Art Lesson Plan: Eric Carle Collage

Eric Carle Collage

Submitted by: Linda Wood, St. John's Lower School, Houston, Texas
Unit: Collage/painting
Grade Level: 2 through 4 (these are 2nd grade - See Kindergarten lesson idea)
School Web Site: St. John's Lower School
See lesson Eric Carle for Middle School



White Drawing Paper. (12" x 18" / 30.5 x 46 cm), Construction Paper., Prang Watercolor Pan Sets., assorted stamps, texture Brayers., Brushes., water dishes, paint shirts, texture panels, Crayons., Scissors., White Glue.

Note from Judy: Tissue paper. can also be used. I used tissue paper with 2nd grade


Objectives: Students will

  • Gain appreciation for the work of Eric Carle - see book illustration as a career

  • Speculate about a work of art, what materials, techniques and skills were used -Study Carle's work to determine how he did it.

  • Explore various water color techniques

  • Create a variety textural effects

  • Design and create a composition using the techniques of Eric Carle - demonstrate cutting and gluing skills


Official Eric Carle Web site

Various books by Eric Carle - Dragons Dragons: & Other Creatures That Never Were. is a favorite


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Other Books by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar. - Following the ravenous caterpillar's path as he eats his way through one apple (and the pages of the book itself) on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, and so on, through cherry pie and sausage- until he is really fat and has a stomachache.

You Can Make a Collage: A Very Simple How-To Book.- Learn the art of collage from world-famous children's author and artist Eric Carle. Comes with 72 sheets of beautifully printed tissue, each an original design painted by Eric Carle.

The Grouchy Ladybug. - Progressing through a series of brilliantly colored die-cut pages, a bad-tempered braggart becomes a nicer, happier, better-behaved bug.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon. - Except for catching flies and changing colors occasionally, this chameleon doesn't find life very exciting. When a surprise visit to the zoo makes this wistful lizard realize it can change its shape and size as easily as its color, it ends up wanting to be like all the animals in the zoo at once.


DVD: Eric Carle: Picture Writer.

Eric Carle Teacher Resource List (Archive)

Alternate Lesson: Still life Collage a la Matisse by Linda Woods
Alternate Lesson: Myth and Folk Tales - Illustrations by Michael Gerrish
Alternate Lesson: Collage - Various Artists - fourth grade



  1. Read a book by Eric Carle to students - study the art work and speculate how it was made (Dragons and Other Animals that Never Were is a good one)

  2. Demonstrate various painting techniques to be used by students: wet-on-wet, dry brush, stamp printing, spatter painting, textured brayers, crayon resist rubbings

  3. Discuss rhythm and pattern, unity, contrast, harmony, and texture throughout the lesson

  4. Demonstrate cutting of collage paper to make a composition - show folding technique to cut multiple shapes/borders. Review design principles.


Have different stations set up around the room for the various techniques (note from Judy: I had monoprinting with finger paints, too when I did this lesson).

  1. Crayon texture rubbings - cover sheet of drawing paper with various textures - brush water color over.

  2. Wet-in-wet water color - embellish with dry brush water color free style patterns.

  3. Wet-in-wet papers stamp printed with various rubber stamps dipped into concentrated Watercolor Paint.. Sponge printing and gadget, too.

  4. Patterned brayers with concentrated watercolor rolled over paper.

  5. Splatter painted watercolor (always done on the floor in only one area).

For more variety, they used these processes over colored construction papers.  We treated the painting of the papers purely as an abstract painting exercise.  As they painted, they put their names in the corners of their paper, and dried them in one area for each table in a Drying Rack. and on the floor.  As I cleaned up at the end of the day, I just swept the dried work into table folders for each table and let them make their own folders inside of the table folders to keep track of their own paper.  Some of the colors and patterns were to fill 18x24 sheets from side to side, top to bottom.  On other sheets, they could divide the space in half with two color ideas on each half.  That way they had enough of one color or two to make a large animal with accent colors.



Students were permitted to create whatever they wanted: animals, people, houses, still lifes (note from Judy: When I did this lesson, we created imaginary animals/beasties)

  1. Plan what you want to create.

  2. Use contrast of colors.

  3. Repeat some colors and textures throughout the collage.

  4. Multiple cutting techniques (fold paper)-- as well as cutting strips, then fold paper to cut pattern for borders on the large background papers.

