Snipping away with Matisse...Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winter
Last week the children had the following items ready for our library session, a request which had all the children very curious.
white A4 paper
4-5 different coloured paper (or make their own coloured paper
A pair of scissors
Glue/ glue stick/ Fevicol
There were plenty of questions as they signed into the session, curiosity getting the better of them. I feigned that it was all a mystery and we would get to it in time.
The class started with a short clip of an old man cutting paper in odd shapes. This was real footage of artist Henri Matisse.
The question that I posed at the end of the clip was...
“What is this man doing?”
“He’s cutting paper...in weird shapes, in wiggly shapes.”
“He’s an old man.”
“Why is he cutting paper?”
“Is he an artist? “
As always, the responses were quick and included a host of questions.
The word I was looking for was CUT-OUTS or collage because the artist we were going to read about was Henri Emile Benoit Matisse.
They were surprised to know that author/illustrator Eric Carle, was influenced by Matisse’s cut-out/collage technique and were keen to look at his books that they had at home. I love how one books leads to another, helping them make connections to books they may have read before.
We read Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter, a wonderful picture book that takes us through his life as a young boy who drew pictures everywhere, to his grown up years as an artist who created paintings that everyone loved. It went on to tell us about how he was weakened by an illness that prevented him from standing and painting, to how he reinvents his creative process even though he was stuck in a wheelchair. Matisse went on to create his much loved, breath-taking paper cut-outs.
Such a wonderful story that highlights quite literally…’when life gives you lemons….”, in this case and illness did not stop Matisse’s creative process, but helped him create a completely new art technique...cut-outs.
To emphasise the scale of his cut-outs, this video from the Tate Modern proved very useful. It helped the children see his work from a child’s perspective.
The children oohed and aahed and tried to make sense of the names of the cut-outs with what they could see in slides of a few of Matisse’s popular cut-out’s. The idea was that the children could have a closer look at some of the details.
It was time that everyone was waiting for....to pick up their scissors and use all the material they had kept ready. The brief was to allow the scissors to lead them. They were free to cut out and create whatever they wanted and to use any colour paper as the base. They were given 20 minutes of quite time to facilitate their creative process...every one was put on mute and all questions or doubts had to be addressed in the chat.
When the time ended, the children who wanted to share, were invited to share how the activity felt and to share their work. Many reflected that it was calming and relaxing, others felt that the chix-chix sound of the scissor soothed them. Fun, happy, satisfying, nice, creative, enjoyable, good were responses heard across groups.
One little boy was so happy that he had ‘finally created his first masterpiece’ and another reflected that “even though it looks messy, it is still beautiful.”
One said that she “let the paper tell me where to go,” while another reflected…”Wherever my hand took me, I went”, and a third, “I let the scissors take me wherever.”
Yet another “felt all kinds of shapes around me as I cut.”
I loved that it turned out to be such an immersive experience for the children and I hope they hold on to all the wonderful state of being that they experienced as they cut.
They were encouraged to continue their art even after class and to create another.
Here are a few of their cut-outs as inspired by the reading of Henri’s Scissors:
"There are always flowers for those who want to see them" - Henri Matisse