Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Expressionist Tissue Paper Animals: Art Project How-To

 One of our successful art projects at Phillips Elementary has been Franz Marc-inspired tissue paper animals. Franz Marc (1880-1916) was a German Expressionist printmaker and painter. His work is most noted for his depictions of animals. Marc loved animals and used bold shapes and bright colors to express emotions and personal symbolism.

For this project, we noted how Franz Marc used shapes to break up the animals and the background. The overlay of tissue paper over a pastel drawing simulates how he overlaps geometric forms with paint, and almost delves into Cubism.


-drawing pencil
-pictures of animals
-11" x 17" art paper
-oil pastels
-assorted colors of tissue paper (non-bleeding)
-sponge brush
-white glue + water
-small cups/receptacles

1. The students chose an animal that they felt represents them. We talked about why a person might identify with a certain animal... what traits would you share with a horse or a bear or a dolphin? We had an assortment of animal reference for the young artists to choose from: books, magazines and Spanish/English animal flash cards. They were given a piece of drawing paper to practice sketching their animal in pencil, with attention to breaking the animal down into basic shapes.

2. The next step is to draw the same animal onto the final 11" x 17" paper. Emphasize drawing it large, so that more detail can be added and it fills up the paper. Some students chose to draw first with pencil, but I advise going straight into using oil pastels. I told the students that Franz Marc usually chose one color for his animal subjects, and it doesn't have to be natural: a blue horse, or a red bull, or purple fox. The color of the animal meant something important. Think about what color you choose might represent. Pick out three colors that are related, to start: a light, a medium and a dark. For example if you want to draw a green lion, choose a light lime green, a medium grass green, and a dark forest green. Complete your animal drawing with spots that are light, medium and dark with your one color.

3. The tissue paper was passed out. I introduced it in medium size strands that the students could further cut into smaller shapes if they desired. I also gave out a few colors at a time so that they could create harmony in their pictures by repeating colors throughout.

4. To glue tissue paper: Put white glue in small cup and mix with a little water to loosen the glue and help it spread. Use a sponge brush to first brush the glue on the paper where tissue paper is desired. Then carefully place tissue paper shape and apply another coat of watered glue on top.

5. Continue with more pieces of tissue paper until the background is covered. It is also encouraged to overlap your tissue paper over the animal, which will soften the marks by the pastels. Oil pastels are rich, so the animal should be seen through the translucent layer of tissue.

Here are our beautiful results! This project tied in to a field trip to the Pittsburgh Opera, where some of our students and their families watched Mozart's The Magic Flute. There was a magical part in the opera about animals being drawn by the sound of the flute... that is exactly what these paintings remind me of!



  1. Very informative. Thanks for sharing with us. Good to know
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  2. All animals are a composition of cells. The majority of these cells move around, and the ones that have fixed positions, or sedentary, move the animal's actual body parts. Animals live by eating food.
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