Over the last couple of weeks I have introduced many of our children at Mairtown to the artist Henri Matisse. Matisse loved colour and shape, and when you look, really look into his work, you can see so many interesting shapes.
Before I begin writing too much about what we have been doing at Mairtown, have a quick look at this picture below and think about what you see.
Do you notice the bright bursts of colour and the interesting, wiggly shapes that appear to dance and float on the page? This is one of the many pieces of art by Matisse and is titled ‘The Codomas’ (1947). When Matisse made this bold and abstract picture he was remembering the circus and his travels (when I look at this picture I can see trapeze and I wonder if the black squares are the watching crowd?)
As we looked at some of these cut-outs by Matisse, initially I invited the children to look deep into his work, to notice Matisse’s use of bright, bold colours, wild lines and playful shapes. Wishing to motivate the children’s creative thinking I asked them some questions such as ‘What do you see?’ ‘What do you imagine?’ and then in groups we shared some of the titles Matisse gave to his cut-out pictures (for instance ‘The clown’) encouraging some interesting and at times humorous dialogue as we looked for clues as to what he may have been wishing to represent.
Children’s interest in making art is increased if adults encourage them to talk about art and artists- who artists are and how they make things (Schwartz & Taylor, 1981)
Art, as we tend to think, is about pen and paper, or paint and pastels etc., so when the children first began their own representations of cut-outs some were keen to draw – this alone presented itself as a challenge, a new way of thinking, a bit of a risk!
Emma told the group as she worked on her first cut out: ‘I find it strange that we don’t use pens cause I want to do eyes but instead I did the eyes with paper. It made me a little bit nervous, but it looks so so beautiful.’ Then later, as she became more familiar with this method of creating art she cheerfully told children who were just beginning their work into Matisse, ‘We don’t use pens, we cut the shapes out and we can’t colour, we use paper, it’s hard work, it’s making me tired, but I like it!’
It was interesting for me as their teacher to see just how quickly all our children overcame these challenges and how they worked hard to persist and persevere. Many children were experts with scissors already, whilst some of the children were just beginning their learning on how to use this tool. Whatever stage they were at, the children were motivated and their success in their work often stemmed from fantastic team work (with older children assisting younger) strengthening relationships and making me once again very aware of the culture of caring that is so evident here at Mairtown [Zair wrote a lovely post about this several weeks ago - see here]. Creating these cut-outs has certainly captured the children’s creativity and imaginations, as well as enhancing their curiosity, and fostering their love of learning.
Collage is a wonderful medium for young children. It offers endless opportunities for self-expression, allows children to feel successful at any age, and is also great developing fine motor skills (Bruehl, 2011, p.144).
At the beginning when children were new to the experience I talked about selecting just a couple of colours (so they wouldn’t feel too overwhelmed), and we did lots of talking about shapes they may like.
One of the problems with collage of course, is that the more we worked, the more left over scraps of paper we had! We soon turned this around however, and the children began using these scraps, adding them to their work, noticing the interesting outlines, for instance pieces of paper that looked like heads, elephants, and dragon stripes!
I have just loved working with the children on this topic. One aspect that I have really enjoyed is listening to the titles the children have given their own work (they were all keen to do this after knowing Matisse names each of his pieces!) and how many have created some wonderful stories about their work to go alongside their titles.
Conversations and sharing of artwork with children is important in that it extends thinking and reflection and shows that we value their ideas and their perspectives (Mulcahey, 2009, p.58)
Here are some stunning examples:
'The Christmas Tree'
'I cut out a vacuum cleaner and a kiwi. So there is a desert with kiwi's, and a mum kiwi, a baby kiwi, a dad on a bridge. The bridge goes to the kiwi's, they use the bridge. I will call it the desert...no, no, Mittens'
‘I want to make a unicorn. I am thinking hard about my unicorn and where it can live. I think my unicorn can live in a desert – oh and it will need water. So that’s where the unicorn can drink and have a bath. Well…the purple rainbow makes the unicorn purple and the blue rain makes the unicorn’s eyes blue and the sun makes the heat. And I need a palm tree cause it’s very hot and the unicorn, hmm, it will need some shade. I keep thinking of different names, oh I got it, ‘The Unicornetes’ – yes that’s the title!’
‘Dinosaur by Franchi’
And to finish let me share some words (great words!) from Matisse:
‘Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play’
Ngā mihi nui,