Artist-in-residence Sarah Fordham helps high school students express their vision of Glen Innes

WORK IN PROGRESS: Sarah Fordham with teacher Abby Sparks in front of what will be the new colourful mural.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Sarah Fordham with teacher Abby Sparks in front of what will be the new colourful mural.

High school visual art students are working together to create a colour-filled mural full of panels representing their impression of Glen Innes.

Glen Innes high school's artist in residence Sarah Fordham said the "collaborative wall painting" would be more than the sum of its parts, with students working individually on a collective work to a common brief: the town around them.

"We're going to look at ways we can explain that or express that through symbolism," she said.

"I've learnt that the magpie is an important icon here!

"We're using text, we're using numbers and we're using patterns.

"These blue and white lines are derived from me looking at aerial maps of the rivers which have unfortunately dried up at the moment.

"We're really examining what we see around us and then looking at it in a very high key colour palette."

The Sydney-based painter and designer and sister to 2GB's radio announcer Ben Fordham will also be hosting workshops with seniors working on visual arts examination preparation for the HSC.

"This week's about showcasing the role of the artist and the role of the designer," she said.

"I guess you could look at it as a careers talk in a way too - life beyond school.

"I try to tap into my own high school experiences; visual arts is pretty much the only subject that I really resonated with and that curbed my behavior.

"So I guess in a way when I talk to the students it's about thinking about all of these interests that you have as a young person that you can take further in life and they can really turn into something you can build a career around."

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She said one of the benefits of a "artist in residency" program is that students don't just see a final product, but have an opportunity to drop in and observe the process behind it.

After twenty five years of visual art experience, she said her job can look easy. But she quoted the expression a friend told her.

"I might knock something up and it might come together in an hour, but she'll say - that took you an hour plus twenty-five years!"

Sarah Fordham said students should understand they can get a career in art or anything else they pursue that they're interested in.

"My message is not necessarily about being an artist, it's about following your passion and generating a career built out of what you're interested in."