear seem angry or calm? Why?
  • What feelings does this illustration give you? Why?

Have the students turn to page 7 and have a similar discussion regarding the two rats depicted in the illustration, analysing the similarities and differences between each other and the illustration of the polar bear. If possible, make a range of picture books available to students to browse through a variety of artistic styles and choices about the elements discussed.

View the video How to be an Illustrator from Tate Kids and discuss the way the illustrator, Chris Haughton, creates his illustrations by making collages of his characters then photographing or scanning them.

Inform students that they will be creating their own characters and collage illustrations in the style of Chris Haughton. They may wish to create an animal, person or other type of creature. Using Chris Haughton’s method, students should create their collages while considering which colours they want to contrast or use together, how they wish to frame their character (e.g. will they create the entire character’s body or just their face) and what their facial expression will be. Students should then photograph their character and upload to a device to display to other students. You may wish to create a shared file such as a Google Slides or Canva presentation that allows students to add their character to a whole class display.