Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Color Field Paintings on Cardboard

We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. -Rothko & Gottleib

Color Field painter Mark Rothko's work presents a fantastic opportunity for discussion and practice of color theory. Viewing his works, students were asked to describe each painting using one word. Prompts included: what emotion could the painting represent? What season? What time of day? Is it sinking or floating? Light or heavy? Students were excited to discover and share how different combinations of colors can produce unique emotional responses in artwork.

Viewing a color wheel, we reviewed prior knowledge of color families; students remembered warm, cold, primary, secondary, and complementary colors. We added "analogous" to our repertoire, and we were ready to go!

Session 1: Since we were so excited to talk about Mark Rothko's artwork, we had only enough time left to write our names on the back of a piece of 8"x16" cardboard (thank goodness I had so many boxes) and hot-glue three small cardboard scraps to the surface. NOTE: I pre-cut these scraps in various sizes, but checked to make sure they were less than 1" high (to accommodate a yarn needle) and that the corrugated tunnels were going in the correct direction! Take care as well to warn students that cardboard pieces must be at least 3" apart so the needle will room to escape each one.

Session 2: Students chose three colors of acrylic paint for their palettes. Many chose analogous colors, and some preferred the bright clash of complementary colors. Inspired by Rothko, we used rectangles as our primary shape. Students practiced different textures and edge styles for each shape, painting the entire surface of the cardboard. How impressive to see 75 fourth graders paint 75 unique compositions of rectangles!

Session 3: For a finishing touch, each student chose a string of yarn that would provide an color accent and textural element to his/her existing composition. We learned to thread a yarn needle, tie an anchor knot, and weave the yarn through the corrugated tunnels of the cardboard. To avoid unsightly yarn tails, each new thread was anchored on the back of the cardboard and poked through to the front to begin and end the weaving.

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