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Matisse and Shamrocks

Level: Junior and up
Grades: 3 and up | Age: 8 and up | Written by: Anitra Redlefsen
[Anitra is a teaching artist from Medina, OH.]

Students will learn about positive and negative shapes as they create shamrock paper shapes in the style of artist Henri Matisse.


One of my favorite artists is Matisse, who became famous later in his life for his paper cut out paintings.

One way to achieve harmony in a composition is to repeat positive and negative spaces which vary in size, color, texture or value. Start by first cutting out a positive shape; use the leftover paper around the positive shape as a second by cutting out around it again. Cut a third shape out of the first positive shape, thus altering the it. And so on and so on. Keep using the paper you have to create new shapes which are suggested by shapes already cut out.

Confused? Try this St. Patrick’s Day project!

What You Need:
What You Do:
  1. Cut out one shamrock, saving the leftover paper. (See printable page for a sample shamrock.)

  2. Follow the outline of the leftover paper, cutting a second, new shamrock.

  3. Repeat this process, using a different size shamrock.

  4. Repeat steps 1-3.

  5. Respond to the scraps of paper that you have left over by cutting some new, non-shamrock shapes.

  6. Assemble shapes onto a surface (another piece of card stock, leftover mat board, etc.) in an interesting composition; secure in place with glue.

  7. Display and enjoy your paper cut out collage!

For the Mobile

  1. Punch a hole at the top of each of your pieces and string them in interesting ways to a piece of ribbon, yarn or string.

  2. If you have some pipecleaners, string a shape or two onto the pipecleaner and twist the pipeclearner to the main string/ribbon/yarn.

  3. Your mobile will look festive and move in fun and surprising ways with varying air currents!

About Henri Matisse:

Henri Matisse was born December 31, 1869 in northern France. As a young man, he went to Paris to study law, graduated, and in 1889 returned home to work as a clerk in a law office. [read more...]

More Information:

Matisse Biography

Shamrock Printable

Shamrock Plant Printable

Recommended Books/Products:

Matisse for Kids
by: Margaret Hyde

Henri Matisse (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)
by: Mike Venezia

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