Extraordinary Drawing: Activity Inspired by Contemporary Artists The Broadbent Sisters

Self-guided activity


Try your hand at an art making activity inspired by contemporary artwork in the exhibition Glimmers of the Radiant Real. This is a travelling exhibition organized by The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, and curated by Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky. To find out about the exhibition, and where else it has travelled, check out the exhibition’s own website online. This activity is designed for middle school students.

Figure 1. Extraordinary Drawing Activity example.

Curricular Competencies

This activity fulfills Curricular Competencies in BC’s New Curriculum for the following subjects and grade levels:

  • Arts Education 6, 7, 8.
  • Social Studies 7, 8.
  • Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies: Media Arts 6, 7, 8.

To see relevant connections between this activity and BC’s New Curriculum, see downloadable PDF “Curricular Competencies Related to Extraordinary Drawing Activity.”

Learning Outcomes

Through this project participants will:

  • Understand how artists can make us see ordinary things in extraordinary new ways.
  • Learn about works of art by The Broadbent Sisters in the exhibition Glimmers of the Radiant Real.
  • Consider how technology impacts what we see as “real”.
  • Discover how to transform your own ordinary space into an extraordinary experience.

What You Will Need

  • A piece of cardboard or thick cardstock (our example uses a piece of cardstock cut to 8” x 10”)
  • A piece of aluminum foil (our example uses a piece of foil cut to 10” x 12”)
  • Black Sharpie marker (or experiment with using a different colours of Sharpie)
  • Smartphone (iPhone or Android) with Camera setting
  • A second camera (can be another phone with a camera setting or a point-and-shoot camera)



QR Code  |  Colour inversion  |  Augmented reality




Joy and Rose Broadbent are Toronto-based sisters who have a collaborative art-making practice, creating work in performance, film, installation, painting, and drawing. Regardless of the medium they’re working in, they are always looking to find ways to transform everyday objects into magical realms. As sisters, they are especially interested in using collaboration, and exploring telepathic ways of creating.




Glimmers of the Radiant Real is a group exhibition that opened at The Reach Gallery Museum on January 23, 2020. All of the artworks featured in this exhibition incorporate materials that sparkle, shimmer, or shine, including glass, gold, foil, plastic, and even pearls! By bringing all these works together, the exhibition asks us to think about how we react to objects and images when they have glittering and shiny surfaces. For example, do we assume such things are valuable or glamourous? What happens when cheap or ugly things are covered with shimmering surfaces?

You can learn more about the exhibition by watching our series of online video tours at: www.thereach.ca/athome

The Glimmers of the Radiant Real online video tour will be available on April 29, 2020.

Figure 2. Glimmers of the Radiant Real installation view.

Figure 3. Eadweard Muybridge, Horse in Motion, 1878. Sourced from http://100photos.time.com/photos/eadweard-muybridge-horse-in-motion.


Artists throughout history have found ways to make viewers see the world around them in new ways, opening our eyes to new possibilities and ideas. In modern times, some artists have specifically used cameras and other lens-based technologies to make visible something that was invisible before, or to take something common and ordinary and transform it into something almost magical.

For example, in the late 19th century the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge set up a series of 24 cameras along the edge of a horse racecourse, and set them to automatically capture images of a running horse. Until this time, it was commonly believed that the gait of a horse required at least one foot to be always touching the ground while galloping. People believed they knew what they were seeing when a horse ran by. But Muybridge’s photographs clearly showed that horses lift all four legs off the ground at the same time. These photos changed what people believed they saw!

More recently, Canadian artist Douglas Coupland has created a series of large, geometric, acrylic on canvas paintings that many people can enjoy and appreciate just for their bright colours and abstract shapes. However, these paintings also function as Quick Response or QR codes; when you view them with a QR reader on your smartphone, they reveal hidden messages – short phrases and quotations that range from humourous to foreboding.

These are just two examples of how artists have used technology to make us see the world around us with new eyes!

What is Augmented reality or AR?

Augmented reality is an interactive experience where objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated images, sounds, movements, or even scents.


What is colour inversion?

Colour inversion exchanges colour values. For example, colour inversion would make black text on a white screen appear as the opposite: white text on a black screen.

Figure 4. Douglas Coupland, Sworn to Fun, Loyal to None, 2010. Acrylic on canvas. 182.9 x 182.9 x 5.4 cm. Sourced from https://coupland.com/sworn-to-fun-loyal-to-none/.

