I wanted the first project in our family summer art study to involve creating our own paper collages, so after learning a little about modern art in general and Henri Matisse in particular, we examined some additional resources to help us get started.
In Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, we read a brief biography of Matisse and learned that he embraced his label as King of the Wild Beasts and never let the critics deter him from creating the type of art he loved. We were also intrigued to discover that he had created a book of collages titled Jazz that included works in colors so bright that to look at them on the walls of his studio Matisse had to wear sunglasses to look at them!
We then turned to The Great Big Art Activity Book by Sue Nicholson and Deri Robins to take another look at Matisse’s The Snail, which we examined yesterday, and to get some tips for creating abstract art and collage art. I really like the oversize format and clear examples in this book, as well as the simple instructions with step-by-step photographs for each project. Readers are encouraged to use the suggestions to make unique artwork, rather than simply copying the samples in the book. It’s well-organized with table of contents, index, and glossary; and includes over one hundred techniques to try!
Interesting note: One of my children was surprised to learn that a collage could depict a realistic scene, as shown in these examples. All of his previous experiences with collage had involved arranging random shapes in abstract designs, so this was a new concept for him. It led to a great discussion of the difference between collage and mosaic, and later that evening as we were cracking eggs for omelets we decided that broken up eggshells might be an interesting medium for creating a mosaic.
Next we looked at another of Matisse’s cut-paper collages, The Sorrows of the King, in The Usborne Art Treasury by Rosie Dickins. The cheerful colors and patterns used here create the effect of music and dancing, meant to distract the king from his sorrows. Was the King of the Beasts giving us a glimpse into his own life here? We know that he only took up “drawing with scissors” near the end of his life, after he became too frail to paint anymore. It seems likely that his new experiments with shape and color kept his spirits up while allowing him to continue making art in spite his illness.
The accompanying activity in the book shows the reader how to make a collage of musical instruments that celebrates Matisse’s style. We surmised that the author chose this subject because of Matisse’s connection with jazz, and agreed that when we started creating our own artwork we would have some upbeat jazz music playing in the background as additional inspiration.
Finally, we watched a brief video clip of Matisse working on a collage.
We wondered what type of paper he was using; it looks so fluid, yet we know that he was cutting out paper that had been painted with bright colors, which we would have thought would be much stiffer than this appears to be. We plan to experiment with several different types of paper to discover which we like best.
In just two days we’ve learned a lot about color, shape, and composition. We’ve also made a new friend in the art world — Henri Matisse!
Books Used on Day 2
The Great Big Art Activity Book
by Sue Nicholson and Deri Robins
The Usborne Art Treasury
by Rosie Dickins