Surrealism Inspired Collage Artworks


Collage is a great technique to explore creativity and happenstance. You can’t plan exactly how it will turn out because you are limited to the images you have in your source materials. Its great for the classroom of any level because the “I can’t draw kids” can work on expressing ideas without relying on their technical skills.

In this post, I will share TWO collage artwork ideas that are classroom ready!


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Both artworks need minimal supplies and are 100% distance learning friendly. The Dream Landscape was one of my most popular choice options during distance learning. #2020. I have used these techniques and ideas with ages as young as 5th all the way through 12th grade.

I love teaching these artworks because the art history connections are extensive.

It also teaches kids that art doesn’t have to be pretty, predictable and that art can be used as a form of rebellion.


google surrealism
If you Google “What is Surrealism”, this is what you see.

I start the unit with really famous and recognizable Surrealism artworks like Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and then dive deeper with the Dada movement and artist Hanah Hรถch. I skip the self-induced hallucination part of Dali’s process, but I always show this photograph to get a great pre-teen reaction.

Sup, kids.

Hannah Hรถch is a great artist to focus on because she was rocking and rolling as a female artist in Germany during a time where women’s roles were still very stifled. She began being recognized for her Dada artworks around 1917 and continued creating satirical and politically pointed works until her death in 1978. I always try to remind my students that women won the right to vote in America in 1920, so to be a female artist criticizing gender expectations and critiquing political structure was very brave and divergent.

Dada is a really fun art movement to study with students because you will get a strong reaction no matter what. Depending on your age group, you can really focus on the historical context this group grew out of.

MOMA describes Dada
Dada defintion

I think creating art in the classroom is extremely important, but it needs to be balanced with discussion and understanding of why humans create art. Most students won’t grow up to be professional artists, but all students can benefit from the value of understanding visual concepts and historical movements.

If you are interested in more Dada inspired art lessons, check out my post on the Exquisite Corpse Drawing Game!

This is usually my first day of art ice breaker, but I had some really great examples sent to me that students did with their families during our Covid quarantine.

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Classroom Management Tips:

  • Scan your magazines before students get their hands on them. Models in bikinis, liquor advertisements, Viagra ads, sex advice…you get the idea.
  • Allow plenty of structured time for collecting images. Students will not find what they are looking for right away and many will have no idea what they are looking for. Depending on your grade level, I have found that structure works really well. Start by spending time as a class looking for specific types of images. For example, for the dream landscape collage the first few minutes could be devoted to finding a cool sky and some sort of horizon line. Encourage any image that stands out to students to be collected and saved as they browse.
  • Pre-organize images. I use student aides (if your school has these!) or early finishers to sort through magazines for certain types of images. You can tear out whole pages and organize them so that students don’t have the distractions of entire magazines. Sometimes students will get lost in reading articles or declare “this doesn’t have anything!” when they are overwhelmed by options. Having stacks or folders of organized images based on what your unit is focusing on helps eliminate distraction and maximize class time.
  • Discuss imagery statements. It’s important that students realize they are borrowing images from paid photographers and often images of recognizable people or cultures. Collages should be changed enough so that it is a new idea (what a great time to discuss copyright!). It is also important that students understand intentional, and accidental, statements their artwork can make. It is important to be aware of how gender, race and culture can be represented and be respectful with how imagery is arranged.

Dream Landscape Artwork

Surrealism Collage Dream Landscape
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This is a really fun artwork to also reinforce the concept of space. Students need to start by working backwards, which can be a little tricky! I used National Geographic magazines and I have a ton of fishing and hunting (#Oklahoma) magazines that were donated to my classroom.

Student Examples:

Surrealism Portrait Collage

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This artwork creates really wacky and fun result. In my experience, this is an easier artwork than the Dream Landscape. Organizing a face does not have the same depth as a landscape and facial features are readily available in magazines.

Students can create self portraits or reactions or just embrace the randomness of the technique.

I glued mine down to my Shaving Cream Marbled Paper that I usually use for printmaking. Watercolor Drip Painting would also be a fun mixed media approach.

Students could also use the portrait as a jumping off point and draw or paint added details. It depends on your age group and unit goals. This video is classroom ready and every step is described in detail.

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This tutorial simplifies the face into just expressive facial features.

If you are looking to mix things up a little bit, I highly recommend checking out these collage artists:


Although only Hannah Hoch is in the Surrealism realm, the other three are excellent examples of using collage for personal expression and social critique.

Ervin A. Johnson

Massogona Sylla

Hannah Hoch

Romare Bearden

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know any questions or comments you have and if you’ve tried this in you classroom too ๐Ÿ˜€

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