Colorful Abstract Collages

Products Used

Additional Products

  • Glue Sticks or Tacky Glue
  • Plastic Storage Bags
  • Permanent Markers
  • Images of Collages by Henri Matisse & Paintings by Stuart Davis
  • Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Jane O'Connor (optional)

Project Details

Developed by: Phyllis Brown, retired art educator, art education blogger at (There’s a Dragon in my Art Room)

Lesson Plan Ideas

Students will:

  • Look at and discuss works of art including Matisse’s collages and paintings by Stuart Davis.
  • Identify the use of both amorphous (organic) and geometric shapes in their artwork.
  • Create an abstract or non-objective collage including negative and positive shapes, using a combination of geometric and amorphous (organic) shapes.
  • Use various Elements of Art and Principles of Design in order to create a pleasing composition.

Common Core Standards for Grades 2-5

Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.G.A.1 Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.G.A.2 Partition a rectangle into rows and columns of same-size squares and count to find the total number of them.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.G.A.3 Partition circles and rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, thirds, half of, a third of, etc., and describe the whole as two halves, three thirds, four fourths. Recognize that equal shares of identical wholes need not have the same shape.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.G.A.1 Understand that shapes in different categories (e.g., rhombuses, rectangles, and others) may share attributes (e.g., having four sides), and that the shared attributes can define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals). Recognize rhombuses, rectangles, and squares as examples of quadrilaterals, and draw examples of quadrilaterals that do not belong to any of these subcategories.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.G.A.2 Partition shapes into parts with equal areas. Express the area of each part as a unit fraction of the whole. For example, partition a shape into 4 parts with equal area, and describe the area of each part as 1/4 of the area of the shape.


  1. Discuss the meaning of geometric and amorphous (organic) shapes. Discuss how to identify various geometric shapes, including triangles, and quadrilaterals. With either pencil and paper or white boards and markers, practice drawing both geometric shapes (using a ruler or straight-edge) and organic shapes. Practice using a ruler to partition shapes into equal shares.

  2. Look at collages by Henri Matisse and paintings by Stuart Davis, and optionally, read the book Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Jane O’Connor.

  3. Identify both amorphous and geometric shapes within these collages and paintings. Note the partitioning of circles often used in Davis’s paintings.

  4. Look for the various Elements of Art (shape, color, and space) used in the collages and paintings. Note how various Principles of Design (balance, including symmetrical and asymmetrical, contrast, repetition, rhythm/movement, unity/harmony) were used to create pleasing compositions.

  5. Demonstrate how to cut a rectangular shape into triangles. Demonstrate how to cut an amorphous/organic shape from the rectangle, and note the positive and negative shapes achieved. Demonstrate how to cut a spiral shape by cutting into the center and back out again.

  6. Students will choose a large rectangular shape as the gluing surface or backing of their collage.

  7. Students will cut a variety of geometric and amorphous/organic shapes from various colors (different from their backing color) and in various sizes. Shapes can be purely non-objective, or can be reminiscent of a shape in nature (for example, leaf shapes, fish shapes, flower shapes, etc.). Students will choose at least one shape to be cut into smaller shares (halves, thirds, or fourths). If time is limited, students can save their negative and positive cutout shapes in a plastic storage bag for later use in their collages.

  8. Students will experiment with various ways of arranging their cutout shapes, using both negative and positive pieces, to create an interesting composition. In making their arrangement, students should consider how they are making use of the various Principles of Design in achieving an interesting composition. (See image below.)

    Step 8



  9. Students will glue the shapes in place with white school glue or a glue stick. Students should hold the piece in place and count to 10 to be sure the shape has stuck! (Note: There is a smooth side and a rough side to Pacon® Plastic Art Sheets. Gluing rough side to rough side helps but shapes will move until they are completely dry.)

  10. Optional: use black permanent markers and/or other colors of permanent markers to further emphasize various Elements and Principles, by adding repetitive line designs. Paint markers are an oil based marker and are best for grades 4-5. Regular black permanent markers can be used by the younger children. (See image below.)

    Step 10



  11. If time is available, students may make a second collage with unused cutouts, and may exchange cutouts with other students for more variety.


  • To display the artwork, hang on a window to highlight the translucency of the Plastic Art Sheets.

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