In their third unit of Art 1, Roberto Clemente Community Academy freshmen learned about color theory and watercolor techniques. For many students learning about color mixing was a review of elementary school (red + blue = purple, yellow + blue = green, and red + yellow = orange), but we went beyond basic color mixing to learn about the way colors can affect the way a viewer interprets an artwork. For example, complementary colors are opposite on the color wheel, and because they are the most different of any two colors, they really pop out against each other. That is why a lot of sports teams use complementary colors, like the Chicago Bears (orange and blue), and the L.A. Lakers (yellow and purple). An analogous color scheme, on the other hand, is when you use three or more colors next to each other on the color wheel. These similar colors (such as blue, blue-green and green), create a more harmonious image that is more soothing than if you were to use complementary colors.
We not only looked at color schemes in paintings, but also in pop culture like these Chance the Rapper album covers to discuss how color can affect the meaning or mood of an image. Even what seems like a simple fashion choice can have a hidden meaning. We read an article about how Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton wore purple after Clinton lost the presidential election to symbolize how red (Republicans) and blue (Democrats) should come together to unite the country, despite their differences.
Students also had a lot of fun learning about different watercolor techniques in this unit. Watercolors can be a bit harder to control than other paints because the translucency makes it hard to cover any mistakes. But once we learned some basic techniques to control the paint, we learned some fun texture techniques such as using salt or rubbing alcohol to affect how the paint dries. For their summative project, students applied these techniques and made nature paintings inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe. Students could either abstract the images they referenced or try to make them realistic. Either way, the trick to making a painting with depth was to slowly layer the different techniques we learned, creating variety and contrast. The paintings the students created are incredible!