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.

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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.

Feel Good Words

Originally this project belonged to a friend of mine. She called it Feel Good Words. It is based off of Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE stamp. I did it with 4th and 5th grades.

Prior to this the students learned color theory. They made their own color wheels, learning how to mix primary to secondary first. From the color wheel we saw that it puts the colors into rainbow order, how complementary colors are opposite one another, and grouping of warm and cool colors. You have to do all this before which turns this project into a nice unit. I will post on how I taught each color relationship in future posts.

Students brainstormed 4 letter feel good words in groups, then chose which one they wanted. Be sure to remind them they’ll be stuck with this word for a while.

We also looked at the work of Romero Brito who uses patterns in his work. This is for breaking up the letters and boxes so there is more room for color.

Out of the 4 boxes they had to follow the rules of color theory. One box could only have primary  colors, the next could be in rainbow order, or just warm colors or just cool.

They made a mini version of it on their worksheet using pencil then markers. Once that was planned out they got started on the big paper. Pencil first, then paint!

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Complementary Colors

Opposite Day! Introducing complementary colors! I started out by saying silly things that are opposite from what was true. So if it’s sunny outside I’ll say it’s raining. If I see a kid smiling I’d say he’s sad. Then the kids would quickly say some things that are opposite to get them excited.

You can do this as a review of complemtarty colors or to learn them from scratch. If they’ve learned it before you can point to a color wheel and see who remembers. I use 3 fun examples for complementary colors to help them remember:

Green/Red = Christmas

Purple/Yellow = Lakers

Orange/Blue = Mets/Knicks/Islanders

This really helps students remember make sure to provide a visual of all 3.

I also do a color strip game. Students receive all 6 colors in strips of paper you can quickly chop using a paper cutter and paper clip each set together for easy distribution. Ask the students to only wave the answer and not say it outloud. What’s the opppsite of green, they’d wave the red strip! Then you can let the students play teacher and call out the colors. Later on you can use these strips even more grouping the primary, secondary, warm, cool and arraigning them into rainbow order. They love playing the game as review.

The Opposite picture is further review. Make a list on the board of everything that’ll go into our picture: sun, sky, grass/tree tops, mountains, brick house/building, and tree trunk. Ask students, what color would you normally color in a sky? Blue! But it’s Opposite Day so what will we use instead? Orange! They can use their strips again here. Show students photographs of tree trunks where the wood can look a little orange. This will give you you’re blue opposite. Mountains can look purple in certain times of day in the distance, find an image of this and you have your purple opposite.

Once this is established, they can draw their pictures in pencil first. As they become ready to color make sure they have a cheat sheet list of all the opposites for reference.

When white comes up, like clouds, ask them what they think the opposite of white is, they already know it’ll be black! Outline with black sharpie!