  5. Glue to 12x18 (30.5 x 46 cm) drawing paper - add background with left over pieces of collage paper, add water color and/or crayon to background. Share some of your papers with neighbors for more variety. Save all left over painted paper in scrap box for collage projects throughout the year.

  6. Remember design principles: unity/harmony, rhythm/repetition, and contrast.

Note for Success from Linda Woods:

I did this project with 2nd graders. We used Sax 90 pound paper instead of tissue paper as Eric Carle uses.  They saw the video - we looked at books of his.  We analyzed colors used, talked about contrast a LOT regarding textures, sizes of things, colors, values, etc.  You have to plan for contrast when you are choosing what colors to use in your texture paintings that you make before you ever start to collage. I told them realistic color was not important, just paint colors that you like and then think what colors would look good with those colors and keep building a folder of your own papers that will show contrast, but also repeat colors a bit by changing the value or use those colors in a new combination with different colors to add unity through repetition. The other issue with young kids is keeping all of their papers organized.  Each of my kids painted 2 or 3 18x24 sized papers. One big sheet for the background and another for the animal. Emphasize contrast here so the animal will show up on the background.  I have a couple of kids that despite MANY reminders to make the two pages DIFFERENT (warm/cool, complementary, bright/dull, very textured/little texture, dark/light, etc., they still ended up painting their favorite (same) colors for both.  One student  loves that it's camouflaged. The first big page was supposed to be intuitively  painted with colors that they loved.


We used texture sheets with hard pressed crayons painted over with watercolors. We also used those patterned paint rollers on sponges you see in Sax catalogue.  Those were also used with watercolors (Prang 16 color boxes).  I also had some gold liquid watercolor. I also told them to be sure to make some black textured paper to use for eyes, nose, etc. Some made black textured animal paper. Some of them used some Sax Ultra plus tempera ...great colors.  Mainly when I started running out of watercolors, we broke out the tempera and watered it down. Another wonderful way to paint beautiful papers is to spray water on marker colored coffee filters laying on a white sheet of paper to catch the drips.  Spray it pretty heavily and the colors bleed in incredible ways onto the sheet behind the coffee filter.  We use the coffee filter papers (in radial designs) to make stained glass windows with black construction paper, but we keep the paper that they bleed onto in that same scrap box with the Eric Carle paper.  They make gorgeous cut up paper in collages.


The second page of 18x24 was to contrast and look awesome with the first page.  Some painted a 3rd big one before they really liked the colors of each page together as it will be in their collage.  After that, we painted smaller sheets of colors for details they would make in their collages ....spots on their animal, eye color, flowers, bugs, clouds, sun, grass, water, toenails, etc.  I kept reminding them to think ahead for details... try to see the picture you want to make in your mind's eye and pre-paint all of the colors of paper you will need before you collage.  The good news is, there is a LOT of scrap very quickly and kids can share each other's scraps.  To keep young kids with MANY sheets of paper organized, I had them make table folders and individual folders inside the table folders.  Each class period, each table would put their wet paintings in their designated area (by table) in the Drying Rack..  I collected the table folders on a table next to the drying rack and when the pages were dry, I just slid the pages for each table back into their table folders.  The kids individually were reminded repeatedly to be responsible about getting their own pages into their individual folders.  When they started collaging, I had them put their individual folders around the perimeter of the room so they could access them without tripping over 10,000 sheets of paper.  I told them to just bring a couple of sheets of paper to their table at a time and keep going back to their folders when they were ready for more colors of paper.  You could also have them put their whole folder on the floor under their tables.  The issue is that you want them to stay organized and keep all of their pages together (not strung out all over the room). You don't want it all out at the same time on their desk, but you want it to be easily accessible for them.  We spent some of almost every period trying to find someone's page that was missing.  I had the kids go from table to table looking in the other kids' folders to try to find their missing pages first.  Anyone who had to spend time doing this learned to stay organized after that.


