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Paper-Tearing Projects For Art Class: Clean and Create!

written by: Sylvie Colette • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 11/12/2013

Make use of a technique that will help clean up scrap pieces of paper in your art room while creating unique projects. Paper fibers are broken apart when torn, which adds a dimensional effect to collages and allows a hands-on approach to learning lines, colors and shapes.

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    How to Tear Paper

    Paper Practice tearing paper with the class before beginning. Maybe there's no wrong way, but there's a right way and a better way! Show them how to hold a sheet of paper in their non-dominant hand while pulling with the thumb and forefinger of their dominant hand. Pull toward their body to make the torn edge. Now show them the two sides of the torn sheet and how different the edges appear. One side will be rough and the other smooth.

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    Landscape Collage

    Paper-tearing art projects can span the grades. Build landscapes using only colored paper and glue sticks. Supply each student with a sheet of heavy paper, old magazines, advertisements and food packaging like candy bar wrappers and a glue stick. Show them how to look for different colors throughout the magazine. Start by separating the pages into colors. For example, brown can be found in hair color advertisements, bread or wood furniture images.

    Students can recreate a landscape photo using torn paper like paint. Provide several examples of landscape images to use as a starting point. Render sand, mountains, snow, grass, water and skies with long horizontal layers of paper. They can add torn paper animals like sheep or bears. Use chalk to add extra dimension to the torn edges.

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    Autumn Tree

    Create colorful autumn trees with paper grocery sacks and scrap pieces of paper, construction paper, tissue paper, and advertisements. Have students tear a tree trunk shape with branches from a grocery sack. Crumble it up and then press it flat again. Glue it on a large sheet of paper. Rub the crumbled paper with the side of brown and black crayons to add the look of bark.

    Now, students can tear small one-inch square pieces of paper in the colors desired. Press the center of the square over the tip of a pencil eraser and twist. All the small paper twists can be glued on the tree branches to represent leaves.

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    Reverse Images

    Conduct class paper-tearing art projects to teach lines and symmetry. Start by giving each student, or small group of students, four sheets of paper; two black, two white. Instruct them to tear one sheet of the white paper into lines and random shapes. Using a glue stick, place the white pieces on a sheet of black paper in a symmetrical design.

    Once complete, have the students recreate their image in reverse tearing the black sheet of paper and gluing the pieces onto the white. You can do the project in small groups to save on paper and encourage cooperation. Display the reverse images side by side.

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    Torn Paper Owls

    Make torn paper owls by first having students draw a basic owl shape on a large sheet of dark blue paper. You can provide several examples of owls both in-flight and sitting on a branch for them to use as models for their drawing.

    Set out scraps of brown, white, gray and black paper for the owl's feathers. Cover a small section with glue and then fill it in with small torn pieces of paper. Encourage using different colored feathers for the body and wings to provide contrast.

    Once the owl shape is filled in, have them tear two large eyes out of a contrasting color. Glue the eyes in place and then add two smaller dark circles for the pupils. Students can finish by drawing a moon and stars around the owl with a white or yellow crayon.