Warm vs. Cool Colors

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As part of our color theory unit we learned what the warm and cool colors are and how to use them. I started the class by asking kids to name me all 6 colors from the color wheel, grouping them into warm and cool. I asked if they knew why I put orange, red and yellow on one side and blue, green, purple on the other. Some students knew why. I showed them how they are together on the color wheel as well.

I showed them paintings and photographs in a warm and cool version. So I searched warm or cool colored images and then manipulated them in Photoshop to change them. So I had the same image in a warm version and a cold version.

We did a lot of group discussion on how the different versions make us feel. I actually found a cool image of Beyoncé crying. The warm and cool version had very different responses from the kids. The were very insightful to how warm colors make them feel versus cool. I gave them more images to discuss with their tables. By the end of class they were able to identify why artists would use warm or cool colors to create different moods.

As an activity they traces their hands, drew a line down the center, decorated one side cool and the other warm. This was all in preparation for the big end of unit color theory projects: Feel Good Words and Kandinsky Circles.

Kandinsky Color Theory

We all see Kandinsky inspired art in like every single art teaching book. I decided to use Kandinsky as a way to finalize our color theory unit. Students learned how to paint a color wheel, how to mix primary into secondary, what the complementary colors are, what the warm and cool colors are the order of the rainbow. These were all mini lessons leading up to this.

After all the mini lessons we reviewed by playing the color game, where I give them stripes of all 6 colors and you ask questions like what is the opposite of blue and they quietly raise the orange strip. Students can lead this game at their tables or with the whole class. Put the strips in rainbow order, wave the warm colors, wave the secondary colors. You can see who remembers and who will need extra attention.

I show them the Kandinsky circles and we talk about color feelings and choices. They know a lot about color and they know about what feelings a color can portray from the warm/cool lesson.

This whole painting is planned on a worksheet. I give them a handout with 6 boxes and on top it reminds them all the color combinations. They have to color in with markers/crayons/colored pencils their entire project before they get to paint on big paper. 4 out of the 6 boxes have to be a pattern of one of these: primary colors, secondary colors, complementary colors, rainbow order, warm or cool colors. The 5th and 6th box are free color order, and students usually just pick from the list.

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Once their planning sheet is filled we practice painting in rings on a smaller paper to gain confidence before they head over to the big paper. I tape their planning paper to the back so they can refer to it and follow their plan.

If they mess up explain the beauty of painting that we can always wait for it to dry and paint over it! To keep my sanity I previously pour out paint into cups and keep 1 brush per cup and a water cup with extra brushes. They know not to mess with the colors and always make sure their brush is super clean before switching colors. Tickle the bottom of the water bucket, wipe the excess water on the edge of the bucket, dab it on paper. Tickle, tickle, tickle, wipe wipe wipe, dab, dab dab. They like that.