This is one of my most favorite art lessons. Not only is it colorful, expressive and fun to make, but it teaches a variety of art skills: combining colors, composition, human form and the importance of working neatly. Inspired by the paintings by Henri Matisse, this has been a perennial favorite with my fifth and sixth grade students. Step One: Making the Background
Get out your box of scrap paper, because this is what you've been saving it for! I give 1 sheet of 12" x 18" white construction paper to each student. They are required to fill up the background with large blocks of color.
I encourage curvy lines, angles, etc. Whatever shapes and patterns the students like. It's important to keep the blocks of color large so when the dancer is added, it won't be "lost" in the confusion.
Step Two: Making the Dancer
Put the background aside and show the students how to cut out a human figure. If you have "forms" in your classroom, this is a great time to use them. I make a paper figure using black construction paper. I show the kids how to cut folded paper to create two arms, two legs, etc. with just one cut. I stress oval shapes over rectangular shapes, but you'll get those too!
Step Three: Gluing the Dancer to the Background
Sounds easy, but believe me, this step can get messy. Biggest tip here is to tell the kids to lay out their dancer first. Arrange the pieces so that they can get a feeling for how a static figure looks compared to a figure in motion. Once the student is satisfied, then she can glue down the pieces.
I use a glue stick for this. White school glue is a bad idea for this project. Trust me.
Step Four: Dressing Your Dancer
Can't leave the dancer naked, although I have had a few kids try. This part of the lesson is especially fun for the girls. It's like playing with cut-outs. I show the kids how to make swingy skirts, crazy hair, bandeau tops, etc. Remind the kids not to use red hair if the background is red. It always surprises me how most kids don't notice details like that.
Step Five: Adding Details
If there is time, I show the kids how details can really finish the picture off. Like the tiny confetti squares shown above. It gives the dancer a real "kick". This is where kids can either get really creative or start gluing large sheets of paper over their figure. Don't be shy in whisking the artwork off their desk and congratulating them on creating such an enthusiastic, expressive piece.