Now that spring break is over and we are all refreshed, it’s time to concentrate on painting and composition. As Manet stated, composition is the difficult part in painting. Here are some tips to help you through the difficulty we often have teaching painting and composition.
Warm or Cool Colors? The primary students I taught were required to learn the color wheel and use the information they learned to paint several pictures. Of course, many of them wanted to combine a primary color painting with complementary colors, or neutral colors with warm colors. When learning color theory however, they were asked to do one painting of each of the basic color theories. I do make a color theory unit mandatory in middle school and when they are preparing for their final painting I explain that although they can use many colors in their paintings they should concentrate and/or emphasize one category based on the color wheel.
Space…Where No Element Has Gone Before! Well…not really true, but one thing we must remember to explain to our student is that elements are going to be more interesting and appealing in an artwork if they are spaced in a random fashion rather than lined up in an evenly spaced line or row. Younger students tend to arrange their elements in a line in the foreground of their picture. If we teach them the rule of thirds early in the art career, or explain that in art, rules were meant to be broken, we hope that as our students mature so will their artwork.
It’s All About the Brush. Cheryl Maney, Visual Arts and Dance Curriculum Specialist from Concord, NC, always taught her students the parts of the paintbrush first. Too often, we tend to focus on the paint and not the tool. With this said, she would show them the handle and how it gets a little thicker before the ferrule and then the brush.
She would explain about the hair being made from different types of natural or synthetic fibers. The hair should never get messy by going back and forth. It’s like combing or brushing your own hair. You pull the comb or brush through, not push it. The ferrule is no man’s land. No paint and no fingers. Lastly, she would teach her students how to wash the brush so that they would last a long time.
Double Dipping is OK! We definitely don’t want to double dip when eating, but try double dipping your paintbrush in two different colors. We all know that color theory is important when learning how to mix colors, but it might be nice to have your students try something different.
For elementary students I would put three groups of analogous colors, plus white, in different parts of the classroom. Students would be able to choose one group of colors to create a painting, but they had to double- or even triple-dip their brushes. It is a nice way for elementary students to mix colors.
For my middle-school students, it becomes more of an experiment in mixing colors, as they really have to think before double dipping. It is important for them to understand the mixing process or they might get mud. Prior to this lesson we do a short assignment of mixing complementary colors with different ratios of color.
To Kiss or Not to Kiss? That is the Question! When we talk about composition, it is important that your students understand the placement of elements. When two elements are next to each other and touching, we can consider that “kissing”—not great for making a composition interesting. To demonstrate this lesson, I cut out several large shapes and arrange and rearrange them on my board until my students think the composition has a good aesthetic. I make my students do this as well. I find that it has really helped them to create some very interesting pieces.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
Reprinted with permission from Arts & Activities magazine. Visit their website: artsandactivities.com