Painting With Scissors
This week in our mixed media art classes we learned about Henri Matisse and how in his later life his art revolved around cutouts which he called “painting with scissors” and “cutting directly into color.” While the colors he used for his cutouts were gouache on white paper, we substituted construction paper as we too painted with our scissors.
We started out with large 6×12″ sheets of colored paper for a background, then, using as many colors as we could, we added squiggles, abstract designs and whatever other elements of interest we could think up.
While we were working, we kept our “scrap” paper in the middle of the table as one artists scrap quickly became another artists treasure as we shared materials and ideas with our classmates. We quickly found certain students were especially skilled at cutting certain shapes and they were eager to cut extras to share with their classmates.
Among the art elements the children learn from this exercise is seeing positive and negative space. When we cut a squiggle out of paper and then cut it again, we create the background and the cutout. The cutout is the positive element. The background, which in other circumstances might be mistaken for scrap paper, can then be glued onto our art to allow the color behind it to show through showing us how we can work with negative space to create design elements in our art.
Many of the cutout works of Matisse were abstract, so there were no rules we had to follow in creating our cutout art. However, one of our prompts was his 1947 cutout, “The Codomas (Les Codomas).”
On first glance it’s not easy to see that there is structure to this one as it can pass for purely abstract. But on closer inspection we see two trapezes (one white and one blue), two yellow squiggles representing the trapeze artists and black squares representing the net below. One of my Monday afternoon students did a very good job of replicating this one in the pink artwork on this page (with purple trapezes and red trapeze artists).
Below are three famous works by Matisse (including the far right of “The Codomas (Les Codomas)” with some of our Wednesday class art underneath. Some of our young artists incorporated markers into their cutout, some created specific images (like the flower on the left) and others enjoyed creating something abstract. Note the negative and positive space used by some students with the inside and outside pieces of swirls. Some students also got creative by adding a three dimension element to their art either folding paper for effect or not entirely gluing their cutouts so some popped off the page.