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Romare Bearden

Made with mostly square or rectangular pieces of patterned paper in shades of asparagus and moss green, sky blue, tan, and ash brown, a man with brown skin sits in the center of this horizontal composition with a second person over his shoulder, in the upper left corner of this collage. The man’s facial features are a composite of cut-outs, mostly in shades of brown and gray, as if from black-and white photographs, and he smokes a cigarette. He sits with his body angled slightly to our right and he looks off in that direction, elbows resting on thighs and wrists crossed. His button-down shirt and pants, similarly collaged, are mottled with sky blue and white. One foot, on our right, is created with a cartoonish, shoe-shaped, black silhouette. The paper used for the other foot seems to have been scraped and scratched, creating the impression that that foot is bare. A tub, made of the same blue and white paper of the man’s suit, sits on the ground to our left, in the lower corner. The man sits in front of an expanse made up of green and brown pieces of paper patterned with wood grain, which could be a cabin. In a window in the upper left, a woman’s face, her features similarly collaged, looks out at us. One dark hand, large in relation to the people, rests on the sill with the fingers extended down the side of the house. The right third of the composition is filled collaged scraps of paper patterned to resemble leafy trees. Closer inspection reveals the form of a woman, smaller in scale than the other two, standing in that zone, facing our left in profile near a gray picket fence. She has a brown face, her hair wrapped in a patterned covering, and she holds a watermelon-sized, yellow fruit with brown stripes. Several blue birds and a red-winged blackbird fly and stand nearby. Above the woman and near the top of the composition, a train puffs along the top of what we read as the tops of trees. The artist signed the work in black letters in the upper right corner: “romare bearden.”

Romare Bearden, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, 1967, collage of various papers with charcoal, graphite and paint on paper mounted to canvas, Paul Mellon Fund, 2001.72.1

When Romare Bearden was a little boy, his family moved from the countryside to the biggest city in America, New York. As a grown-up, he created collages inspired by his childhood—traveling south to visit his grandparents in North Carolina and the sights and sounds of New York City. Bearden started by collecting pieces of paper, including magazine illustrations, wallpaper, and hand-painted papers. He cut them into shapes and glued them onto a large piece of canvas, layering the pieces to make his picture. Bearden described his technique as “collage painting” because he often painted on top of the collaged papers.


What is the first thing you see when you look at this work of art? Why do you think it caught your attention?

How many people can you count in this picture? Describe what they are doing.

What colors do you see? Where else does that color appear? Find other colors and patterns that repeat throughout the picture.

What are the man and woman watching? What do you think they might be thinking? (To help children think through this question, draw a speech bubble on a printed version of the image and fill in what each person might be saying.)

Imagine yourself inside this scene: What sounds might you hear? What might you smell?

How do you think the artist made this work of art? What clues do you see that might help us understand how the work was made?

Create a story to go along with this scene. In your story, what might happen next?



Islandborn (Spanish language version: Lola)

by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa

Lola's teacher asks students to draw a picture of where their families came from, but Lola was too young to remember the journey, so she asks her family and friends to help her fill in the picture.

My Hand Sings the Blues

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey

by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Elizabeth Zunon

This book tells the story of Bearden's daily life as he traveled from North Carolina to New York City.

MAKE: Create a collage

You will need:

  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Cardboard or tagboard
  • Assorted papers, wallpaper sample books, wrapping paper, magazines, and/or postcards
  • Personal photographs

First, think of a place that is special to you. What people, activities, sights, and sounds make that place special? Like Bearden, you will use your memories of everyday life in that place to help you make your artwork.

Next, gather photographs and postcards that remind you of that place. Collect patterned papers, such as wrapping paper or wallpaper, and look through magazines for pictures. Cut out patterns and colors from your papers, and then arrange and glue them on the cardboard to form the background.

Then, cut out details of people and objects from your personal photographs. Layer the pieces to create your scene. You can add more details on top with paint or markers.


  • canvas
  • collage
  • pattern

Art Tales: Coloring and Cut-Outs booklet (PDF, 3.5 MB)

Art Tales for Pre-K (PDF, 7.2 MB)

Primeros Pasos En El Arte (PDF, 7.5 MB)

Primeros Pasos En El Arte: Colorear y Recortes (PDF, 3.7 MB)

The Art of Romare Bearden teaching resource
(PDF, 2.5 MB)

An Eye for Art: Romare Bearden teaching resource (PDF, 9.4 MB)

Register for our Art Tales pre-K school tour

Send images of your students' projects that follow these activities - email [email protected]