Teaching Painting: Combining Color Theory and Brush Strokes

Teaching Painting to Middle School Students

Teaching Painting to Middle School Students

I have been sharing with you the lesson plans that I developed for teaching 7th and 8th grade students to paint. I am grouping all of the brush stroke lessons together for the sake of organization; however, the truth is that I’d intersperse the brush stroke lessons with lessons on color theory and would use a different combination of lessons depending on how much experience the students had. Since the same student often signed up for art several times, I found that I needed to reteach and reinforce the same material in a different way to keep them interested.

This exercise of fruit is a little more challenging that the basic “blue brush strokes” I’ve shared the last couple of weeks. We would still use tempera paint and acrylic medium and natural bristle brushes in 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch and 3/4 or 1 inch. I had them paint this on a sheet of canvas paper being careful to use the top side so it didn’t curl on them.

Color Theory: I used this painting after introducing the primary and secondary colors. I brought to their attention that in addition to the “surface” color that we associate with each piece of fruit (red=apples, green=limes, etc), we can see that each piece of fruit involves several hues of the surface color. We can achieve those hues by adding black and white to the surface color, but we will end up with heavy, pasty looking colors. It will be much more exciting if we use what we know about primary and secondary colors to achieve lively, exiting hues.

Therefore, if the surface color is red, we achieve the darker, cooler hue needed for the shaded areas of the apple by adding red’s secondary color of violet We achieve the lighter, warmer hue for the highlighted areas of the red apple by using red’s other secondary color of orange.

Similarly, we split the surface colors of each piece of fruit into the two adjacent colors on either side to get our lights and darks which also happen to yield the warm and cool.

I also had them mix all three primary colors until they could achieve a satisfactory black to use for the background.

Brush Strokes: We used a smooth horizontal blending brush stroke for the background learning how to maintain a horizontal stroke while still accommodating the contours of the fruit. We then used the pouncing technique for the citrus fruit and painted the apple to capture the striations by not over blending our brush strokes.

With some experience the paint can be applied and the texture captured all at one time, but less experienced students found it easier to paint the surface color all over the piece of fruit to get rid of the white canvas paper and then go back over the surface color to add the color variations and the brush stroke texture.

I’ve got one more of these basic painting lessons to share with you next week.

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