Teaching Painting: Yellow and Violet

Student Painting in Complimentary Set of Yellow and Violet

Student Painting in Complimentary Set of Yellow and Violet

I’ve shared several posts describing my efforts to teach my middle school students color theory and skill with using a brush. The next step for them is to accomplish three projects each using one of the complimentary sets.

Materials: We use tempera paint and acrylic medium, bristle brushes, 10-well plastic palettes, and canvas paper or canvas pads.

Each complimentary set allows them to maintain color harmony while creating both warm and cool hues, bright and muted hues, and light and dark hues. This first one that I’m sharing was based on a yellow (warm) and violet (cool) palette.

Step One—Prepare the Palette. The student puts out violet paint in three of the wells. In the first one they mix in a small amount of yellow. In the next one they increase the amount of yellow. In the last one they again increase the amount of yellow.

Leave two empty wells, and place yellow in the next three wells. In the first mix in a very small amount of violet. Increase the amount in the second and even more in the last one which should end up a dark brown.

Put white paint in the four remaining wells. Select two of the violet mixtures to mix into two of the white wells to create tints. Likewise, select two of the yellow mixtures to mix into the last two wells of white.

The student can use the pure yellow, violet, and white as well if they feel the need. They can also mix white with the pure yellow and violet. Sometimes, I give the student a second white plastic palette to continue mixing and expanding their palette. Use “Press and Seal” plastic wrap over the palettes to keep the paint from drying out between painting sessions.

Step Two — Paint the Painting. I remind the student to start in the background so that they are naturally overlapping as they come forward.

I have previously worked these projects up to give them something to look at as they are painting. Very often they came back to me after painting and commented about how they actually saw in nature what the project had required of them.

These projects give them the opportunity to use the brush strokes that they learned in previous exercises. By the time they finish the last of the three complimentary paintings, their brushstrokes have become quite intuitive. Additionally, each of the three projects require them to constantly make decisions about applying the hues based on light and dark, warm and cool, and bright and muted.

It is my expectation that after teaching these very basic painting skills they will go on to adapt what they have learned to their own creative projects.

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