Thursday, 11 April 2013

Back to Basics

One if the first things we learn about in colour theory is the colour wheel. So I prepared plenty of blank A3 size copies of colour wheels to test this activity on an after-school group of children aged 5-8 years.

Painting can be very messy, which is part of the fun for younger children but does mean it needs some careful managing in order to minimise accidents and disgruntled parents! I speak from experience or rather previous lack of on this one! Give parents notice if you can so that old clothes can be worn or brought to the session, cover all surfaces and provide aprons or oversized old t-shirts as extra protection.

Additonally structure the lesson quite tightly, at least to begin with, so that the children get the opportunity to learn how to mix paints properly instead of rapidly ending up with large amounts of brown! Brown is a great colour but not the object of this exercise.

Ice cube trays work brilliantly for this activity because they minimise waste and provide plenty of separate spaces to mix new colours in.

I introduced the activity to the group with an example of a finished colour wheel, reassured them not to worry as we would go through it all one step at a time and give them plenty of time to finish (the temptation to rush ahead with this is quite strong (!) and we had a range of ages and abilities) and asked open questions such as "Can anybody tell me how orange is made?" and "Why do you think we always mix colours from light to dark?" Open questions are a great way to get children engaged with learning as it gives them the opportunity to show you how much they know, be encouraged and praised for their input and it gives you a good indicator as to what level your group understands the subject, where their strengths are and what areas you can help to improve on and who may need the most support.

We began by painting in the primary colours into the sections and learned how to mix the secondary colours and filled these in also. This took quite alot of time and concentration for our young group who were very quiet throughout so I loosened up the lesson after this by giving them each some white (absolutely no black!) to play with and allowing them to mix their own colours to paint in the tertiary sections (the girls were practically bursting to make pink!). I asked them to invent names to describe their colours which they responded to with titles such as "mysterious green" and "I don't know". They responded really well to the structure of mixing and invented lots of new and beautiful colours between them. Having not done a colour wheel myself for a very long time I had forgotten how much fun playing with pure colour can be and heard one 5 year old say "Whoa, this is brilliant!" as he watched new colours unfold under his brush and was able to control this to a certain degree with his new skills.

To move on from this I had originally planned for the group to make the spinners pictured below as I thought it would be another fun way to see how secondary colours are made. However when I tried this activity myself beforehand, it didn't really work very well and not wanting disappointed kids on my hands abandoned this idea and was reminded how useful preparation can be instead!

So we tried 'blow' painting. We watered down the colours the children had made, splattered them onto paper and blew the splatters with straws to see what shapes and colours could be made when they mixed. This is fun to do after the concentration earlier, uses the colours they already have and begins the tray cleaning process! Some of the colours already had quite a bit of water added so didn't need any more, it's just to loosen the paint up so that it travels across the paper more easily. These can be left to dry and then shapes can be looked for and drawn over in pencil.

The next Material Knowledge session will be held on Monday 15th April 6-8pm in the Art & Craft Studio, Level 2, St Luke's Community Centre, 90 Central Street, London, EC1V 8AJ. We will continue with the colour theme by looking at tone and how to create a fun educational session to explore this.


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