Assemblage Art Shadow Box

art of assemblage.jpg“When you put together things that people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created.” -Louise Nevelson 1899-1988


1. What is papier mache?

2. What is a monochromatic color scheme?

3. What is assemblage art?

4. What is an abstract relief sculpture?

MASTERY OBJECTIVE(S):  The student will…

demonstrate his/her understanding of the Elements of Art: form, value and space to create an abstract relief sculpture from assemblage.



a material made from paper pulp or shreds of paper mixed with glue or paste that can be molded into various shapes when wet and becomes hard and suitable for painting and varnishing when dry

monochromatic color scheme

mono = ONE   chroma = COLOR

a color scheme derived from a single base hue and extended using its shades, tones and tints



 is an artistic form or medium usually created on an underlying layer comprised of “found” objects arranged as three-dimensional elements projecting out of or from the underlying layer. It is similar to collage, a two-dimensional medium


(from Italian relievare: “to raise”)

a sculptural technique in which the three-dimensional elements are raised from a flat base; typically wall-mounted

Louise Nevelson 



sky cathedral
Louise Nevelson “Sky Cathedral” 1958. Painted wood, 11′ 3 1/2″ x 10′ 1/4″ x 18″ (343.9 x 305.4 x 45.7 cm)
louise nevelson sample
Louise Nevelson “Case with Five Balusters” 1959. Wood and paint, 27 5/8″ x 63 5/8″ x 9 1/2″.

Examples of other assemblage artists:

  • Joseph Cornell used assemblage in boxes
  • John Angus Chamberlain used recycled automobile parts assembled
  • Robert Rauschenberg
  • Marcel Duchamp

Required Materials:

  • shallow, cardboard box (will be provided for you)
  • newspaper (cut into strips for papier mache)
  • papier mache
  • hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
  • gesso
  • acrylic paint
  • an assortment of objects (a variety of 20-30)
    • objects should be no larger than the size of your box
    • recyclables: lids, cups, cardboard, candy containers
    • plastic items/pieces
    • wood items/pieces
    • old, unused objects
    • items from the dollar store
    • old toys
    • dry pasta
    • check out the junk drawer or closet at your house
    • tools
    • simple everyday objects
    • the POSSIBILITIES are ENDLESS – you are your ONLY LIMIT!

STEP No.1: papier mache box

Papier Mache the box provided!

with 3 layers! Leave no holes or open areas.

Tips: Be sure each strip of newspaper is covered in paper mache really well and you wipe excess off. Lay paper mache in a ‘weaving’ style, where you criss-cross each piece you add. Do not add all 3 layers at a time in one spot – spread the love around evenly!

Things to remember about papier mache in our classroom:

1. Papier mache CANNOT be poured down the sink – IT WILL CLOG OUR DRAIN!

2. Any papier mache waste has to be wiped out of the container and off of your hands with paper towels before being washed + rinsed.

3. The tables and work area must be covered!

STEP No.2: gather assortment of objects

Here are examples that other teachers, students and artists have gathered:

  • an assortment of objects (a variety of 20-30 depending on size)


Art has been created from cast-off
materials since art has been in
existence. Certain artists are drawn to
making something out of what would
generally be considered nothing —
taking what most people would view
as useless and arranging it in an
artistic manner, or placing it with
traditional materials or in a particular
setting that elevates it from junk to
Art created in this manner is often
referred to as “assemblage” and
endless varieties of it exist. It can be
very sculptural, as seen in the
recycled automobile parts assembled
by John Angus Chamberlain. It can
resemble a stage set, as demonstrated in
Ed Kienholz’s large-scale installations. Or it
can be confined to a plane or box, such as
the assemblages of Joseph Cornell.

Nevelson is credited with saying “I think all
great innovations are built on rejections.”

Dick Blick Art Materials

STEP No.3: arrange objects in box

  • layout your objects in an interesting way inside your box
  • experiment
  • group similar objects to create repetition and unity 
  • look at things at different angles and positions
  • make them fit
    • use your phone and take a picture of your arrangement
    • COMPLETE this 4 DIFFERENT TIMES – each picture will serve as your thumbnails
    • UPLOAD all four thumbnails on CANVAS
    • CHOOSE your favorite, most pleasing composition

STEP No.4: glue objects in box

  • using hot glue and elmer’s glue (depending on the texture and weight of object) secure placement of objects in the box covered with papier mache newspaper strips
  • be careful to keep the glue under the objects – globs and strings of glue will NOT be pleasant to look at

STEP No.5: gesso assemblage art shadow box

  • cover all sides of the box and objects with a thin, smooth layer of gesso
  • be sure to get the EVERY nook + cranny

STEP No.6: paint assemblage art shadow box

  • paint assemblage with a monochromatic color scheme
  • acrylic paint will be provided, however, if you would like – you may purchase a flat or satin finish black, gray or white spray paint
    • if you want a ‘color’ – ask me about it!

the monochromatic color scheme will transform and simplify your ‘random junk’ into simplified, beautiful shapes and forms…