Art for Kids: Ishtar Gate Mosaic
The Ishtar Gate is one of the most iconic sites in the Assyrian homeland. Erected during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, it was the main entrance leading to the city of Babylon. At one point was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Gate was built in honor of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar—the goddess of love, fertility, and war. Built using glazed bricks, it stood nearly 40 feet high. The walls were adorned with depictions of flowers, lions, bulls, and dragons using colored tiles. For this project, we’re zooming in on the famous lion design depicted on the Ishtar Gate.
Our unique mosaic-style art activity will give children the opportunity to reflect on and explore Assyrian heritage. A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of hard material, such as stone, tile, glass—or in our case, paper!
- Small foam board
- Scrapbook paper (shades of blue, brown, grey, yellow)
- Glue stick
- Black marker
- Crayons or markers
- Paper-cutter (optional)
- Print out the above image to serve as your inspiration. If you look closely, you’ll notice the discoloration that occurred with time. We chose four colors to help recreate this aged look: navy blue, royal blue, light blue, and grey. We also got a few shades of browns for the bottom bricks for the same reason, but only one yellow color (with an orange tint). You’ll need more blue than any of the other colors.
- Once you’ve chosen your colors, start by cutting the scrapbook paper into strips. These will be used to create the bricks. We used a paper-cutter for this step, but you can use scissors instead if you don’t have one at home. Try and gauge how many strips you’ll need—we used only one strip of each color and two of the navy blue.
- Rip the strips into small pieces. Vary the sizes and the shapes—this will make for a more interesting art process and a cooler final product. Don’t use a scissors for this step, as the irregular, softer tear will result in a more natural look when you start piecing the bits together. Sharp edges won’t give you the same effect.
- Now, onto your foam board. Using a pencil and a ruler, draw out a brick design. Try to get the bricks to be about the same size.
- Go over the pencil design with a black marker. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. It won’t matter in the end.
- Finally, find a “coloring-book image” of a lion on the internet. We tried googling “roaring lion coloring book page” (and all variations of that phrase), but couldn’t find one we liked, so we went with this one instead. Adjust size as necessary to fit your board, and print it out.
- Share the Ishtar Gate image you printed with your children, and allow it to serve as their guide during this project. A quick intro is appropriate here—maybe a few words on Ishtar herself and the magnificent gate that was built in her name. Encourage children to examine the image and share with you what they see in detail.
- Give the kids their foam boards, explaining to them that they have to fill in the bricks with the scraps of paper using a glue stick. The bottom row should be brown, as pictured here, and the rest a mix of the blues. Give them free reign here, but the same way that they are taught to color inside the lines, they should try to keep the scraps inside the brick lines. The straight edges on each piece will help them fit the pieces in. Pieces can (and should) overlap one another. Some white space is okay.
- Once their board is filled, kids should turn their attention to their lion. You can choose to bring him to life with the same paper-mosaic process, but we’ll be honest—that’s a little ambitious. Kids will likely be tired at this point. We simply used crayons to color ours. Once done, cut him out.
- Using a glue stick, attach the lion to the foam board. Make sure his feet line up with the brown bricks. The end result is awesome.
- For younger kids, consider a larger foam board and larger scrap pieces. Small bits like the ones pictured here may prove too daunting a task for the little ones.
- Swapping the foam board for construction paper or card stock works just as well if you’re trying to minimize costs.
- Look at other images of the Ishtar Gate for other variations—i.e. Maybe try to recreate the flower design as opposed to the lion.
- If doing this in a group or classroom setting, hang all of the designs together to create a wall.
- If you’re trying to save time (or if your child generally loses interest quickly), consider tracing the lion on the board and instruct children to fill only the blocks outside its shape.