Lesson Plan: Positive Negative - Non-Objective Design Collage

Non-Objective Design Collage

Submitted by: Gloria Rabinowitz, North Shore Hebrew Academy HS, Great Neck, NY
UNIT: Collage - Design - Positive Negative Space
Lesson: Positive/Negative Space - Black and White non-objective collage
Grade Level: middle school though high school (see middle school adaptation)



To create a collage using cut black and white paper utilizing positive and
negative space.


Black and white Construction Paper., White Glue., Scissors., black backing surface
(construction paper)



1) Discuss the meaning of "positive" and "negative" space in a work of art.
Show examples from abstract art and representational art. Discuss Notan in Japanese art and design - balance of white and black /positive/negative space.
2) Have students cut large and small shapes of black and white paper and
glue them to a backing surface.


positive / negative picture positive / negative picture



Henri Matisse, Stuart Davis and other non-objective art.



Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs - Drawing with Scissors.- Printed in exactly the same colors, using paper and inks similar to the 1947 edition, this volume allows readers to experience Jazz in its original, unbound form. The book provides a thorough historical context to Matisse's cut-outs, tracing their genesis in his 1930 trip to Tahiti, through to his final years in Nice.


Stuart Davis. - This book presents superlative examples of why Stuart Davis is seen by artists & art historians alike as one of the greatest American painters of the 20th Century.




1) Is the composition unified?
2) Can the students discriminate between foreground and background?
3) Are the positive and negative shapes balanced?
3) Did the students create a good work of art utilizing the elements of art and principles of design?


Alternate Idea:

Introduce one color as accent and talk about emphasis/center of interest.


Assessment: Revise Rubric at bottom

Submitted by:  Brenda Robson
UNIT: Design - Positive/Negative Shape - Notan - Emphasis
Lesson: Non-Objective Cut Paper Design with color accent


positive / negative picture      positive / negative picture     positive / negative picture
Click images for larger views



Create a balance of black and white - with added color accent for emphasis/center of interest.



9" x 6" (23 x 15 cm) rectangle of black Construction Paper., 9" x 6" (23 x 15 cm) rectangles of assorted Construction Paper., Scissors., White Glue., 12 x 18 (30.5 x 46 cm) white Drawing Paper.



  1. Discuss Notan - balance of positive/negative space.

  2. Review organic and geometric shape - show examples of non-objective art (See Stuart Davis)

  3. Review principles of design - balance - emphasis/center of interest - unity/variety


  1. Students select 2 pieces of black construction paper and one color accent.

  2. Cut the black construction paper - non-objective organic shapes.

  3. Arrange shapes on 12" x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) white paper to create a balanced design.

  4. Cut a related shape from accent color construction paper - arrange to create a focal point.

  5. Glue all shapes to 12" x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) paper.

  6. Critique.

Resource Links

Matisse Cut-outs pdf - A lesson in PDF for 7th grade. Lesson from Norfork High School.

Henri Matisse Unit pdf - A unit of lessons in PDF from Mesa County Valley School District #51. The first half of the unit is at the elementary level. The second half is at the middle school level.


Assessment: Revise Rubric below



Assessment Rubric

Student Name:

Class Period:

Assignment: Black and White Positive Negative Design

Date Completed:

Circle the number in pencil that best shows how well you feel that you completed that criterion for the assignment.




Needs Improvement

Rate Yourself

Teacher’s Rating

Criteria 1 – Student can fully explain positive and negative space

10 - 9

8 - 9

7 - 8

6 or below



Criteria 2 – Composition show a good balance of positive negative space

10 - 9

8 - 9

7 - 8

6 or below



Criteria 3 – Composition shows use and understanding of design principles.

10 - 9

8 - 9

7 - 8

6 or below



Criteria 4 – Effort: took time to develop idea & complete project? (Didn’t rush.) Good use of class time?

10 - 9

8 - 9

7- 8

6 or below



Criteria 5 – Craftsmanship – Neat, clean & complete? Skillful use of the art tools & media?

10 - 9

8 - 9

7 - 8

6 or below



Total: 50

(possible points)







Your Total

Teacher Total


Student Comments:


Teacher Comments:


National Standards:


1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

2. Using knowledge of structures and functions

4. Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others

Students select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices

Students generalize about the effects of visual structures and functions and reflect upon these effects in their own work

Students know and compare the characteristics of artworks in various eras and cultures


Students intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas

Students employ organizational structures and analyze what makes them effective or not effective in the communication of ideas


Students analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry


Students select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas


Students describe and compare a variety of individual responses to their own artworks and to artworks from various eras and cultures



Add to or Comment on this Page:

More To Explore