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Perspectives For Families

Make a Mix-and-Match Accordion Book with Guest Contributor Il Sung Na

Create a book of your very own mix-and-match characters inspired by real artworks at The Met with this activity from children's book author and illustrator Il Sung Na.

Jun 17, 2021

An unfolded accordion book featuring characters inspired by objects from the #MetKids Map

Hi! My name is Il Sung Na. I write and illustrate children’s picture books. To make a picture book, I don't just need a story… I need characters. Creating my own characters is always fun, but sometimes it is hard to know where to begin. When I don’t know where to start, I look at the world around me to find inspiration. If I am looking to be inspired by paintings, sculptures and other works of art, I go to a museum. Being surrounded by art can be very inspirational, and many illustrators and artists love being in museums just for finding inspiration. I typically look for interesting shapes, colors and compositions.

When I would visit a museum, I would draw things that I found interesting in my sketchbook. Sometimes I drew paintings and sculptures, other times I drew building structures or people in the museum. Most museums do not allow wet mediums like ink or paint, so I use graphite pencils or colored pencils.

Another place to find inspiration is on the #MetKids map, which features hundreds of artworks in The Met collection. We are going to search the map for eight inspiring works of art, and use them to create a split-page accordion book. Using this book, you can mix and match different parts from works of art all over the museum to create your very own original character!


Printer paper
Drawing materials (colored pencils, markers, crayons… just pick your favorite!)


First, you will need to make an eight-panel accordion book. Fold the paper in half like a long strip and cut it. Put one of the long strips aside. Fold the remaining strip of paper three times, as in the image below:

Diagram showing a piece of paper being folded, cut, and folded again

Divide the paper into three sections by drawing two straight lines across the paper strip. Mark the ends of the lines on the side, then use a ruler to connect them. Each panel will have a corresponding number between one and eight, like below:

A diagram showing a piece of paper being divided into eight columns and three rows

Next, look for artworks that inspire you on the #MetKids map. Take your time: there is a lot to see! You will need to find 8 works of art. Choose ones that have a head, body, and legs, if possible.

The MetKids map surrounded by eight objects from across The Met collection

Now, the fun begins. There are some very simple rules to follow: the head should stay in the top section; the torso, including arms and hands, must stay in the middle section; and the legs must stay in the bottom section.

Be creative! Let me show you how I drew mine:

A photo of colored pencils and markers beside the blank folded paper strip

I have my blank accordion book ready. These are going to be my drawing tools for today.

A photo of colored pencils and markers beside the paper strip, on which the the first layers of colored shapes have been drawn

I normally begin with shapes. Don't worry about making it look exactly like the original work of art. You can choose different colors and alter shapes. Remember, this is not about drawing precisely but making your own mark with your interpretation. Be playful!

Drawn characters on the folded strip of paper with some details added.

Then, I add small details such as eyes, hair, and other features. If you want to, you can change your character's facial expressions. Again, this is all about having fun!

A hand holds an orange colored pencil and fills in one of the characters bodies with color on the paper.

I also often play with textures. When I draw with colored pencils, I can use the pencil in different ways to make different textures. Try out making a variety of lines and marked to create different textures and patterns. If you would like to make a flat and smooth image instead, then you can do that, too. We all have our own way of using tools!

Eight fully drawn characters are on the folded paper strip.

Here are all of my finished drawings! Now it is time to cut the paper.

Once you have all nine drawings, pinch the accordion book together like in the picture below. The panels on either end should be outside of your grip:

A hand pinches the folded paper over a cutting board. Beneath the hand is a steel ruler and above it is a craft knife.

Using scissors, cut the panels that are folded together along the two lines you drew with your ruler. I am using a special knife, but scissors work just as well. Make sure you don’t cut the panels on either end of the strip! These will be your front cover and back cover.

The folded paper is laid flat on the cutting board. The ruler sits over the top third of the paper while I hand slices the paper with a craft knife.

Give your book a title and draw your own cover.

The cover of the final accordion book  reads MetKids Mix & Match beside an orange marker.

Now open it up, turn each section, and enjoy all of your mixed-and-matched creatures that were inspired by art at The Met!

An animated GIF of a hand flipping through the completed accordion book. Mixed up beings are created as he flips through each section.

All photos courtesy of Il Sung Na