Mixing Primary into Secondary

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You would be surprised how many children and adults do not know which primary colors make the secondary. I did two versions of this lesson for the younger elementary kids and the older ones.

The younger kids, 1st grade-2nd, did the ice pops. I did find the lesson online but I changed it up a little. We did this following our How to use a brush Winter Style lesson. I did just a lesson on mixing colors on white paper. I told them we were going to make magic today. The paint brush is your magic wand. We started out by making sure our brushes were super clean. We put some yellow on the paper, cleaned the brush, put a tiny amount of blue on the tip, said the magic words and they mixed green. They were really amazed. Same things with yellow and red for orange, make sure you reinforce just dipping the tip of the brush into the red (and blue) because they are such strong colors. Last we do red and blue to make purple.

I closed this lesson by having the kids take a look around the table at their friend’s colors. Are all the greens exactly the same? Some are more yellow and some are more blue. Why? This is how you can introduce the intermediate colors. Why would you want a green that is more blue? Why would you want a green that is more yellow? This can be a nice conclusion.

The older kids, 3rd through 5th, did the color wheels. They already knew the primary and secondary colors. We traced a circle on white paper, used rules to draw 3 lines through the circle, and outlined in sharpie. Then as a class we painted in the primary colors, skipping a space between each color. So you have red, blank, yellow, blank, blue, blank. This is where they mess up. Some kids will just go again and know that they two colors surrounding the blank spaces need to be mixed in there, so red and yellow to make orange in the middle. Others you have to do it step by step.

Moving on to the Ice Pops. I actually got observed for this lesson, and because it was a step by step process it was deemed not creative enough. Which is fine, but I think the lesson served its purpose because after all the kids knew exactly how to make orange, green and purple, and they had fun. I pre-drew the ice pop shape, and even color coded labeled them with Y O R, for yellow, orange, red. They already had an introduction to mixing so it was applying last weeks skills. I still did it step by step so no one was left behind. Some kids liked painting the top, then bottom, then mixing the middle. Others painted the whole top and middle yellow then added red on the bottom going up to make the orange middle. Depends on the students.

The background was choosing horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines in a pattern. So before they did that we reviewed all those words. We used PAINT CAKES! My favorite. And any colors they wanted. Cut, glue, done.

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.

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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