Collecting Lessons: Elementary Adaptations

Exploring Andy Warhol's Toy Paintings 
09062012_EDU_col_el_TP_01 T2004.12a-b_main.jpg
Wind-up toy (Drumming Panda) source for Warhol's Toy Paintings,  n.d., ©AWF

These lessons are adapted from the larger collecting unit to introduce younger students to the basic concepts of collecting. Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell are explored as two artist examples. In the production lesson, students think about their own personal collecting to make either a Warhol inspired painting or a Cornell inspired box. Lesson steps include suggestions for assessment and critical thinking.

Grades: K-4

Subjects: Collecting, Critical Analysis, Art, Cultural Studies  

Suggested Time Frame:

Introduction: 20 minutes
Collecting as an Artistic Practice: 1 class
Contemporary Artists Who Collect: 1 class  
Production: 1-2 classes
Assessment: 20 minutes

Total time: 3-4 classes 


  • Students create brainstorming webs about collecting
  • Students develop rationales for collecting from an artists’ perspective
  • Students create artworks inspired by each artist’s practice of collecting
  • Students analyze and respond to contemporary artists’ work
  • Students summarize their artworks with descriptive language

I. Introduction

  1. Have students create a brainstorming map as a group on the blackboard to reveal multiple ideas about collecting.
  2. Each student should list or draw what he or she personally collects and explain why.

II. Collecting as an Artistic Practice

  1. Introduce Artistic practice using the Collecting PowerPoint 
  2. Introduce Warhol and Cornell's artwork and practice of collecting focusing on the content and supplemental information below:


  • Biographical information
  • Collecting as a young boy
  • Scrapbooks
  • Pop Art
  • Time Capsules
  • Toy paintings
Andy Warhol’s childhood celebrity photo scrapbook, ©AWF
Andy Warhol’s childhood celebrity photo scrapbook, ©AWF

Andy Warhol’s Scrapbook 

Among the earliest evidence of Warhol's collecting obsession is a scrapbook of movie star photographs he assembled as an adolescent in the mid-30s. This scrapbook includes a wide range of movie stars, from a hand colored autographed portrait of Shirley Temple to a stunning photograph of Mae West. The youngest son of struggling Eastern European immigrants, Warhol found refuge in the form of Hollywood movies. According to John Warhola, his older brother, he was especially drawn to the musical extravaganzas staged by director Busby Berkley, whose over-the-top interpretations of Art Deco style introduced the young Warhol to the excesses of Hollywood glamour.

Paintings for Children and Fish Wallpaper, Installation at The Andy Warhol Museum, 1998, photo by Richard Stoner
Paintings for Children and Fish Wallpaper, Installation at The Andy Warhol Museum, 1998, photo by Richard Stoner

Toy Paintings 

In 1983, art dealer Bruno Bischofberger asked Warhol to create a series of paintings for children. Warhol, who was quite fond of children, was intrigued by the idea and quickly set about creating a group of small-scale works showing monkeys, parrots, dogs, circus clowns and fish. The paintings were based on a collection of vintage windup mechanical toys that Warhol had been collecting for several years. When the paintings were first shown in Zurich in 1983, they were installed against a background of Fish Wallpaper, also designed by Warhol. The paintings were hung quite low, allowing them to be easily seen by children.

Optional Online Activity: 

Explore Andy Warhol's Time Capsule 21.


  • Biographical information
  • Cornell's collecting practice (where he found his items and how he stored these items)
  • Inspiration
  • Diary
  • Collage and assemblage

Use the Collecting PowerPoint and the Joseph Cornell Handout to give students information. 

Andy Warhol, Toy Paintings, 1983, ©AWF
Andy Warhol, Toy Paintings, 1983, ©AWF


Use the following questions to discuss both Warhol and Cornell.


Comprehension Questions:

  1. What did Andy Warhol collect and why?
  2. What is Pop Art?
  3. If you were a Pop artist today, what would your subject matter be? Explain your choices.

Aesthetic Response Questions: 

  • After exploring Andy Warhol's Time Capsule 21, list and describe 4-5 items you like.
  • Tell a story about Andy Warhol using the items you selected as a base for the story.
  • What colors did Andy use for his paintings of toys? Describe his color choices for each artwork and then describe how the colors make you feel.
  • If you made artwork based on your own collection of objects, would you choose the same colors? Why or why not?


Comprehension Questions:

  • List and describe what you see in Cornell's boxes.
  • Write a short story about what you see in one of Cornell's boxes.

Aesthetic Response Questions: 

  • What feeling do you get when looking at Joseph Cornell's box?
  • Describe the colors in one of Cornell’s boxes. Do the colors help create a feeling?
  • What person or event do these items make you remember? Why?

Synthesis Questions: 

  • Identify the collecting practice of each artist.
  • Compare and contrast the collecting practice of both artists. How do they store their objects?
  • Did each artist display his collection? Why or why not?
  • Compare and contrast each artist's artwork created from his or her collections.

III. Contemporary Artists Who Collect

Review brainstorming maps from Lesson 1.

Present each artist to the class. Use the Collecting PowerPoint to aid you in discussing the following Aesthetic Response questions:

Whitfield Lovell 

  • Who do you think the woman in this piece is? Who does she remind you of? What kind of life do you think she has?
  • Is this woman happy or sad? Describe what she might be feeling. What do you feel when looking at this artwork?
  • List words you would use to describe the hand?

Stefan Hoderlein 

  • Who do these outfits make you think of and why?
  • Where would someone wear these clothes?

Portia Munson 

  • What does the color pink represent to you?
  • Where do you think you might find similar objects as in the pink project? Who shops for these things?
  • Does this piece make you feel anything? What and why?

Karsten Bott 

  • What might you feel standing on this walkway and viewing the warehouse floor?
  • Where do you think this room might exist in reality if it were not a piece of artwork?
  • What kind of personality traits would one have to have organized all of these objects?

IV. Production 

Project 1: Personal Collecting - Warhol  

Have students bring in objects from their personal collections and present them to the class. Discuss Warhol’s process utilized to create his Toy series. Warhol used photographic silkscreen to make these works, and the students will mimic his layering process using water-based paint and pastels. Students will create series of paintings of their objects layering broad areas of paint then adding linear elements with the pastels.

Project 2: Personal Collecting - Cornell 

Students will create a fantasy trip box or scrapbook in the style of Joseph Cornell of an imaginary boy or girl. The fantasy trip could be a place the student has always wanted to visit or an imaginary place. Students should research their trip online, printing pictures and other documents that describe their fantasy trip. If their destination is completely imaginary, then students may collage pictures from a variety of places to identify and describe their destination. Items should be placed in a cardboard box that is also decorated by the student.


Project 1: Students write a short paragraph about their artwork. This paragraph should included: what they collected, why they collected these objects, a description of the artwork and an explanation of why they made certain choices, such as color, shape etc.

Project 2: Students present their artwork to the class, describing the objects in the box and telling the story of their fantasy trip.


Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.