Young at Art

Every Child is an Artist

Pablo Picasso said: Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

In March 2014, I “taught” after-school collage workshops to 4th and 5th grade students at the Williams Elementary School (Mt. Vernon, NY). The project at the 3rd workshop was a Sunny Face collage. The image below is my workshop sample. Notice there is a yellow circle that sits on top of a teal blue circle. The kids cut out the circles first. Notice the triangles with wavy stripes that are placed around the circumference of the paper circle. Kids got the striped paper pre-cut into 2″ x 4 ½ inch strips. I showed them how to cut across the strips in zigzags to create tall, thin triangles. The striped papers were bright neon colors: green, blue, yellow, fuchsia pink, and purple. Notice there are 3 small 5-point stars pasted at the top. Two students wanted to include stars. See collages by Kenyatta and Akeem below. I’ve included a lesson plan: 7 Steps to Create a Sunny Face Collage (see below).  See image of striped papers directly below the 7 Steps lesson plan.

sample collage, Good Morning Sunshine, Nikkal
sample collage, Good Morning Sunshine, Nikkal

I make a sample collage for each project because it gives students a visual jumping off point for how to begin. Another reason I make a sample collage is it’s important for me to learn the best way to structure the project for kids so they can get to work quickly and  complete the collage before the end of the workshop. This project involved multiple steps. The workshops last only one hour.

I set out prepared materials at every student’s seat. There are about 20 kids at each workshop. When they arrive they see papers, markers, glue sticks and scissors at every place. They can start quickly. I reproduce black and white photocopies of the sample collage and put one in front of every two students. I show the sample collage to everyone, and explain how to proceed. I tell them I do not expect them to copy my sample. They never copy. They look at my sample and they look at what other students are doing, and they always create something new.

I wanted students to paste letters on the sunny face in their own words. Notice the letters on my sample spell out “Good morning Sunshine. Notice the pasted paper letters on the image below spell out “Enjoy Artful Mornings Passions Songs Explore Today Music.” The image below is the prototype for my sample collage. I gave it a title: “Shine On” and am pretty sure I found the image at The students created their own words with photocopied letters I supplied.

sample collage, Shine On
sample collage, Shine On

Notice “Shine on” is made with a single yellow circle with a watercolor blue background. I counted 24 cut and pasted triangles around the circle. Notice all the papers are different solid colors, stripes and patters. The edge of the yellow circle includes small cut and pasted letters. I think it’s difficult to read the words because the letters are so small.

 Notice my sample collage (top) did not have any background. I asked the students to add color to the 8 ½ x 11 inch white cardstock they used for their collage background paper. They didn’t have time to create a watercolor background. I showed them how to hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and decorate their background with multi-colored lines done with a sweeping motion. I love how every student created a different background with the markers, and how they were so focused as they worked. It was a great beginning. See all the different images below.

Collage by Rosella
Collage by Rosella

The image above is by Rosella. She’s a very dedicated young artist. Notice her multi-color background – curved, concentric stripes in blue, yellow, purple and pink. Notice her sunny face has 2 rows of triangle rays around the circle. She cut and pasted larger striped triangles first, and then added smaller triangles from a polka dot patterned paper as a second row. Notice how collage papers became a face with eyes (eyeglasses?) and a red and green nose. Notice the words “Happy Day” became a smiley mouth, and how she used collage letters to create a signature at the top.

Collage by Omarion
Collage by Omarion

The image above is by Omarion, who designed a background with free-hand scribbly lines, first in yellow Sharpie marker, then in blue. Notice that the blue lines over yellow lines make green lines.

Notice the bottom circle is black and the top circle is yellow. Omarion cut and pasted 11 striped triangles around the circle. Some are tucked under and some are over the yellow circle. Notice the collage squares with black on white letters that spell “freedom of speech.” See Omarion’s signature in cursive that matches the loopy shaped lines in his background design. I am sure he knew exactly what he was doing as he made the collage.

7 Steps: Lesson Plan for the Sunshine Project

(1) Use cardstock for the substrate (bottom collage layer). Refer to the collage sample with the blue colored background. Hold 2 or 3 Sharpie markers in one hand and make patterns on the white cardstock.

(2) Prepare 2 circle outlines: 5” diameter on blue paper and 4” diameter on yellow paper. Cut out 2 circles.

(3) Cut preprinted striped paper in 2”x4” strips (see below). Cut triangles from paper strips: zig zag from bottom to top and back. Notice the pattern in all triangles show the same horizontal direction for all pieces. Match colorful papers to Sharpie marker colors in the substrate.

