Friday, June 9, 2017

Color Theory Leaf Paintings

I've been working on different ways for my 5th grade students to collaborate in the art room. We discuss how every child's work has value, and how all of us contributing to a larger creative effort can be a powerful thing. Since I am part time I also find that it helps to assure my presence in the school communities and to make our displays even more impressive. Gotta advocate for the arts! 

Quite a while ago I read about these fantastic color theory leaf paintings on a blog titled Art to the Moon & Back, by Linda Limbach. I thought it was a great way to make a color theory painting more interesting, to allow for choice in the painting, and to create a collaborative mural. Plan for several class periods to create these pieces.

For the first class, I took a walk around my neighborhood to see how many different kinds of leaves I could find, and brought some examples to share with my students. I also made a reference sheet to have available at each table. We talked about organic shapes, symmetry, serrated and smooth edges, and variety in color and size.

  Then each student drew a leaf shape in pencil on 12x16 paper. It could be a realistic shape like the ones we discussed, or they could create an original creation. The only rules were that it had to take up as much of the paper as possible, and that the stem of the leaf should e included, but drawn as a large shape to be able to paint inside of it. Also, if they were going to create a serrated edge, I suggested keeping it simple and stylized to be successful in cutting out their final painting at the end of the unit.

We then divided our leaves into 12 sections. Depending on the design, students either split the leaf down the center first, or did so without including the stem. So on the leaf above, there are six sections on the left, and five on the right, and the stem makes the twelfth. On the oak leaf below, a line was drawn down the center of the entire leaf, and six sections were made on each side. Then students reviewed the color wheel, and named each section along the outside in order, beginning at any point of the leaf they wished. The lines at this point are drawn in the biggest permanent markers you have on hand! And students can even redraw the lines thicker for the main outline, so they will have a generous area of black for the final trimming.

Inside each of the sections we then used a fine point Sharpie to create 4 more areas. There should be a variety of approaches to creating the four smaller sections. In the leaf above, I showed that the easiest way to divide up the stem is with an X. I also explained how the section with the ovals has only three, but the background area counts as a fourth section. Now that the color wheel is completely drawn, the goal is to fill each section of the leaf with the color, and a tint, shade, and tone of that color.

The area around the outside of the leaf can be messy, as you can see. This works for many reasons. First, their color wheel is labeled around the outside, so they don't forget or repeat a color. Their name, class, and table is listed at the top. This is great for pulling pieces from the drying rack and sorting them easily. I also find that many times I have the children write their names on the back of their projects, but when they are on the front I have a prompt for remembering each child's name, their artwork, and its progress. This makes it a great unit for the beginning of the year. And lastly, students can test a mixed color on the outer edge of the paper. Sometimes there is concern over whether a tint is light enough, or if a tone is different enough from the shade just painted. So testing the color on the outside is a great method for testing colors out before applying them inside the final piece.

Final touches are added by cleaning up any lines that were painted over by redrawing here and there with black Sharpie. Then at the very end, make sure students write their names on the back, and carefully cut out their painted leaf designs. Here are some of our finished pieces:

For our collaboration, I created a painted tree on bulletin board paper. It was about nine feet long! All of my students' leaves were added for a wonderful collaborative display. i have to say that displaying the paintings just as floating leaves along the hallway or bulletin board looks great too. I hope you get a chance to create some color theory leaf paintings in your art room. Enjoy.

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