Art Smart: A Lesson in Matisse, Art Critique and Drawing with Scissors

by This is Carrie on March 1, 2011

For our first art lesson this year, we talked about Matisse again, this time focusing on the latter years of his artistic life when he cut out shapes from colored paper to make his art.  Matisse called it “drawing with scissors and sculpting with color”.

Icharus by Henri Matisse

Since we covered the seven art elements last year, I wanted the kids to learn how to use that knowledge & vocabulary to critique art this year.  Our first critique was of Matisse’s Icharus.  Prompted with exploratory questions, the children made observations about the piece, the artist and the viewer, observations that were really quite brilliant in my opinion.

Before digging into the paper cutting art project for the day, I presented one more piece of inspiration in the form of the wonderful pop-up book, Yellow Square.  Then I let the kids get to work on their masterpieces.

Some kids opted for 2-D pieces like Matisse, taking care to use positive and negative space as directed.

Others constructed 3-D pieces of paper art, incorporating form in their work.

Art critique questions for kids (adapted from 10 questions to ask your kids about art)

Describing the art:

1. What colors do you see? Are there many colors? Or just a few?

2. What objects do you see? Shapes? People? Animals?

3. What do you think is going on in this work of art?

4. Is this work of art true to life? Has the artist tried to make things look real?

Feeling the art:

5. What ideas and emotions do you think this work of art expresses? What makes you think that way (color, lines, the scene)?

6. Do you have a sense of how the artist might have felt when he or she made this work of art?

7. Does anything you have noticed in this work of art remind you of something in your own life?

8. Does it make you feel one way or another?

9. What would you have called this work of art if you had made it yourself? Does the title of the work, if there is one, make sense to you?


10. What do you like about the piece of art? What don’t you like? Children should be able to explore and explain their likes and dislikes within the frame of the seven art elements and by the answers to the previous critique questions.

Find more Art Smart lessons HERE.


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