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Re: [teacherartexchange] color theory worksheets


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Feb 24 2007 - 13:52:08 PST

>Does anyone have any easy to use color theory introductory handouts for?
>6-8th graders?
>This first year teacher could really use them!!!!

I find that an easier way for students to understand color theory is to have them do some fairly simple hands-on color mixing activities on paper. I show them nothing (NO COLOR WHEELS AND CHARTS) in advance. That would take away the fun of discovery.

First the art teacher invents and leads warm-up color mixing and/or colored paper activities based on what the students need to discover by doing. These hands-on warm-ups are followed by questions (questions can be oral or on handouts that students can fill out based on what can be observed on the papers that they have just produced) . I notice that students can easily daydream and even fall asleep while watching my wonderful demos, examples, and presentations, but I have yet to see one fall asleep while they are doing hands-on experiments with art materials.

Joseph Albers, the premier color theorist, said, "In the end all education is self-education." (taken from the wall of an Albers Exhibition at the Tate Modern, London, March, 2006).

A Chinese proverb says: Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Have me do it and I understand.

Students can be instructed to add some red to some yellow. To make sure that students see what they are intended to discover, I have to ask a series of questions (orally or in writing on a handout) such as:

--By looking at your experiment, what can you say about mixing red and yellow?
--What is the range of different color(s) that can result from mixing red and yellow?
--How much of each color is needed to make a mid-hue combination (best orange)? Why do you suppose more of one color needed? (I want them to discover that less red is needed and I want them to deliberately wonder about it and speculate on the reason for this difference)
--What happens when more or less water is part of each color in the mix? This is to establish that experiments need to control for extraneous variables in order to get reliable (repeatable) results.
--How does a small cutout square of the mixed color appear to change when it is placed on a sheet of black, grey, and white paper? (have them place identical sized identical colors on different backgrounds to learn the effects of different contexts)
--Which results seem to come forward? Attack more? Recede? Run away more?
--Using the painted paper (that now has a hole in the middle after cutting out the color samples) place grey, white and black under the hole to see if some come recede (go back more) or if some come forward (attack) more than others.

Many students wonder how to brown is mixed. Instead of telling them an answer, a warm-up can have them all make brown and then clarify with questions so that they learn what and why it made brown. To make this brown they are asked to make a good medium orange and add a tiny bit of black.

What questions can we ask after this warm up to insure that students have internalized how a brown can be created? Is this brown a shade or tint? Why? Is it warm or cool? Why? Is it intense and saturated or dull and muted (as compared to what)? How do two different browns compare with each other (as they relate to their neighboring colors in a painting)?

Things like color wheels might come later (if anybody still cares), after they have invented ways to chart colors on their own. You might say they are learning to invent the wheel. To learn to experiment and to invent is a big thing. It makes learning the little things so much more fun.

It is interesting to think about other "facts" of art that could be "understood" better if they were discovered and learned rather than taught. What would be the principles of composition if the students invented them? What styles of art could or would students invent? How is our learning different when we construct our own knowledge instead of memorizing something that experts tell us?

Marvin Bartel
Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
studio phone: 574-533-0171
"Art is me when I am myself." ... a kindergarten girl when asked, "What is art?"
"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before." ... a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time.


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