My first encounter with Henri Matisse’s art was a visit to the Rosary Chapel located in the South of France. I was 14 then on a school trip to Europe for an art history tour. The facade of the chapel was white and plain looking; a stark contrast to the majestic churches filled with Gothic and Renaissance frescos, which I was used to seeing earlier during the trip. It was a welcome change for me I recalled.
I remembered sitting inside the chapel and in front of me just behind the altar was a mural of a man drawn in black outlined. I thought to myself “Hey! I think I can do that too!” It was Matisse’s masterpiece of Saint Dominic. What caught my attention was the bold coloured stained glass which stood out against the white interiors. The chapel was designed by Henri Matisse in his final years.
Using resources from the Singapore library, I borrowed two books “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and “How the Snail Found Its Colours: The Art of Matisse ” by Jeong-Yi Kee. These books opened the world of Matisse’s cutouts to younger GEM.
Book I: Henri’s Scissors
The story briefly details the life of Matisse from how a young boy who enjoyed the arts became a lawyer but eventually followed his passion to become an artist.
Matisse’s art in his later years were putting together coloured paper cut outs as he was no longer able to hold a paintbrush due to his ailments. Despite his inability to paint, he didn’t give up but channeled his passion of art to another artform. He formed collages using his colourful cut outs on walls. I am a fan of his collages!
I planned for younger GEM to create her own coloured paper and make cutouts to decorate the wall and a recycled milk bottle to be used as a vase.
Materials & Tools:
Recycled milk bottle
Double sided tape
Just like how Henri’s assistants painted the paper for him to cut, younger GEM painted the drawing papers with the colours she chose.
I traced the some of the designs found in the book for us to cut. Both the “birds” were cut by younger GEM while the rest were too challenging for her.
Decorate the milk bottle with the cut outs using double sided tape. A little fine motor skill practise from peeling the tape!
Create a little Matisse inspired space! See image at the beginning of the post!
Book II: How the Snail Found Its Colours
This is a story of a colourless snail embarking on a journey to find its own colours and along the way met a number of artworks by Matisse. Finally, the snail found its own colours from Matisse; from a colourless sad snail to a colourful fabulous one!
From this story, younger GEM saw some of Matisse’s art such as “Dance (II)” and “Music”. The highlight was “The Snail”, which we will attempt to replicate.
Materials & Tools:
Picture of “The Snail” by Matisse
Square drawing paper
Crepe paper: black, orange, dark blue, dark and light green, yellow, red and pink
Spray bottle with water
I cut out the shapes similar to the original piece using crepe paper.
Display the cut outs and place square drawing paper on tray.
Younger GEM to place them on a blank piece of drawing paper according to the original artwork.
Spray water over the entire piece of artwork and let the crepe paper colours “bleed”.
Wait for a while and remove the crepe papers gently.
The end product looked similar to a water colour painting and it was perfect as a birthday card for grandma!
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Genesis 1:1 (NKJV)
We began our study on the book of Genesis with the story of creation. There are many ways to approach the story of creation with young kids. What better way than to bring our kids outdoors and experience God’s creation firsthand. However, just this approach can be overwhelming for the young minds. Younger GEM and I spent a couple weeks to run through the six days of creation; reinforcing through craft and play using Spielgaben. We looked at the process of how God created the world, how it was carefully planned from the atmospheric elements to vegetation to lifeforms.
Other than using the playboards or story mats provided with the Spielgaben set as a base for play, I prefer to use alternatives such as mirrors, gym coloured markers or by creating your own!
Using Spielgaben 3-6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 we built scenes of creation from day one to six.
Day 1 – Light (Genesis 1:3-5)
First day of creation and it was light. Just like how Jesus came to be the light of the world (When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12). We used Spielgaben 8 – Sticks to spell “LIGHT” using a mirror base.
Day 2 – Sky and sea (Genesis 1:6-8)
We created our sky and sea background canvas by painting the Ikea roll of drawing paper. Light blue for the sky and a darker shade for the sea. This story mat will also be used for activities for day 3, 5 and 6.
Using Spielgaben 9, semi-rings to create waves. For the clouds, we used Spielgaben 7. Younger GEM enjoyed the process of creating funky shapes for the clouds. While it doesn’t appear to look like clouds to me, it certainly did for her! Her favourite was the rocket! Are you able to spot it?
Day 3 – Land, plants and trees (Genesis 1:9-13)
Using the same canvas as day 2, we painted the bottom right, brown, for land. We planted some flowers and her favourite apple tree using Spielgaben 7 and 8. We followed the Spielgaben guide for the flowers and apple tree. It was challenging for younger GEM to follow the guide so I had to assist her. For example, dissecting the “apple tree” by identifying the different parts that made up the tree and rote count the parts while looking for them in the respective drawers. Use your intuition on how much help your child needs.
Day 4 – Sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:14-19)
We used a piece of drawing paper to create the day and night sky as our backdrop. Dividing the piece of drawing paper diagonally in half, younger GEM painted light blue (day) and black (night) on each half.
We used Spielgaben 7 and 10 to create shapes for the sun, moon and stars.
Younger GEM used a square piece for the centre of her sun initially and she decided it did not look quite like the sun and swap it for a circle. Let your child take their time and decide, let them think and rationalise for themselves. You will see they them delight in their accomplishments.
Day 5 – Sea and flying creatures (Genesis 1:20-23)
Scrolling through the Spielgaben user guide, younger GEM picked the sea otter (sea creature) and seagull (flying creature) to represent each of the two categories of animals.
Day 6 – Land animals, man (Genesis 1:24-31)
Again, using the Speigaben guide, younger GEM chose the bear to represent land animals. The bear mainly uses Spielgaben 3-6. Spielgaben 7 for the ears and 10 for facial features. She exclaimed that the bear was the easiest compared to the otter and seagull. Indeed, she could execute the task with minimal help since the parts (Spielgaben 3-6) used were 3D; much easier for her to handle.
Finally, God created man, which He claimed was “very good”. We added stickmen to represent Adam and Eve on our story mat.
At the same time, we used Spielgaben 7, 8, 9 & 10 and gym coloured markers, to form the faces of Adam and Eve. Each of the family members made our attempts!