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Action collages.

What do you get when you combine the styles of Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock? A unique study of line, shape and action!

I wanted to study the styles of Matisse and Pollock with my fifth- and sixth-graders, and the unit that developed was one of the most exciting and internalized of the year. Combining the shape studies of Matisse's cutouts and the action painting of Pollock resulted in marvelous "action collages."

We looked at Pollock's Number 3, 1949: Cathedral (1947); Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) (1950); Tiger (1949); and Eyes in the Heat 0946), and discussed how the colors in the paintings might have related to his feelings.

Pollock did not use drawings or sketches for his paintings, but worked freely on the canvas to show his emotion. He also didn't use an easel, but worked with his canvas on the ground, splattering, dripping and throwing paint onto it. The students admired the movement in the works of art.

Pollock liked the term "action painting" because he used so much energy and moved around a lot when he painted. I think Pollock would have been pleased to hear people say, "Oh, a child could do that!" when they looked at his paintings, because Pollock wanted his art to have the spontaneity and intensity of art done by children. His paintings are filled with rhythm, movement and expression.

While observing Pollock's action paintings, we explored the relationship between various types of line. How do the lines of paint lead the eye into or out of the painting?

Next, we looked at some of Henri Matisse's cutout masterpieces, wherein he made use of flat shapes and simple bold colors. We discussed the variety in Matisse's work, and saw that the artist heightened the visual appeal by combining one or more elements of art.

TIME FOR SOME ACTION After discussing the two artists, I explained the hands-on portion of our study. Each student picked a piece of mat board, which was available in many colors. This would be the "canvas" for our action collages.

The students were then directed to select scraps of mat board of various colors. They were told they could cut the scraps into any shapes and any sizes they wanted, and to lay out a pleasing arrangement on the background. I asked them to keep in mind how the shapes formed lines that led the eye into and out of the work of art. They were to consider variety, harmony, rhythm, movement and the mood they would create with their arrangement.

When a pleasing arrangement had been laid out and glued down, we were ready for the action painting. As Pollock did, the students laid the "canvas" on the floor. Using tempera paint, the students dripped, splattered and flung paint onto the canvas. I again reminded the students to keep rhythm and movement in mind when creating the action painting.

What resulted from the combinations of two styles was an "action collage" the students will not forget. They assimilated the styles of two famous artists to create their own works of art that were made "famous" when displayed in our hallway.


Middle-school students will ...

* define line, explore the relationship between various types of line and learn to manipulate line.

* create shapes and forms from mat board and explore their relationship with paint.

* explore the relationship of color, line, rhythm and movement in Jackson Pollock and Henri Matisse's artworks, as well as their own.


* Understand and apply media, techniques and processes.

* Use knowledge of structures and functions.

* Reflect upon and assess the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.


* Images of Jackson Pollock's action paintings and Henri Matisse's collages

* Mat board, mat-board scraps and scissors

* Tempera paint and brushes

Go to and click on this button for links to some of the paintings mentioned in this article.

Karen Skophammer is an art instructor for Manson Northwest Webster Schools in Manson and Barnum, Iowa.
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Author:Skophammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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