de Youngsters Studio: Mixed-Media Collage Inspired by Ronald Lockett’s “Poison River”

By Jennie Smith, senior teaching artist

November 12, 2020

De Youngsters Mixed Media Collage

Think of a habitat and animal that you wish to protect; the habitat and animal could be close to your own home or from somewhere far away. Using painting, collaging, and drawing techniques, the following activity, inspired by Ronald Lockett’s Poison River (1988), will help you create a mixed-media collage that shows your chosen habitat and animal in a healthy, nourished state.


  • Large sheet of paper, such as watercolor paper
  • Watercolors
  • Water
  • Large brush
  • Various papers for collage elements, such as newspaper, tracing paper, magazines, rice paper, paper bags, construction paper, or old maps/book pages
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Drawing tools of your choice, such as pencils, color pencils, pens, pastels, markers, or crayons

Questions to Consider

  • What habitat will you create?
  • What animal(s) will call that habitat home?
  • Once you know what you’re going to create, what colors and shapes will you collage to create your habitat and animal(s)?
  • What time of day will you show in your habitat? Early morning? Midday? Late evening?
  • Where will your animal be in the composition? Flying high in the sky? Burrowing under a pile of leaves?


1. Cover the entire surface of your paper with a watercolor wash, using mostly water with just a little paint.

2. While the paint dries, tear and cut your collage elements.

3. Create your habitat! Spend some time playing with different ways of arranging (composing) and layering your collage elements, then glue elements into place.

4. On a separate sheet of paper, make a light sketch of your animal. Draw from your imagination or a visual reference. Once you are happy with your sketch, use paint or drawing tools of your choice to complete your animal. With your chosen materials, create the texture and patterns of your animal.

5. Cut out your animal and glue into your habitat!

6. Take a look at your mixed-media collage to see if you would like to add any other details.


After creating your mixed-media collage, consider the following questions:

  • What elements or steps did you most enjoy during the process?
  • What makes your chosen habitat and animal special to you?
  • What concerns do you have for it? What could we do to help make the vision in your artwork a reality? (What can we do to ensure your habitat stays clean and healthy?)


Have fun creating your hopeful piece of art! Take your time cutting, collaging, drawing, and painting. When you are finished, find a friend or family member with whom you can share your mixed-media collage. Use the reflection questions above as part of the conversation.

We would love to see what you make too, so please tag us on any social platform using the hashtag #deyoungsters or email

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