Teaching: Painting–Combining Color Theory and Brush Strokes

Teaching Middle School Students to Paint

Teaching Middle School Students to Paint

This project is far more advanced than the “basic blue brushstroke” exercises that I previously posted, but it builds upon them.

Materials: I like Blick student grade tempera but always have students use acrylic medium with it. Blick has a “turquoise” color that is a warm blue similar to cyan. Their “blue” is a cool blue similar to ultramarine. For this project I have the students use both of them. We also use red, yellow, and white as well as the green and orange which they have previously made themselves. From those colors we mix this full palette. The students use a canvas panel for this project and bristle brushes.

The Sky: We use the warm “turquoise” blue to mix at least three values of warm blue for the sky. Students apply the paint using the smooth gradation from dark blue at the top to very light blue at the horizon.

The Water: In addition to the warm blues we mix a cool blue with a touch of orange to create a very dark blue, we also use a pure blue, and mix a medium hue with the pure blue and white. Using those six hues of blue and a horizontal striation we paint the water. I remind them that the deeper the water the darker and cooler the color will be.

The Sand and Beach Road: Adding orange (which we’d previously made in little 2 oz tubs with lids that you can buy at SAMS) to the left over blues we create some browns and beiges. If that proves too challenging I have them wash their palettes and start over with orange and blue to create a brown. Split the brown in half and either make one half warmer by adding more yellow or make it cooler by adding a little red. Mixing any complimentary set or any two secondary colors will also create browns. The goals is to get a warm one and a cool one. Put white in two of the empty wells of the plastic palette and add a small amount of each of the two browns to achieve warm and cool beiges. For the sand, students use the cooler beige and white and a pouncing technique. For the road, they use the warm beige and white and a diagonal striation for the brushstroke. Add just a little brown to suggest the shadow between the sand and the road.

The Cliff and Tree: Use the browns that were already made as well as the beiges and a vertical application to achieve the ridges in the cliff. Switch to a round brush and paint the tree trunk and branches.

The Foliage: Using the green paint that the students previously made in a little 2 oz tub, they now expand their green hues by putting out four wells of green. In one of them they add a little blue to create a dark cool green, in another they add a little red to create a muted dark green, in another they add quite a bit of yellow to create a bright warm green, and they leave the last one a pure green. For the tree’s leaves they use all the greens and a pouncing technique. For the bushes at the bottom they use all the greens and a random application. For the foliage falling off the cliff they use either random or pouncing as they choose.

You can see how this project reinforced the brush stroke techniques and challenged them to apply the color theory as well. Next week I’m going to begin sharing with you the lessons I developed for teaching color theory.

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