Collage it up!

Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier is perhaps as well-known for his watercolor and collage illustrations as he is for the subject matter of his books. When Bryan Collier's publisher first asked him to write and illustrate a children’s book, he was hesistant. He had never done this before and the advice they gave him was to “write what you know”. He had painted murals in Harlem and seen the architecture up close. He loved the feel of Harlem—the food, the music, the customs and culture. A few months later, in 2000, Uptown was published. It went on to win the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration.

Uptown is a rich mix of flavors, colors, sounds, and cultures of Harlem that come together to create a vibrant community like no other in the world. Seen through the eyes of one little boy who lives there, the details of life in Harlem are as joyous as a game of basketball on a summer's afternoon and as personal as a trip to the barbershop where old-timers reminisce.

Based on:

Uptown illustrated by Bryan Collier


  • Dark construction paper
  • Construction paper crayons
  • One full page from a magazine (find one with an interesting picture)
  • Glue
  • Gloss medium


Create a three-dimensional collage

Going About Your Artwork
Draw an abstract design on construction paper with construction paper crayons. Save this until later. Fold the magazine page in half lengthwise. Fold the 2 outer edges of the length of the paper toward the middle fold. While the page is folded, cut abstract designs through the middle fold and edges of the magazine page. Be careful to not cut all the way through the paper! Keep the shaped pieces of paper you just cut for later decoration. Place the magazine page anywhere on your decorated construction paper with the middle fold sticking up. Glue the outer edges down to create a “pop-up” appearance. Glue the leftover magazine cutouts to other areas of the construction paper to add interest to your collage. To finish your project, coat your collage with gloss medium. Gloss medium works as both a glue and a sealant. For this project, it is best to use regular glue for the collage and then apply a thin layer of the gloss medium on top to seal it in. This is best applied with a paintbrush*, but you can also use other materials such as craft sticks or a Q-tip.
*Please remember that you need to wash out your paintbrush with soap and water after using the gloss medium so it doesn’t ruin the brush.

Extension Activity
Explore books illustrated by Ashley Bryan, Nina Crews and Ed Young for more collage based projects. While Ashley uses construction paper and Ed Young uses a variety of paper (textured and painted), Nina Crews uses photographs to create her illustrations. Another artist who paints his own paper before engineering them into pop-ups is Matthew Rienhart!