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Confining the palette.

Field trips open the doors to exciting adventures in theory, history and the practical application of art in the school setting. Upon visiting the National Gallery of Art and viewing The Tragedy from Pablo Picasso's famed Blue Period, an ideal opportunity was presented to develop a creative lesson plan around color and its significance. Artistic possibilities are endless, even with a very limited palette of colors, as Picasso has expertly illustrated.

My sixth grade students studied Picasso's The Tragedy (1903) and discussed the artist's successful creation of a mood by skillfully applying different shades of blue to his paintings. We all agreed that it would be a challenge for us to undertake tempera paintings using only one color, achieving varied hues by the relative additions of black and white.

Reviewing prints of Picasso's limited palette paintings--especially from his Pink and Blue Periods, as well as other works by artists who employed similar color restraints, was a prerequisite to beginning our own art projects. Milton Avery's while Wave (1954) and March in Red (1950) evoke feelings of a different nature than those by Picasso. Abstract depictions were also offered for the students' consideration and reactions: Zinc Yellow (1959) by Franz Kline and The Greys of Spring (1981) by Jim Dine.

The students were then given 12" x 18" (30 cm x 46 cm) white drawing paper and chose the one color with which they wanted to work. It was emphasized that color could be used effectively in portraying a mood, and that they should give careful thought to their intentions before putting brush to paper. They also decided on their own subjects and whether their personal approach would be realistic or ab-stract. They were asked to fill the entire page, leaving no blank spaces. Each student was encouraged to experiment with the mixing of colors to achieve differing shades on a piece of scrap paper before using them in their compositions.

The valuable lesson in this assignment was the student response to stretching the imagination by letting tone, motion and mood be directed by their individual use of shape, value and color. It was precisely the limiting of their palettes that resulted in the expansion of their visions and their subsequent creations.

Darcy Mason Swope teaches art at the Potomac School, McLean, Virginia.
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Title Annotation:art lesson
Author:Swope, Darcy Mason
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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