When it came time to study Matisse for our History of Art summer project, I decided we would concentrate on the latter part of his career when he turned his attention to assembling paper collages from cut paper. This would enable the kids to explore collage and decoupage as an art medium. We looked at several examples of Matisse’s cut-outs and explored his use of organic and geometric shapes and his use of colour. Without telling them the title, I asked the boys to interpret the piece named ‘Icarus’. Their ideas ranged from it looking like a figure dancing among flashing lights, a figure surrounded by fireworks with their heart pulsing, to a figure being shot with the jagged yellow shapes being gunfire and the red circle being a wound.
I have all my collage papers arranged in files by colour (because I am a control freak but it does make sense, I am sure you will agree) which helped reduce the faffing around when it came time for the boys to create collages. They had completely free rein with regards to subject matter so it was interesting seeing what they came up with.
I had anticipated than my oldest son might cut up lots of squares from different papers and then form them into a blocky Minecraft figure but I was wrong: he went with penguin for this one. He used a mixture of magazine pages and gelli prints and hand cut all the shapes with the exception of the snowflakes which were punched out. By stroke of luck, the white words of text cut across the black form of the penguin’s body at neck level, to separate the head from the torso, and there is a constellation of stars that form the hint of a wing shape. That was a good lesson in the coincidences and happy accidents of creating art.
My 6 year old decided to work in a monochrome palette and selected pink. He used a mixture of gelli prints and magazine pages. He started out cutting out shapes by hand but then he got into my stash of shape punches and he was hooked.
My 9 year old used scraps from gelli plate prints to construct a scene from ‘Aladdin’. As Aladdin, with dark hair and fez hat, looks on, the genie has emerged from the lamp. The yellow shapes to the left are treasures in the cave of wonders. I think he did a good job manipulating geometric shapes into recognisable forms but I am mostly chuffed that he actually conformed to the parameters of the lesson.
Sticking with movie inspiration, my 8 year old created a tiny version of a scene from an epic movie. It’s Frodo and Sam reaching Mount Doom and Gollum falling into the lava. In his version, however, Frodo has kept the ring. That is an eagle flying in overhead ready to save the day – better late than never.
My effort was done in a bit of a rush. I used a black background of acrylic paint to foreground the paper elements. All the pieces are cut from gelli plate prints. I hand cut the figure and am quite pleased with the curves of the abstracted shape. I resorted, however, to using shape punches for the birds and butterflies.
You can see my Crazy Critter inspired by Matisse’s ‘Icarus’ here.