- Matisse didn't pre-draw all his cutout shapes, though for large scale pieces such as The Swimming Pool or the work he did designing a church, much pre-planning was essential. So pre-planning really depends on what you are doing! Sometimes it's good to give scissors and paper to kids and let them see what happens, without too much direct instruction.
- When Matisse cut out paper, he frequently made use of the negative space shapes as well as the positive shapes. In this Matisse-based lesson I did with 1st graders and blogged about 4 years ago here, the students used both the positive and negative shapes in their lively cutout collages. Just click on any one of the links in this paragraph and you'll see what my 1st graders did in this Matisse lesson.
- Matisse, with the help of an assistant, did not glue his collages together without moving things around, a lot. When you look closely at the pieces in the show, you can see all the pinholes, from the pieces being moved around so many times. (There were even pieces on display that still had pins or tacks in them!). When I do collages with my students, I often give them a zipper baggie for their pieces, and do not allow them to glue them together until they had been arranged and rearranged several times. Here's a link to a post with some surreal collages done by my 4th graders, where we used the baggie method of collecting collage materials. It's important to remind kids that the first answer isn't always the best one. Moving things around, even pinning them and asking for critique, is a great way to improve your composition and overall design.
- Think about all the elements and principles you can talk about when teaching about Matisse's cutouts! Color, of course, and believe it or not, Value! Line! Shape! Repetition! Rhythm! Movement! Balance (symmetrical and asymmetrical)! Should I go on? Matisse's cutouts may well be the most 'teachable' artwork I've ever encountered.
And for anyone with a physical disability that keeps them from doing things one particular way, Matisse is a role model. When his health prevented him from painting any more, he came up with a new way to create art. And in the end, he thought it was the purest and best artwork of his career! What a motivation this could be to anyone who says "I can't!"