When we looked at Eric Carle's work, we talked about how many pieces he used to make his animals ....separate pieces for arms, legs, wings, tails, ears, nose, etc.  I demonstrated how to fold a piece of paper in half to cut a very skinny J that when opened up makes that kind of mouth that rabbits, dogs, cats, lions, tigers, etc. have.  I demonstrated multiple cutting of stacked paper to make many flowers at a time, or many spots at a time.  With young kids, you really earn your $$ because all of this has to be repeated so many times before they all get it.


I LOVE doing this project each year.  Kids love it too.  What's not to love about Eric Carle, whimsy, color for color's sake, and having so much fun while you are doing it?



Linda says "They had so much fun that they would still be painting paper if I hadn't cut them off."

  1. Did students analyze the work of Eric Carle? Were they able to see how the works were made?

  2. Did students create a variety of textured papers using various methods presented?

  3. Were students able to create a collage showing contrast, unity and rhythm?

  4. Did students exhibit skills and craftsmanship in executing their collage?

See the Eric Carle art project, Mixed Up Chameleon from Bonsack Elementary. Also see some turtles. by Eric Carle. Some of the thumbnail images are broken but when you click on them, all the images are visible. See the biography on Eric Carle.


Easy adaptation for Kindergarten and First Grade - from Marianne Galyk:

I have done something similar with first graders when they were studying Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar in their regular classroom. I cut a variety of colors of construction paper into smaller pieces (6 per 9"x12" sheet). Each student did several pieces. I put one color of tempera on a paper plate and for painting utensils in each color I had pieces of sponge on a clothespin, -tips and plastic forks. (It's nice if you get the one-ended swabs so that they don't stick both ends in the paint.) Every so often I did a 3-2-1 countdown and said "switch" and I would take green from one table (with all that color's utensils put back on the plate) and switch it with yellow from another table (etc.) so that most tables would get to use most colors before our time was up. They could experiment decorating their papers with patterns, dots swirls, etc. I tried to stress letting some of the background color show through.) We didn't put any names on papers (which drives a few of them crazy the next class period because they are searching for "theirs"). I just throw them all into a big box after they are dry. First grade used them to create the caterpillar during the next class. Crayons or markers can be used for drawing. You could use them for any kind a creatures.


Very Hungry Caterpillar Variation from Stephanie Corder, AZ Academy in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands


3Click image to see larger view

  1. We started with exploring the Color Wheels., and then made our own colors with tissue paper collage.

  2. I used the papers we made to cut out caterpillar body shapes (a series of 5 green circles and one red for the face) and had them draw faces and legs on them.

  3. Then I used a rectangular strip from the same paper to mimic the ground on the title page of "The Hungry Caterpillar".  With a Hole Paper Punch., I made a series of negative space circles, and had them glue the circles I'd cut out onto the same piece of paper, creating lots of "caterpillar eggs".

  4. The end result was great! I'm holding them for our visual arts show, and I'm going to use the leftover papers for us to make a giant butterfly to display them with!

Submitted by: Linda Wood, St. John's Lower School, Houston, Texas
Unit: Collage/painting/printmaking
Lesson Plan: "Matisse" Still Life Collage
Grade Level: Elementary (these are 2nd grade - adaptable through middle school)
School Web Site: St. John's Lower School (click on Art stories until you see Linda's picture)

Lesson Summary:

Students in Grade Two were introduced to still life artworks by many artists. We investigated various themes and subjects painted. Techniques of overlapping were also introduced. Following the introduction of still life painting, we switched gears to creating our own still life collages from imagination. Potato prints and stamps were added for pattern and texture. We used construction paper and tempera paint in the creation of these little masterpieces.



Potatoes, knives, Tempera Paint., Construction Paper., Prang Watercolor Pan Sets., Brushes., water dishes, Scissors., White Glue.

Note: Scratchfoam stamps could be made and purchased stamps could also be used.



Teachers: Adapt Linda's Eric Carl lesson plan to fit this lesson

This lesson was an imaginary still life. Linda used Matisse examples, but also other artists (See Artcyclopedia). It was also a collage. They used potato prints and stamps with Sax Ultra Plus paint. Students could paint on anything they wanted to in the still life ...patterned backgrounds, patterns on vases, etc. They could use cut paper patterns (multiple cuttings) or they could paint or stamp patterns.


Eric Carle for Middle School

From Bunki Kramer, Los Cerros Middle School.