(4) Glue the large blue circle down on the decorated substrate near the middle of the paper. Glue cut triangles around the blue circle – with the pointy edge projecting outside the circle.

(5) Glue the smaller yellow circle down over the blue circle. Try to cover the uneven edges of the triangle papers.

(6) Decorate the circle “face” with cut papers and pasted letters that create a personal statement or quote.

(7) If you like, add collage to the background. Add your signature.

Wavy Striped Papers
Wavy Striped Papers

The image above shows 6 striped paper strips. Each student got 2-4 strips from which they cut the colorful sunray triangles. Most students made 12 – 20 triangles to glue around the blue circle.

Following are 5 finished collages by students at the Williams Elementary School after-school workshop.

Collage by Kevon
Collage by Kevon

The image above is by Kevon. His background is made with scribbly lines (done while holding 2 markers in his hand). The lines go from top left to bottom right and from top right to bottom left. Notice Kevon added 6 cut and colored 5-pointed stars along the side and corners. He cut 14 perfect striped paper triangles, and pasted them down on the larger yellow circle. Notice how the striped colors radiate out in all directions. The colors are in motion. Try to see the 6 stars. They blend into the background and are almost invisible. His text is his signature, done with black on white cut and pasted letters within the gold yellow circle. The more I look at this collage, the more I enjoy it. Kevon’s collage seems simple, but it’s really sophisticated.


Collage by Bridney
Collage by Bridney

 The image above is by Bridney. She had fun swirling markers to create overlapping loops in blue, green, purple and hot pink. Notice the light yellow circle is placed off-center and is covered with 12 striped triangles. Notice the colors – pink, yellow, green, blue and purple radiate out into the background created with swirling lines. Everything is in motion, including the cut and pasted letters that becomes Bridney’s signature.

 Collage by Kenyatta

Collage by Kenyatta The image above is by Kenyatta. He decided to use yellow-green paper for his substrate, and created a scribbly line background pattern with green and blue markers going from top to bottom on the diagonal. Kenyatta’s sunshine is larger across than all the others in the workshop. Notice there are 15 long, thin triangles for the sun’s rays. Kenyatta is tall and slim. The paper patterns show different directions. Notice the 5-pointed stars are hand-colored with blue, green, yellow and hot pink markers. See how they blend into the background in terms of colors, but also stand out against the background because the lines are facing in different directions. This young artist took great care in cutting shapes and placing every paper in his collage.


Collage by Akeem
Collage by Akeem

 The image above is by Akeem. He used Sharpie markers to draw almost parallel lines across his Cardstock background. He started in the upper left and drew alternate blue and green lines diagonally. Akeem glued 2 circles to the background, and placed his cut striped triangles on top so you see how the papers are glued down. The combination of drawing (contrasting lines) and collage is beautiful to see. Notice Akeem cut a 5-pointed star, left it uncolored, and glued it down near the center of the gold yellow circle. He added his signature nearby as a closely spaced collage of block letters, black on white. The whites in the star and signature tie into the white showing through the drawing in the background. There’s a lot of freedom and energy in the way this collage is organized, and that is very exciting to see.

Collage by Andrew
Collage by Andrew

 The image above is by Andrew. He drew free-hand crisscross lines that overlap and curve across the cardstock white substrate. He used purple, green, blue, yellow and hot pink Sharpie markers – colors that match the printed striped papers in his collage. Notice he added spatter dots with marker dipped in water. The 2 circles that form the sunshine are cut from light and dark yellow. Triangle rays are cut from striped and from polka dot papers. Andrew wrote “You only Live Once” in red green yellow and black, and signed his name in cursive – all around the circumference of the yellow outer circle.

Before he was finished, Andrew drew black triangles at all the corners. He has an intuitive sense of design – he curved the wide base of his triangles, which repeats all the curved lines in the background, curved stripes in the printed collage triangles, and curved words along the circle inner edge.

 Final Thoughts:

 Kids make art to express ideas and show their personality. Children are brilliant at color, design and composition. It’s intuitive. All they need is an assortment of inviting materials. I design collage projects to make it easy for them to get engaged.

How do you get the kids engaged? Project must be cute, fun and open to personal expression. Kids need to see the project as a challenge they set for themselves. It’s their choice to make the project as simple or complicated as they want. My challenge is to focus and encourage them, and organize the materials so the project can be completed in a short period of time. I love to see children make art. That’s why I design art workshops for kids.I want to optimize their experience. I want kids to feel proud of their work and how they’ve reached the challenge they gave themselves.

Often my idea for a collage project starts with an image I find online or in a magazine. See Rosella’s sunshine collage and other works by and for young artists at my Pinterest site. Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments.


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