Primary Colors – Paul Klee

18 Mar

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Slideshow of student pieces

Discussion: Understanding color is important as an artist. If you learn the language of color, you can use it to convey a feeling, provoke emotion, highlight certain details, or even to give your picture a temperature.

Three colors – called primary colors – RED, YELLOW, BLUE – are the basis for the color wheel. These three colors can be mixed together (along with black and white) to create pretty much any color you can think of.

When you put opposite colors against each other, it makes the other color POP! Those are complementary colors. Warm colors are red, yellow, orange; Cool are blue, green, violet.

Warm colors feel like they are moving forward, while cool colors tend to make things look further away. (Have the kids think of the coldest place they can think of – and then have them describe the colors they see in this place; likewise with a hot place.) I also showed the students some of Paul Klee’s work where it was obvious that he was using certain primary colors to convey feelings or movement in his painting.

Artist: A modern artist who loved color was the great Paul Klee (1879 – 1940, born near Bern, Switzerland), a Swiss artist who painted in the 1900’s. He used color as a language, to create a sense of place in his pictures (the Tunisian watercolors) or of temperature (The Nile painting – the blue and white squares tell the story of a cool river – we know it’s water looking at it, even though we don’t see the shape of an ocean or stream). Some of his greatest paintings used just shapes and color. Paul Klee started off as a musician and an artist. When he started to pursue his art further, he started by using lines, then shapes, then color. It wasn’t until he learned about color that his paintings came alive with beauty and excitement. He painted what he saw, and what he felt using color.

Materials: 

Color Wheels for reference

Watercolor paper x2 (5×7 – grid lightly penciled in, about 12 squares, no need to measure or get grid exactly perfect, just eyeball it.)

Each set of desks (2 students per) has 4 containers (red, blue, yellow and gold)

Liquid watercolors in tubes – primary colors plus  a shimmery gold watercolor

A paintbrush for each color

Paper Towel for blotting

Project:

Take a second to have the child think about what he/she wants to say with their painting. Do they want to make a picture seem hot? Or seem cold? Or maybe both of those things? Or make a picture that feels happy, or serious?

Let the kids go to town painting. Guide them to try and use different colors in every square so they play around with mixing the colors right on their paper. When the colors touch each other and if their paintbrushes are wet enough, the colors will begin to mix right on their paper. Colors can be overlapped as well, the liquid watercolors are so vivid that it’s really interesting to see what you get when you layer them on top of each other. There was enough cut watercolor paper for two pieces each.

Tips: Paintbrushes stay with the paint color. One brush per paint color. 2 people share the set of colors. Keep your paintbrushes nice and moist. No dry paintbrushes. The more wet the brush, the more the colors will blend. Less blending with a drier brush. No recognizable shapes or images, just encourage the students to explore color on their paper.

Gold will go on LAST. As an accent. Keep to no more than half your paper. Don’t let the kids go overboard with the gold, it is meant to be an accent after the color has been applied. AND meant to be overlapped, not used just on it’s own.

Vocabulary: Primary colors – Any of a group of colors from which all other colors can be made by mixing.

Room 6, 1st grade, Ms. Wilson

March 2012 lesson

Docent: Marcie Guthrie

Art Elements/Principles/Artists Reviewed: color

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One Response to “Primary Colors – Paul Klee”

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