Translating Oil to Paper



George Clausen, Schoolgirls (1880). Oil on canvas.

by Jennifer Kowitt

As part of today’s drawing activity, our group recreated George Clausen’s Schoolgirls using only construction paper.  Through drawing a work of art, students look more closely at the detail and evaluate the way in which the work was constructed by the artist. We think of drawing as putting pen/pencil/etc to paper, but this activity encourages you to think about drawing in a different way. The goal of this activity is to provide students with the benefits of close-looking that come from drawing a work of art, but to allow them to do so using another medium.  However, as the final product made only of  construction paper can never look exactly like the real painting, there is no pressure for students to make theirs look “just right.”  And because this activity doesn’t use glue or scissors, you can do it in the museum galleries!

The only materials you will need for this activity are: (1) construction paper in each of the colors used in the painting, and (2) large sheet of construction paper as work space.


1. Assign students to work in pairs.

2. Tell students that their job is to recreate the painting before them using ripped pieces of construction paper.

3. Students can rip and manipulate the paper in any way that they would like.

4. They should build their picture on the large piece of paper provided as a work space, but that work space should not define the size of their composition (i.e. they do not need to fill the whole work space with the ripped paper).

5. After students have finished, let them look at the work by the other pairs in the class.

6. When you are done discussing, you can fold up the work space and recycle the whole thing. No mess!


Our post-activity conversation included discussions about scale, perspective, layering, shapes (both in the painting and how to create them), problem-solving, visual priorities/main idea in the painting, the relationship between nature and urban, and how to represent without line.

Please post your photographs of your collage of Schoolgirls! (p.s. this counts as your homework assignment for the night!)

2 thoughts on “Translating Oil to Paper

  1. I can’t wait to try this next year – what a great idea – especially for little hands that are particularly prone to being busy.

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