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Lesson Plan | Ray Yoshida: “Exquisite” Figurative Collages – MMoCA


AAIEEE!, 1996, collage on paper


Visual Art, Language Arts, Social Studies


Evy Thuli, art educator

Essential Questions

Why do some artists follow or break from established traditions? How does refining an artwork affect its meaning to the viewer? How does the presenting and sharing of artworks influence and shape ideas, beliefs, and experiences?

Grade Level

6th–8th grades


  • Students will learn about the art of the Chicago Imagists, and specifically the collage work of Ray Yoshida. Students will understand how multiple sources of inspiration, including folk art, surrealism, pop culture, outsider art and collections of “junk” can influence an artist’s work. Students will create an original figurative collage using found images from a variety of sources.


This lesson examines the art of Ray Yoshida to learn more about the Chicago Imagists and the era in which Yoshida’s work was created. Ray Yoshida was an influential artist and teacher, and a mentor and source of inspiration for a group of young artists who later became known as the Chicago Imagists. Yoshida created collages from precisely cut parts of comic strips, as well as drawings with felt-tipped pens and acrylic paintings. He encouraged others to find new ways of looking at the world and of making images. He drew inspiration from many parts of his environment, including flea markets, Chicago’s Maxwell Street, folk art, and trash “treasures” he accumulated. He collected many objects and valued makers of all skill levels and abilities.

Yoshida’s collages of comic fragments are meticulously arranged in precise patterns that emphasize the fragments’ formal relationships and create surprising juxtapositions of imagery and text. The Exquisite Corpse, a 1920s parlor game invented by Surrealist artists, similarly generates unusual and unexpected imagery. To play the game, players wrote or drew in turn on a piece of folded paper. Players could see only a small fragment of what had been previously drawn or written, and used these bits as a starting point for their contribution.

Introduce Yoshida’s collage, AAIEEE!

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you see?
  2. How do you think this work of art was created?
  3. Why do you think Ray Yoshida cut and reassembled parts of images?
  4. What are some influences that could have inspired him?
  5. What are some ways that art can move viewers emotionally?
  6. How do the things around you influence how you feel about art?


Option A: Exquisite Corpse, Entire Class

Part 1
Share and discuss information about Ray Yoshida’s work. Explain how an Exquisite Corpse game works. Students will each make a part of the finished artwork, and then bind their collages into a book. The book pages will be cut into thirds; pages in the top third will show the head and neck, including facial features; the middle third, the torso and arms, including additional details; and the bottom third, the legs and feet. The pages of the finished book can then be turned to mix and match as they are flipped.

Part 2
Divide students into groups of three. Distribute red, yellow, and blue strips of paper. Students choose one of the colors for a random assignment. Using found images, “red” will collage the head and neck, “yellow” will collage torso and arms, and “blue” will collage legs and feet. The teacher talks to each of the groups independently to suggest how to look for interesting “fragments” that could be put together to create the final figure.

Part 3
Distribute magazines and other printed materials, including ample numbers of fashion magazines, hunting and sports magazines, calendars, and other advertising imagery. Have students rip out and collect pages with imagery that interests and inspires them; a variety of images is best. For example, look for long, slender objects for arms and legs; oval, rectangular shapes for heads and torsos. Demonstrate how different images can be used creatively. At this point, encourage students to “collect” many different ideas and images.

Part 4
Distribute scissors and strips of 4½ x 9-inch pieces of paper. Remind students how Yoshida carefully cut fragments of cartoons, and reassembled unexpected shapes and parts of shapes together. Demonstrate how to cut deep into an image with the scissors, turning slowly to get close to the edge and removing all background. Encourage students to try different arrangements and experiment with their imagery, which can be placed sideways and even upside down. Challenge students to be innovative in their use of images; unexpected arrangements will add to the design. Students should try to align the figure vertically in the center of the strip. It might be helpful to lightly fold the strip in half for a guideline.

Part 5
When students are satisfied with their arrangements and have carefully cut out all of the background/negative spaces, distribute the glue sticks. Students can lightly tack the parts together, building from the base to the final layers, making sure all pieces are thoroughly attached to the base sheet of paper. They should be encouraged to add details. Have students sign their names on the back.

Part 6
Collect collages and assemble into a book format using small rings. A cover may be made out of mat board. The sections (top: head/neck, middle: torso/arms, and bottom: legs/feet) can be flipped, mixed, and matched to create a collaborative collage with many different results.

Option B: Exquisite Corpse, Three Students

In this version, have students use a 10 x 15-inch sheet of drawing paper. Fold the paper into thirds, forming 5-inch sections. Follow the steps and process outlined above, except the first student will collage the head unit, fold the paper so that it is hidden and then pass it to the second student who creates the body. When complete, the second student also folds it so that their work is hidden, and then passes it to the third student to create the legs and feet. The entire figure will then be created on one sheet of paper. The fold lines will help students isolate their parts of the figure. Students may also wish to add drawn images to their collage with fine-tipped Sharpies. All students sign their work. Ideas are shared without judgment.

Option C: Collaged Figures, Individual Students
Students individually make an entire figure using collage techniques described above. Images will be glued to 10 x 15-inch sheets of backing paper. A background could be drawn with Sharpie pens and embellished with color.


How-to video for teachers on the Exquisite Corpse game

Jillian Steinhauer, Reviving the Spirit of an Artist Through His Personal Collection, Jan. 15, 2014


Pencils, erasers, drawing paper cut in 4½ x 9-inch strips, assorted photographic images and print advertising images, scissors, X-ACTO knives, cutting mats, glue sticks, ultra-fine black Sharpies (optional)


Chicago Imagists, Surrealism, Exquisite Corpse, collage, collaboration, background, negative space


Language Arts, Social Studies


Wisconsin State Standards for Art and Design

Art and Design: A.8.4 / B.8.1, B.8.2 / C.8.6 / C.8.7, C.8.8 / D.8.6 / E.8.5 / G.8.1, G.8.2 / H.8.3; Language Arts: C.8.3 / D.8.1 / B.4.4, B.12.7 / E.8.2, E.8.14

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