Art Project

Layering a Landscape

Inspired by Richard Mayhew’s Delusions

May 2020

Richard Mayhew, Delusions, 2000; Collection SFMOMA, Gift of The Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection; ©️ Richard Mayhew

Key Concepts

  • Shape, color, and texture
  • Choices artists make


  • Construction paper in assorted bright colors (pink, purple, turquoise, orange, green, yellow, blue)
  • Glue


  • When we view a painting, we tend to look at it as a whole. Through this project, we’ll become aware of the different shapes and colors used by the artist to create a landscape. Do trees have to be green for us to recognize them as trees? Does the sky have to be blue?
  • What colors do you see in this work? Are they warm or cool colors? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Which are the lightest/darkest colors? Which are the brightest/dullest?
  • Describe the shapes you see in this work.


  1. Choose one piece of 9” x 12” color paper for the background of your composition and a different color for the foreground.
  2. Tear paper to create your foreground (in Mayhew’s work, the foreground is a large green field or hill, with colored patches that might represent flowers and plants).
    • Tips for tearing: For long lines, hold paper on a flat surface with one hand and use the other hand to tear continuously across the length of the paper. For smaller or curved shapes, pinch paper between two fingers of both hands and make small tears.
  3. Choose different paper colors to tear into various shapes for your trees, bushes, and anything else you want in your landscape.
  4. Experiment with different arrangement of your shapes until you are happy with the layout. Then glue the shapes, including the foreground strip, onto the background paper.

Relevant Information

Richard Mayhew grew up in New York and studied and worked with many of the great artists there, including the Spiral group, a collective of African American artists who aimed to use the arts to fight for civil rights and racial equity in the 1960s. Mayhew became captivated by the California landscape after a cross-country road trip, and the views from his home near Santa Cruz continue to inspire his colorful landscape paintings. Although he is inspired by real landscapes, the landscapes in his paintings are imaginary.


  • What kinds of decisions are you making about how to layer your composition or where to place your different landscape elements? How did you decide to do what you did?
  • Is your landscape cool, warm, or a combination of temperatures?
  • How has tearing the paper created a feeling of texture in the composition? What would that texture “feel” like if it were real (rough, sandy, soft, and so on)?

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