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[teacherartexchange] some thoughts about teaching color theory


Date: Mon Sep 22 2008 - 07:40:48 PDT

<<I was wondering if anyone had some advice on how far I should go with
color thery to 8th grade students. In high school I have them do tints,
tones and monochromatic,, complimentary, analougous, etc. I don't
really think
this is appropriate for the younger students. What do you all think?>>

I am wondering what it is you would like your students to know and be
able to do. For many middle school students the art class will be their
last, as they may not be choosing an art elective in high school.

So there is the factual thing: being able to say "red is a primary
color" etc. Or to paint in a color wheel, primary and secondary
colors. And I hope that there would be a recognition of the colors one
finds in the printing process (look at the color cartridge in your
computer printer)

But I am thinking, what do artists need to know and be able to do? A
painter should be able to make the colors that are needed for a
particular work. And have a feeling for how one color reacts in
context with neighboring colors. And so on. In my opinion, one learns
this by doing it, perhaps being less than successful and then doing it,
and doing it again.

So I wonder if your middle school students might benefit more from
doing a LOT of painting of subject matter that interests them. In
doing this, they will most likely find that they need a lot of colors
that don't come right out of the jar. But if you have given them
instruction in using a palette and keeping their colors fresh, and
mixing and mixing and experimenting till they find just the right color
for their aims...I think this has more value for them as people and art
makers than merely doing exercises. Color wheels, etc are great things
to have displayed in a classroom as a reference for those who need it.

When I taught younger students they were given magenta, turquoise,
yellow, white and black. The assignment: mix and mix and mix and fill
a paper with samples of every color mixed...then make a page of
"personal colors", colors that they might use for the sort of painting
they were most interested in. No two papers were alike and the
students really knew how they had come up with the colors that they

kathy douglas
k-3 massachusetts, retired

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