Paper cutting with Matisse


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

There are several art activities that are fun, easy, and doable for just about any age that I use as good-ol-go-to projects when something needs to be done. Paper cutting in the style of Matisse is one of those awesome activities. Just about any age can get into this engaging project, and you can put a spin on things to connect with other learning areas – such as math!

So, the other day, when the babe and I were really getting sick of all that rain, I figured it was the perfect time to get out the scissors and see what we could do. The majority of Henri Matisse’s life consisted of creating colorful and vibrant portraits, landscapes, and still-lives. Matisse started painting while recuperating from appendicitis in childhood and things evolved from there. He hung with van Gogh and the other Impressionist artists in France and then comfortably moved into the modern art movement with buddies such as Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin. Matisse’s real claim to fame is as the father of Fauvism, a movement that embodied color and movement – which is what Matisse’s work is all about.

It wasn’t until the end of Matisse’s career that he began exploring the art of paper cutting. And, we’re not talking cutting on a dotted line, here. Matisse turned simple cut paper into colorful, masterful artworks that grabbed the viewers’ attention and didn’t let go. His organic shapes and color combinations jumped off the paper, seeming to move and dance.

While the rained poured down outside, I cuddled the babe up to the computer and shared with her some of my favorite paper cuttings by Matisse. While we looked at them, I pointed to colors asking her what she saw, challenging her color recognition.

Now, my wee tot isn’t ready to wield any type of sharp implement yet, but she sure can create some crazy organic shapes! We picked out a set of complimentary colored construction paper (complimentary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel – red and green, yellow and purple, orange and blue) and folded them in half. Then I helped by cutting each of the papers in half along the fold.

I gave the babe some glue and a sheet of white paper. After she had coated the backsides of each of the orange and blue papers, we slapped them on a white paper.

Then, I offered her a marker and let her create some funky free form organic shapes on the other half of one of the papers. (I’ll be honest, her shapes turned into some pretty serious scribbles, so I had to make some organic shapes for us to use for our finished Matisse creation on the half sheet of orange paper.) This is a great opportunity to chat with your child about shapes, and the difference between organic (free-form) and geometric shapes (hello, math concepts!).

If you’ve got a good-to-cut-with-scissors child, he can now place the paper he drew his organic shapes on top of the other complimentary color construction paper and cut – so he will have two shapes exactly the same. He can cut out as many shapes as he’d like to create his creation. And, that cutting is giving all those itty-bitty muscles in your child’s hand a work-out, great for helping with coordination and building hand writing skills!

Now he can go ahead and glue those organic shapes on his paper, thinking about making a symmetrical creation. Symmetry is when something is the same on both sides – like a butterfly. Or, your child can go off on a tangent and create his own design layout.

Once he’s finished cutting and pasting, your little Matisse can share his finished paper cutting with friends and family!

Happy cutting!


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