DVD: Eric Carle: Eric Carle: Picture Writer
Books: You Can Make a Collage: A Very Simple How-To Book
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Very Busy Spider. by Eric Carle
The Very Quiet Cricket. by Eric Carle


Tips from Bunki Kramer

We did quite a bit of "insect" research before we began.

Eric Carle paints on tissue paper. It really isn't too delicate because once you lay the first layer of tempera color on it, it's pretty much like regular drawing paper... thicker. We painted the first layer, let it dry, ironed it to get out wrinkles, and added another layer of decorative painting. We used all SORTS of items to decorate like finger prints, other end of paint brush to scratch lightly, splatter, dots, dashes, dabs, etc. We made "communal" papers and did 5 or more papers per student and two students stayed at the iron and ironed them all before we began. I laid all the finished papers on a separate table and kids went to the table as colors were needed. You can see our finished work at...

See student art work inspired by Eric Carle on Bunki Kramer's 8th grade gallery.

He has a wonderful video which shows his "paper making" and a small talk on how he sets up his book writing. It's geared for elementary teachers and students but Bunki's 8th graders found it fascinating. They were all familiar with his work from elementary school books. The video is called "Eric Carle... Picture Writer".


Art work shown from Madison Middle School (Archive)



From a Getty list member: Have you seen the book "Hello Red Fox"?  I use it with my 7th and 8th graders. The book is based on afterimages (complementary colors). It includes a brief history of the afterimage. The red fox is actually illustrated as a green fox. A blank page with a small black dot is provided opposite each image. You stare at the green fox for a few seconds, then look at the black dot and the red fox appears as an afterimage. The students love this concept.

We then create our "painted papers" (we watch the video Eric Carle: Picture Writer as well) .  I encourage the students to choose animals with one or two colors.  We then use collage to create animals.  I display the collages with large sheets of blank white paper and an explanation of the afterimage.  The titles of the work usually draws in students passing by ("Blue Whale" by a large orange whale, etc.).  This display is always a big hit.

Larry Prescott, Madison Middle School
Paper Quilts from Traditional Designs

Larry showed his students the video Eric Carle Picture Writer. Students studied traditional quilt designs. They drew their design on graph paper to make a template (I would recommend making some photocopies for the students). After painting a least three colors of tissue paper per student suing Eric Carle's techniques, the cutting began (students can use the templates as patterns and cut many at a time. Stencil cut out can be used to help place the shapes so no pencil lines show in the finished collage. Save left over paper for future projects.



Dan Torpey's Paper Quilts

See paper quilts by Kelly Cook from Seattle. Kelly dyes her papers.

Native American Folktale "Do You See the Raven?" by Michael Gerrish. Shown are first and last text pages. The collages were made with tempera paint on scrap construction paper, and used as abstracted images meant to help readers visualize the storyline.  These images are copyrighted - shown here with permission.

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Submitted by: Gina Arena
UNIT: Collage (Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Bearden, Carle)
Lesson: Painted/patterned paper collage
Grade Level: Fourth grade

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"Happy Lion"
Click images for larger views

"Life is Good"

"The Gates"

Day 1, Students will look at collages by Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Bearden, and Eric Carle. We will discuss the history of collage and its emergence from Cubism. Students will learn that collage can be abstract and represent an idea, or more realistic illustrations or narratives. They will respond to the artworks shown and analyze how the artists used shape, color and texture to convey the tone, mood or message of the piece.


Day 2, Students will take a b/w copy of a picture and use markers to identify and color in shapes, flattening the picture. This exercise  will help them break down images into simple shapes. Students will use the remaining time to come up with an idea for their own collages. Students will have a choice in creating a collage illustration (like Eric Carle or Romare Bearden), or a "secret" collage (like Matisse).


Day 3, Students will create their own painted paper, using things other than brushes to paint in texture (ala Eric Carle), such as bubble wrap, toothbrushes, feathers, paint scrapers, etc.


Day 4 & 5, Students will assemble their collages.


Day 6, Students present their work to the class. Students who chose "secret" collages will let the class guess what their work is about.


Students will be assessed on their use of shape, color, and texture in their collage. They will have to answer the question: Of the artists we looked at, who's is your collage most like and why? Gina said that most students showed influence of Eric Carle. "The Gates" closely fit her objective of the lesson (to go beyond mimicking style).



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