Matisse Goldfish

I love to create Matisse-inspired art projects with kids. Matisse’s paintings are full of color, pattern and energy. Here is a project that combines features of two of his famous paintings, Woman in a Purple Coat and Goldfish.
Day 1: pattern hunt

We begin with a ‘pattern hunt.’ I look around the room and find kids wearing patterned clothing. They stand up and we discuss their patterns. Then we take a very close look at Matisse’s Woman in a Purple a Coat, and tally up all the patterns one by one. I can’t tell you how excited those first graders became when they identified the patterned curtains and wallpaper in the painting. They tallied up 13 patterns, including the fruit on the table.

Day 2: create patterned paper
White paper 12″x18″
Tempera cakes
Water cups, brushes
Oil pastels or construction paper

Here is a fast way to create four patterns. Fold the white paper into quarters and open. Using tempera cakes, paint one quarter a solid color. Paint the remaining quarters with patterned lines (wavy, zig zag, etc.). Now take oil pastels and create a pattern on the solid quarter. The tempera cake dries so quickly you can draw on it in just a few minutes. Add oil pastel patterns to the remaining quarters. Place on drying rack.

Day 3: create a goldfish bowl


Blue paper, 6″x10″
Oil pastels (or construction paper crayons)
Glue sticks
Turn blue paper vertically and draw a ‘rainbow’ at the top using a black oil pastel. Draw a ‘smile’ under the rainbow. Cut along the top line to remove the corners and create the look of a round vase edge.
Add goldfish or other aquarium creatures. Glue to patterned background paper with glue stick.

First Grade Results:


Do you have a favorite Matisse lesson?


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5 thoughts on “Matisse Goldfish

  1. I do have a favorite Matisse lesson, it’s a free painting lesson based on his interiors with window views. We start with big brushes and draw a window shape, then create the room outside the window and an outside view inside the window. I give them only the primaries and white tempera for mixing, and when we are done I give them a little black if they want it.
    Your patterns and fishbowls look fantastic! I think Matisse has an endless number of inspirations too.
    Hope knight recently posted..New blog for Fine Arts Night!My Profile

    • Hi Hope. I would love to see your students’ Matisse projects, they sound really interesting.

  2. Oh my goodness, I have at least a couple (or maybe more) favorite Matisse lessons, because, I admit, I am a Matisse-a-holic! I have easily four or five Matisse lessons posted on my blog (search ‘Matisse’ to find them all), including a couple of goldfish bowl lessons based on an actual still life setup in my room, but I guess my favorite is my ‘Fauve Fauves’ – wild beasts (we used African animals) painted in fauve color schemes, with frames of collaged animal skin tissue paper. They are SO gorgeous!
    Phyl recently posted..Cool2Cast from Michael’s workshop at NAEAMy Profile

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