Artist Study for Kids: Matisse

By freshlyplanted - 8:28 AM

Twice a month, we've been holding Art Club this year. While we usually make something everyday- even if it's as simple as putting pencil to paper- studying artists was something I wanted to be purposeful about in Treehouse School this year. Since I was already preparing materials for two children, why not add eleven more? As I've shared before, I was once an art classroom teacher so I know you can do just about anything with a good lesson & prepped materials (wink). To keep our Club small, we only invited our Preschool thru 1st grade friends to join us. While older siblings have jumped in time to time, I wanted the focus on the littles. To make it even more little-friendly, we broke up into two groups: Preschool and K/1st. One group works upstairs at the dining table, and the second group works in our basement's homeschool area. Sometimes we stay in these areas the whole time, other times we'll switch halfway through. The switching is especially handy for messy projects since it's only occurring in one space! If you're interested in holding a similar Art Club, I'll be sharing some pointers in a post next week so stay tuned. 

Here's a peek at our homeschool space this year. There's a few changes from last year, including more shelves. (Is there such a thing as too many shelves?) My childhood blackboard also joined our space this year. For Art Club, I write the name of the artist so everyone can see it in print. I'll usually draw something that correlates to that artist and- if we're filling in our biography notebooking page together- we'll come up one or two short sentences for everyone to copy onto their page. 

Notebooking Sentence Ideas:
  • Henri Matisse was a French Artist.
  • He lived in Paris.
  • He made art with paper shapes .
For this class, we had already looked at Matisses's artwork together. I made a PowerPoint that you can access for free (personal use only, thank you) via Dropbox, here it is. On the PowerPoint, I begin with two different artworks on the same slide before telling the children anything about Matisse. Which picture do you think Matisse created? I asked. Do you think the same artist created both pictures? They didn't, and were surprised to learn that Matisse had actually created both. This is one of the most fascinating parts of Matisse's art career to me. He began as a painter and then, after being diagnosed with cancer at 72, completely changed his media. I enjoy his paintings, but I love his cut-outs. They are uninhibited to me, created by someone who didn't have extra time to fiddle around. All of the children liked them too, and it was easy for them to see which shapes kept reoccurring in Matisse's artworks:
  • Starburst
  • Splash
  • Spirals
  • Zigzags, 
  • Wavy lines
For the K/1st grade group, we first reviewed what a pattern is and everyone filled a piece of construction paper with pattern using Prismacolor NuPastels. After coloring their pages, we reviewed Matisse's shapes with them discussing the difference between geometric shapes (circle, triangle, etc.) and his free-form shapes. We encouraged them to include at least a couple of Matisse's shapes in their artwork. They then cut out shapes from their patterned paper, as well as small pieces of miscellaneous paper from our collage bin. Once their shapes were cut, they glued them onto another piece of paper to create their collage.

For the Preschool group, we also reviewed what a pattern is and talked about the patterns in Matisse's artwork. We encouraged them to create a pattern using beeswax crayons on a piece of construction paper. We then reviewed what a shape is, asking them which ones they knew (circle, square, etc.) and pointing out again which ones are in Matisse's artwork (starburst, splash, spirals, zigzags, wavy lines). They then cut out their own shapes and glued them onto the patterned paper. One child decided to make a three-dimensional spiral, which I thought was fabulous!

The last thing we created was a plastic lid sun catcher based on Matisse's "Icarus" (1947). We've made plastic lid suncatchers before using glue & paint. While they turned out fine, I've figured out a method with richer color and fuller coverage. We use a Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Paint as a base, then tint it with a little bit of another acrylic color. The Multi-Surface Paint binds wonderfully with the lid, and we haven't had any flaking or cracking. 

For the suncatchers, I first wrote each child's name on the outside of their lid's rim with permanent marker. This way it won't show later when the sun shines through! I put a large squirt of silver Multi-Surface Paint on each  lid. then added a smaller squirt of blue acrylic paint for them to mix in. Some of the older children wanted to add in black paint, but I wouldn't recommend it since it became a lot more opaque. 

While the paint was still wet, the children stuck on foam stars and a little figure that I had already prepared. Once they were dry, we added the smidge of red with Prismacolors (acrylic paint would work too) and hot-glued on a pipe-cleaner loop for hanging. 

Then they're perfect for hanging in a window!

If you've enjoyed this, I'll be adding more Art Club lessons. So far this year we've made aluminum dancers like Edward Degas, ran around our woods splatter-painting like Jackson Pollock, and created nature sculptures like Andy Goldsworthy. So much fun! 

Additional Matisse Resources:
+Online Interactive Matisse Activity for Kids:
+Article about Matisse's Paper-Cuts:

*Find more Creative Ideas on our Facebook page & Pinterest boards.
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