Family Activity Inspired by Tam Van Tran's Untitled, 2007

Tam Van Tran is an artist who uses both conventional and unconventional materials to create layered works that defy categorization. Van Tran manipulates paper into three-dimensional objects that explore the complexity of our universe.

In this moderately easy Family Activity, we'll walk you through how to make a three-dimensional drawing inspired by Van Tran's Untitled, 2007.

Tam Van Tran (American, born Vietnam, 1966). Untitled, 2007. Acrylic, spirulina, pencil, collage, and staples on paper, 16 x 14 x 4 7/8 inches (40.6 x 35.6 x 12.4 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Charles Clifton Fund, 2008 (2008:40.1). © 2007 Tam Van Tran

Getting Started

  • What is the first thing that comes to mind when you look at this work of art?
  • Do the colors remind you of anything or of a certain place?
  • How would you describe the lines that you see within this work of art? Draw the motion of the lines in the air with your arms.


  • Cardboard/heavy cardstock (even a shoebox or Styrofoam would work)
  • Pencil
  • Tape (colored masking tape is great if you have any on hand)
  • Scissors
  • Paper (thick, thin, colorful, patterned, whatever you have on hand; magazine paper works great too)
  • Any mark-making materials that you have on hand (markers, crayons, etc.)
  • Stapler, hole punch (optional)

Want to add some odd things to your work? Try using beet juice, eggshells, and things from outside, like leaves or petals.

Artmaking Activity

1. Begin by coloring your piece of cardboard. You can cover it with a piece of colored paper and then draw designs on top, or color directly onto it with marker. Using inspiration from Van Tran, add a pattern in a swirling motion.

2. Next, cut some large and small strips out of the paper you have gathered. Also, cut out some squares and circles. If you want, you can color directly onto the strips before the next step.

3. Take your strips of paper and use some of the following paper-building techniques:

  • Loop your strip (this can be done multiple ways, including into rolls or looping multiple strips together)
  • Fan fold your paper (looks like a zigzag)
  • Curl your strip
  • Fold your strip in half and cut out a shape (making sure to leave edges so you don’t cut your strip in half)
  • Fringe-cut the strip
  • From the squares and circles, cut out a spiral or fringe the edges
  • If you have a hole punch, you can decorate your strips with holes from the punch

4. Tape your strips of paper onto your cardboard. See how creative you can be, adding unique shapes and designs to your work. When it is complete, hang it up on the wall to see what type of lines you “drew” with the paper strips.

5. Tam Van Tran left his works Untitled, but we encourage you to title your work of art!

Optional: Share your creation on Twitter or Instagram with #AKBeyondWalls and #MuseumFromHome!


Collage: work of art in which pieces of paper, photographs, fabric and other ephemera are arranged and stuck down onto a supporting surface

Layer: a thickness of some material spread over a surface

Three-dimensional: media that occupies space defined through the dimensions of height, width, and depth