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How To Make Your Own Matisse Masterpiece - Paint With Scissors

Updated on July 28, 2011

Make your own Matisse cut-out Still Life.

Henri Matisse, (1869-1954) was a French artist, often known for his bold use of color and original techniques. He was initially considered a Fauvist (See my article on How to make a Fauvist Painting) . Throughout his life, he worked as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor. In his later years, while confined to a wheelchair, he began what he called, "Painting with scissors", or as we know them best, paper cut-outs. Paper cut-out art is simple, bold, playful and can be very beautiful and elegant.

This is a great exercise to learn shapes, foreground and background. This is also a good exercise prior to learning how to paint.

This is what you'll need to make a cut-out paper still life:

  • A Still Life. In our example, we use a bowl with a variety of fresh fruits.
  • An array of colored paper (Construction paper is fine), in colors that represent the colors in your still life.
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • A Pencil
  • A sheet of white paper large enough to glue your still life on (I recommend at least 11" x 17")

Here's how to assemble your Matisse Still Life:

  1. Start by choosing a colored paper for your bowl. Draw out the shape of the bowl using your pencil.
  2. Cut out your bowl and place it on the white paper, but don't glue it yet!
  3. Start drawing and then cutting out corresponding fruits from the still life in colored paper you think best represents it. (In the example below, the pink spiky fruit is representing a Dragon fruit, which is very popular in Thailand.)
  4. As you cut, make sure you're paying close attention to the shape of the fruits - drawing and cutting exactly what you see - not what you think you see. This will give your fruit more personality!
  5. After all of your fruit is cut out, layer it where it should go into the cut-out bowl. There will be many overlapping pieces as you figure out what is in the foreground and what is in the background.
  6. Carefully start gluing down your fruit shapes and your bowl. Some fruit may hang over the bowl, therefore being in the foreground and glued onto the bowl shape. As you glue, gently press from the center of the shape all the way to the edges.

Tip:For a more advanced Matisse Cut-Out Still life, design your own set up, perhaps musical instruments or books. Maybe a family pet that sleeps for a long time in the same position! And, if you want to make it more of a challenge, start cutting out smaller shapes you see that are inside the shapes you have already cut out (such as brown lines inside the banana).

Clean up:Use a damp cloth with mild detergent to wipe up any excess glue. If you are working on nice furniture, please take care to cover it with plastic or newspapers before you begin. Make sure your scissors are clean from glue as well, so they last for many projects to come!

And, remember: Art is a practice and it gets better each you practice doing it!

Student Masterpiece, "A Bowl of Fruit"
Student Masterpiece, "A Bowl of Fruit"
"Sorrow of the King" after Matisse
"Sorrow of the King" after Matisse
"Le Gerbe" after Matisse
"Le Gerbe" after Matisse


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    • Laura Spector profile image

      Laura Spector 6 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Leo, you're very welcome! I hope you enjoy the project!

    • profile image

      Leo 6 years ago

      Excellent. Thank you for the posting of this article. Most informative.