Matisse & Me: Make a Colorful Self Portrait (No Paint Required)

Overhead image of Matisse art construction paper

Paints, markers, and crayons aren’t the only way to create a masterpiece on paper—you can also use the paper itself! At KinderCare, Pre-K kids learn about Henri Matisse’s cut-paper masterpiece Icarus and use his iconic work—a blue background scattered with yellow stars and a black figure reaching upwards, his red heart laid bare—to inspire collages of their own.

Matisse once said that he aspired to "look all life long with the eyes of a child." Who better to inspire the budding artist at your house? Here are five fun ways to explore his work with your little one!

toddler boy using glue stick to paste paper shapes

1. You can draw with scissors? You bet! 

Matisse worked in many mediums—including the technique he described as "drawing with scissors,” which involved cutting brightly colored pieces of paper into different shapes to make a collage. Get out some child-safe scissors, colored construction paper, and glue, and your kiddo is ready to create his own Matisse-inspired collage!

2. Pick a bold background. 

Let your child choose any background color that is meaningful to her. Matisse chose a royal blue, like the night sky. Maybe your artist wants yellow to match her bedroom walls, or purple because it’s her absolute favorite.

Toddler boy cutting shape with scissors

3. Add a figure. 

Let your kiddo take center stage by cutting out a figure that represents… him! Does he have squares for arms, or circles for feet? Is he big or little? Matisse used primary colors (red, blue, yellow) in his collage, and his figure is a striking black. What color will your tot pick to illustrate his own shape?

4. See the world in shapes. 

Matisse's figure soars in a sea of yellow stars and has an eye-catching red circle placed on his chest—could it be a heart? What does it remind your child of?  Ask her what parts of herself and her life she’d like to highlight in her portrait: maybe it’s her quick legs, her gentle hands, or her newly lost tooth. Have her cut out shapes to decorate the figure. Use a glue stick to put everything together!

5. Think outside the box.

One of the reasons Matisse created his cut-paper style was that he was in a wheelchair when he was older, making it more difficult for him to paint. Instead of giving up his passion, he developed a different artistic style that kept his creativity alive. Invite your child to think of different ways he can create a work of art—if scissors are hard to use, could he rip up paper for his collage? If the paintbrush is too small, could she draw with a big piece of sidewalk chalk?

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