Figure 5. Broadbent Sisters, Midnight Forms, 2017. Short film, iPhone. Augmented Reality shown. Collection of the artists.

WORKS OF ART IN Glimmers of the Radiant Real

This activity connects to The Broadbent Sisters’ artwork in the exhibition Glimmers of the Radiant Real.

Midnight Forms

Midnight Forms is a video work by the Broadbent Sisters that depicts the two artists moving through a desert landscape, performing a series of movements that include braiding each others’ hair, and wrapping themselves in a river of reflective Mylar material. Their movements and the location seems to suggest the kind of treatments you might engage with at a health spa, where the body experiences a kind of imaginative rebirth.

The colours of the video are strange and almost alien, but when you view the image through the camera on a smartphone that has the “inverted colours” setting activated, the colours suddenly appear natural and normal. Only with the use of technology can viewers access what is “real.”

Releasing and Desert Floor

Releasing and Desert Floor are two large drawings by the Broadbent Sisters. To the naked eye they appear to be sparkly blue, but when viewed in the same way as the video, through a smartphone with the “inverted colours” setting activated, the panels transform from blue to gold, like a kind of modern day alchemy, meaning a seemingly magical experience of transformation.

Figure 6. Broadbent Sisters, Releasing, 2017. Archival pen, acrylic on wood. Collection of the artists.

Figure 7. Broadbent Sisters, Desert Floor, 2017. Archival pen, acrylic on wood. Collection of the artists.


  1. Place your sheet of aluminum foil on top of the sheet of thick cardstock/cardboard and fold the edges of the foil on the back of the cardstock/cardboard. (Drawing on the foil on top of the cardstock/cardboard makes the foil a much smoother and sturdier surface.)
  2. Select a point of view inside your house that you’d like to draw. Think about the angles of the room and the objects in front of you.
  3. Once you’ve selected an interesting perspective, choose a spot to sit and begin drawing on the sheet of aluminum foil using a Sharpie.
  4. After completing your drawing, set it aside and change the settings on your smartphone to view your drawing in an alternate reality!
    • For instructions on how to invert colours on your iPhone, click here
    • For instructions on how to invert colours on your Android, click here
  5. Now that the colours on your smartphone are inverted, look at your picture through the “Camera” setting on your phone. Move your smartphone and paper around to see how the light changes the image.
  6. Now it’s time to document your extraordinary alternate reality! To do this, you’ll need access to another camera (this can be another phone or a standard camera and another person to take the picture). Using the second camera, take a picture of your inverted smartphone screen on “Camera” setting as it is pointed toward your drawing.
  7. Share your creation with your social media following. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram (@thereachgallery) and Twitter (@TheReach) and use the hashtags #extraordinarydrawing and #glimmersoftheradiantreal.

Downloadable Resources

Download Curricular Competencies (73KB)

Download a PDF of this Edukit (8.9MB)


Questions to Consider

  1. Look at Douglas Coupland’s painted QR code through the lens of your smartphone camera and follow the link that pops up on your screen. Why do you think the artist asks us to use technology to experience his painting? How does technology change the way you see his work?

  2. Can you think of other technologies that you use in your daily life that change the way you see the world (e.g., snap chat filters)?


  1. Eadweard Muybridge’s use of the camera helped slow down a running horse’s movements in order to discover something in real life that wasn’t understood before. The Broadbent Sisters’ artwork slows down any quick observations you might make about their work by asking you to use your smartphone’s inverted colour setting to discover the “real” colours. If you slowed down and observed the world around you, what might you discover? Challenge yourself to sit still for 5 minutes while looking out of your window. Consider all of the things that are moving (e.g., people, animals, clouds, trees), and eventually focus on one thing (e.g., a tree blowing in the wind). After 5 minutes of observation, think about how you, as the artist, can communicate your discoveries to someone else. Do you need the help of current technology or do you need to invent new technology? Try it out!


If you use this free resource with your students at school / at home, we’d love to hear from you! Send an email to Diana Hiebert (Curator of Learning and Community Engagement at The Reach) at dhiebert@thereach.ca, with your comments including the number and age range of participants. This statistical information is important to us as a not-for-profit organization and will allow us to continue offering this kind of content.