Lesson #2: Experimenting with collage

Part of the unit: Nature Inspired Collage Compositions |


Why do artists experiment with collage?
Students will be able to:
Create a composition using cut and torn paper shapes.
Students will understand that:
Artists experiment before deciding on an arrangement.

Asssorted colored papers divided into piles of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors; scissors, 9"x12" paper, glue sticks, flowers/plants



Matisse's Branch of a Judas Tree and Beasts of the Sea.

Homework drawings of an object from the natural world


Display Matisse's Branch of a Judas Tree and Beasts of the Sea.

Explain that there are many different ways that artists "draw."  Matisse used charcoal to draw the leaves of the tree (show charcoal if the students are not familiar with it).  However, he "drew" the organic shapes found in Beasts of the Sea without using a pencil, pen, or brush. 

  • How was Matisse able to do this?

Explain that Matisse "drew" with his scissors by cutting out the shapes from painted papers without drawing them beforehand.  He then glued them down to create this composition.

  • What do we call artwork made from pieces of paper?

Explain that they will be making a collage inspired by the drawings they did for homework.


Select one student drawing to work from.

  • What shapes in this drawing are the most interesting to you?

The teacher should demonstrate how to cut out this shape directly from paper using scissors.

  • How could I create these shapes without using a scissor?

Demonstrate tearing a similar shape.  Discuss how the torn edges create visual interest and add a bit of texture.  After cutting/tearing a few more shapes - making sure that some are intricate while others are simple - demonstrate how to experiment with the composition by trying different arrangements before demonstrating how to glue down the first shape. 

Today you will practice cutting out organic shapes and will create a small collage inspired by your homework drawing.  Explain that their collage does not have to look exactly like their drawing but should be inspired by the shapes they drew.  Instruct the students to work with at least 5 shapes of different sizes, to overlap them, and to have some shapes touch the edges of the paper. These requirements should be written on the board.

Each student table should have colored paper to select from (each table should have either primary colors, secondary colors, or tertiary colors only - this will be used in lesson 3), 9"x12" paper to use as a background, scissors, and stick glue.  Students should have their homework sketch.

During the worktime, remind the students to experiment with their arrangement before gluing the pieces down.  Request that the first student who decides on an arrangement should let the teacher know before gluing the pieces down.  The students should then be gathered around that student's table as the teacher comments on the arrangement and makes some suggestions (or asks for student suggestions) for improving it based on the requirements on the board.  The students should then finish gluing their pieces.

Display the collages.

  • What was it like using a drawing as inspiration for a collage?
  • What was challenging about "drawing" with scissors?
  • What choices did you make before gluing the shapes down?

Explain that each table was given a different group of colors for a reason which will be uncovered during the next lesson.

Bring in a written definition of: primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors