My framework for this lessons starts with a list. Students write nine things they feel are truly important to them. (Think tic-tac-toe) Then they draw symbols for each item. I have them look at icons and emojis, so they get the idea that these symbols should be simple, bold, and direct.
We then do a sketch on paper that is the same size as the canvas board I want them to use. Though this project can be done in nearly any medium that can mix, I use this as an introduction to acrylics and color mixing. Students were directed to trace their hand and add one of four symbols so it looked like it was held or interacted with the hand. It was important that the hands overlap to create many shapes and spaces.
Each hand was designated a different primary color base plus one hand as black. (This could have been white instead though too). I had considered just 3 hands but it is a bit challenging for students to divide a rectangular surface with triangular proportions.
When the sketch was complete, we transferred it to canvas. I have students rub pencil on the back of their drawing, essentially turning it into carbon paper. They tape it to the canvas of the same size, and trace their lines. Once done, they re-traced in permanent marker, like Sharpie. We erased our original pencil lines and began the painting process. The videos I made to help are below.
- Step 1: Each hand's largest space was colored with a primary color, plus the 4th in black.
- Step 2: The next larger spaces between colors where there was overlap was colored the appropriate secondary color, or the hue mixed with black. The center area was reserved for the two colors that did not overlap, so that all secondary colors would be represented.
- Step 3: This is where we had a lot of options. I told students to mix colors by hand on scrap paper then add it to the hands. To always mix a slightly new color variation for each area. They knew that black and white were their "Wild-Cards" to mix where they needed to. I directed students to mix colors that were nearby and to consider the addition of black and/or white.
- Step 4: Chromatic Mixtures. Each day I would review little painting and mixing tips as an introduction. After projects were about half-complete I showed students how they could make an unbalanced chromatic gray as an additional option. For example, they could make a puddle of blue and add a tiny amount of red and yellow to it, and the color would be changed.
If all 4 steps are a bit much for your own students, just doing primary, secondary, and arbitrary color mixtures as experiments to fill in the spaces will be fine. They can also repeat colors in spaces that are not adjacent. How specific you are is really up to you. I have done similar lessons with watercolor on paper, as well as oil pastel successfully. Use your own base of knowledge to tool this lesson for your own population. For example, I could imagine that an elementary teacher could prepare an image of 3 or 4 overlapping hands copied onto cardstock and have students add their symbols. Even the choice of subject could change, why not just the symbols overlapping, or just hands? It's really up to you.
Color vocabulary they learned through the process were: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, Tint, Shade, Tone, and Chromatic Gray. They needed to include these in their final work for full credit on my rubric.
Though all my projects allow for a student to earn an "A," (90%) I let them know that this additional work, like patterns, helps differentiate grades. Those who have time to do so earn a grading bonus. (It also keep them "meaningfully occupied.")
At the end, student wrote down the color vocabulary on the back of their paintings and noted the number of spaces with Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, Tint, Shade, Tone, and Chromatic Gray color mixtures. By the end, everyone knew how to mix colors through the experience, and we didn't waste any time making an impersonal color wheel they might only throw away.
To put this project into historical perspective, I showed students a video on Pop Art. We wrote a few facts about each artist, and then had a discussion. "Which artist's work was most similar to our project?" Though many noted our flat colors were rather Warhol-ish, most agreed that the use of outline, bold color, and pattern was very similar to the work of Roy Lichtenstein.