O-riginal Art Activities: Mixed Media Collage Inspired by Thornton Dial

The O-riginal Art Activity explores Thornton Dial’s choice of materials and his use of the tiger symbol in his work.

Create your own symbol of strength using found objects.

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Struggling Tiger in Hard Times

Thornton Dial, Struggling Tiger in Hard Times, 1991, Oil, rope carpet, tin, carpet and industrial sealing compound on canvas mounted on wood, Gift of Calynne and Lou Hill in honor of Director William Andrews

Thornton Dial’s work often draws from his personal experiences of living as an African American man in the South, depicting a range of subjects from race relations to romance. Despite lacking a basic education and formal training, Dial has risen to prominence and museums across the country hold his works in their collections. A tiger motif frequently appears in his work, a symbol of the African American struggle to obtain equal rights in the United States. He is known for his use of industrial materials and found objects in his work.


Scissors, Glue Stick, Markers, Found Objects


Step 1: Use the template of the tiger provided or draw your own symbol.

Step 2: What symbolizes strength to you, maybe it’s an animal or object? Using a marker draw your symbol.

Step 3: Create texture. Search your house for materials to collage (be sure to ask a parent if it’s okay to use what you find for your art piece). Use a glue stick to glue materials and found objects to your mixed media collage. Think about the types of materials and colors you want to use.


Symbol – an object or concept that represents, stands for, or suggests another idea, visual image, belief, or action

Collage – a technique using cut or torn fabric or paper and glue

Found Object – a thing that someone else has given or thrown away that is often repurposed by artists

Mixed Media – more than one material used to create artwork, such as found objects and fabric