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Re: Color theory in high School


From: Bunki Kramer (bkramer_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Jul 30 2003 - 11:45:37 PDT

from: Bunki Kramer (
Los Cerros Middle School
968 Blemer Road
Danville, CA 94526
From: Patricia Knott <>

Anybody have any tricks on getting high school kids to play and experiment
with color? and get beyond the basics?
I'm not sure what to do with color in high school. I've spent a lifetime
learning about color. My foundation year in art school included 2 semesters
of color theory with all those color-aid paper projects.

Aaah, yes. Those Monsell (or whatever) color charts. I remember those mixing
classes from years ago and enjoyed them. Thinking on what you're pondered,
I'm beginning to believe it's not that they don't KNOW it, it's that they
don't practice it. For 8th grade advanced we do an advanced
color mixing project (after discussion and worksheets) where they picked a
page from a magazine, bring it to me, and I cut out a trapezoid section.
They staple the magazine picture (now with hole) onto white 9x12" drawing
paper. (They glue their cutout trapezoid underneath the magazine picture to
the side for reference.) Their job is to reproduce the original hole with
exact coloring. The hole is small, we use tiny brushes, they really get into
this, and they'll spend a week and 1/2 working on it enthusiastically. I say
"enthusiastically" because it seems to be one their favorite lessons when
asked. The palette is limited...R,B,Y,Bk,Wt. Their goal is understanding how
to add the opposite color to tone down a color, mixing to get secondaries,
tertiaries, etc. They walk out of my room understanding color mixing and
applying it. However, the high school teacher complains that they don't
understand their colors.

Maybe they do understand it and have worked with it but it's not as easy as
reverting back to the same-old add white/add black..."well, it used to work
with me before" attitude.

I say this because most of my 6th graders come into my class with the basic
knowledge of primaries and secondaries even though we have no elem. art
teachers in our district. I imagine the core teachers in K-6th have somehow
drilled this into them so it's almost innate. Taking them past this point
isn't a difficult thing for them to do but when they start a lesson, they'll
automatically revert back to pure color and no mixing without some
motivation on my part. Sometimes even my 8th graders will surprise me by
asking, "Can we mix colors?" Is there some little fairy out there in my
classroom saying they can't? They certainly haven't heard a negative answer
from me. They must be "hearing it" from SOMEWHERE...perhaps their brain or
perhaps those "innate", drilled-into-me experiences?

It would be interesting if someone would do a study about this. I think
there's enough evidence to warrant it.

Well I guess I'm procrastinating from what I need to do, hoping someone has
something I haven't thought of. (Oops ended with a prep.)

Procrastinating here too! Toodles.....Bunki