Inspired by Matisse: Bringing 'Henri's Scissors' to Life

A couple of weeks ago Chloe over at Gannet + Parrot invited me to join a bloggy challenge set out by Hattie Garlick over at Free Our Kids to create an activity from the pages of a favourite children’s book. Hattie had started this when she and her two children sat in the garden reenacting ‘Snail Trail’, and Chloe went on to bake a marmalade gingerbread with her daughter from the pages of The Usborne First Cookbook.

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I mulled this for a good week. I kept coming back toThe Tiger Who Came to Tea‘ (whose wonderful author Judith Kerr I blogged about here) as I thought it would be fun (delicious) to eat all the food on Sophie’s table. I always like the look of ‘all the buns on the dish’ and I would also love an excuse to drink all the beer in our house at 4pm. This couldn’t work though. I would have to actually bake a load of stuff, and I can’t afford to replace all the tins and packets in the cupboard just because we’ve eaten the lot in one sitting.

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So I asked my oldest son what he would choose, because when the younger one sleeps and we are home, we *try* to sit down and do something together. (This actually happens probably once every two weeks because life gets in the way). My boys have latterly been obsessed with a book my mother bought them when she want to see the much-lauded Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern. She took my husband’s sister, and both my husband and I were rather put out as we SO want to go.

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The book is called ‘Henri’s Scissors‘ and is by Jeanette Winters. It tells of Matisse’s life, how he was always drawing and came to give up law in order to paint. And then how he fell ill as an elderly man and could no longer make his art. He moved to a seaside spot and the clear air revived him. One day he picked up some scissors and cut shapes from pieces of coloured paper, which he stuck to other pieces of coloured paper to create his work.

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He became ‘deeply contented, happy’, and his cut-outs became bigger and bigger, until he had created a garden in his bedroom. My sons adore the part when it says he draws the faces of his grandchildren on the ceiling with a piece of chalk attached to a long stick, so that they can see inside his dreams.

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At the end the book, Henri gets up out of bed and walks into his ‘garden’, then he keeps on going up and up into the sky. The book ends asking: ‘Are some of the stars we see at night coming to us from Henri’s scissors?’

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We created this activity by first painting sheets of paper. He chose the pink, blue, orange and green because these are the colours on the front of the book. We let them dry in the sun and then he painted two more sheets (“like Henri’s assistants did”) in red and purple.

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Then he took scissors – regular and crimped – and cut out lots of shapes as haphazardly as he wanted. Then he placed them and stuck them down. This all took about an hour of focused time (small miracle). During the course of the making I had to read the book through to him three times.

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The resulting pictures are so beautiful we’re going to frame them. He had ‘show and tell’ at school on Monday and chose to take his Matisse artworks and the book over the usual toy or sword. On the back of this, we’ve booked tickets to go and see the exhibition at Tate Modern in the summer as a family. I can’t wait to build on the way this wonderful artist’s work has captured the boys’ imaginations.

Perhaps I’ll write about it – after all, London is only just over the time-distance set out by Little Lewes. Surely we can bend the rules! Thank you to Hattie and Chloe for inviting me in to this challenge and giving me another good reason on top of ‘because it’s really good for us both’ to sit down and spend an hour of quality time with my eldest son.

Bloggers out there, how about bringing your favourite children’s book to life? If you do it, head HERE to post your link in Hattie’s original thread… And do cc me in on Twitter, I’d love to read some more of them!

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Disclosure: This is not a review of ‘Henri’s Scissors’ or of ‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs‘ – we were given neither the book nor tickets to the exhibition by the Tate Modern. It’s a simple activity post in response to the blogging challenge laid out by Hattie Garlick at Free Our Kids

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I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

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