I am always looking for ways to introduce young children to the works of great artists. Art projects help kids develop fine motor skills, recognize shapes and colours, express their emotions, and develop their creativity. Teaching preschoolers and young children about the works of famous artists exposes them to different styles of art, expanding their ideas of what is possible and allowing them to see the world through different eyes. It inspires creativity, and gives kids new ways to communicate their ideas and feelings.
Exploring great artists with preschoolers does not need to be difficult or expensive, or even require trips to art galleries (although those are wonderful). There are many excellent story books for kids about great artists (we particularly enjoy the "Katie" series by James Mayhew, and Laurence Anholt's Anholt's "Artists Books for Children Series"), the internet is a wonderful resource, and television shows such as Pirates: Adventures in Art on Kids' CBC mix lessons about art concepts with infectious music and fun storylines that even the squirmiest kids cannot seem to resist.
Recently, we explored Henri Matisse (1867 - 1954). Initially a more traditional painter, in his later years Matisse became sick and lost the ability to paint. Instead, he developed a new technique that he called "drawing with scissors". He had an assistant mix colours for him, and paint pieces of white paper with those colours. He then used scissors to cut out shapes from the painted paper, and arranged those cut outs onto canvasses to create new works of art.
Keys to Matisse's "drawing with scissors" style are the use of only a few colours on each painting, the use of both both positve (the cut out) and negative shapes (the paper left behind) and cutting directly with scissors without drawing the image onto the paper first.
(the negative image is on the left, and the positive image is on the right)
To make your own Matisse inspired art you will need:
- a few colours of paint and pieces of white paper (alternately, choose a few scraps of coloured construction paper)
- a solid coloured sheet of construction paper
- pictures of Matisse's collage paintings
1. Look at pictures of Matisse's collages (either online, or in a book from the library etc.)
2. Choose a few colours of paint, and paint each of sheets of white paper a different colour (skip this step if you are using extra sheets of construction paper instead of painting your own paper):
3. Cut out shapes from your coloured paper. Try out different designs such as spirals and zig zags. Scissor skills are a key to preschool and kindergarten readiness, and this project is a great way to develop them.
4. Arrange shapes onto a sheet of coloured paper. Try to use both the shapes you have cut out, as well as some of the paper that surrounded them: both the positive and negative shapes. Once you are satisfied with your arrangement, glue the pieces in place.