This is a guest post, hosted by Win’s Books and written by Ruth Wall
A group of women artists in London taught art around the city until COVID. Instead of folding their business, they went online. Last Saturday, I took one of their classes with hundreds of other people from all around the world. The class was “Matisse Painting with Scissors.” It was a delightful mix of art history, antidotes about the artists, and a series of exercises that the instructor, Frances Stanfield led us through as she mapped the progression of Matisse’s unique form of art. Part of the experience was listening to the music that Matisse loved to listen to when he created. She is part of the London Drawing Group.
Frances told us a little bit about the artist. Matisse was born in 1869 in Northern France, in a region known for textiles. The idea of cutting and pinning designs was not foreign to him. Matisse was supposed to study in order to be a lawyer. That was his father’s plan, but instead, he secretly enrolled in art school, following his heart instead. Matisse eventually found his way into a group of artists known as the Fauves.
(Put aside in a block – Fauvism was the first of the avant-garde movements that flourished in France in the early years of the twentieth century. The Fauve painters were the first to break with Impressionism as well as with older, traditional methods of perception. Their spontaneous, often subjective response to nature was expressed in bold, undisguised brushstrokes and high-keyed, vibrant colors directly from the tube. – Sabine Rewald Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Until Matisse began to work in a cut paper, he never really felt that he truly expressed himself through his art. His critics called it “Paper jokes.” which the artist ignored and instead kept pushing this method, developing it, playing around, and calling it “Painting with scissors.”
Francis instructed us to hold the paper up as we were cutting to work fast, not really thinking about what we’re doing and to cut one continuous cut. I found it a little bit awkward, but I can understand the beautiful distortion that comes when you preceded in the manner the master paper cutter did. Matisse was all about simplicity of shape, something that I appreciate.
Matisse used paper that he painted with gouache to give the paper texture. I didn’t prepare the paper that I used. Instead, I selected nice pieces colored paper, but I am interested in trying it again with the painted textured paper. All in all, I was very happy with my results.
When Matisse first used cut paper, it was a way to design larger works of art, but it wasn’t long until the cut paper designs became an art in their own right. As he worked, Matisse pinned his pieces on the wall of his studio and lived with them for a while before he decided exactly where everything should go. Our instructor Frances encouraged us to do the same thing after we finished the class.
I’m a firm believer in repetition and I was happy to know that what Matisse insisted that if you want to know how to paint something or how to cut something out, you repeat it over and over again until the act of creation becomes second nature. Part of our lesson was cutting out circus figures; acrobats and jugglers along with sculptured figures by the artist. Knowing that repetition makes things to better reassure me that one day if I keep practicing that I can make my cut figures look somewhat more human than what I created on Saturday.
The artist’s most celebrated work of cut paper was a book that he made in 1943 called Jazz. You are probably familiar with the cut paper art from this book as it frequently makes its way into the art history books, and as you would suspect, Matisse often created while listening to jazz music. We cut paper spontaneously to Count Basie’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”
From what I described, you can see why I thought this class was a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning. Below are my arrangements of cut paper designs.
As we ended the class, Francis shared with us some artists who were influenced by Matisse, which I have listed below. She equally invited us to join more of their classes.
I highly recommend that you look up the London Drawing Group and take a class or two. I will be taking more. Being part of an international community of artists and like-minded people is a great way to spend another COVID weekend. I’m inspired by the “London Drawing Group,” who turned this time into an opportunity to discover new ways to be creative.
About the Author
Put me in a garden, seat me at a table with good food, family and friends, or let me travel to some beautiful place and I will be content, but I will also most likely want to paint what I encounter.
My Bachelor degree is from University of Texas at Dallas in Arts and Performance; Visual Arts with an emphasis in Drawing and Painting. I have been doing art since I was a young child. Occasionally I enter an art show. Sometimes I get accepted. I have even won best of category in Mixed Media. But that isn’t why I create art. My passion is to create what I call “Faith Art”. At UTD I learned to take a concept and find a way to express it visually. I do that with my faith. Then, I love to teach.