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The colors I am inside.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Jean Morman Unsworth, Professor of Fine Arts at Loyola University in Chicago, speak at the Wisconsin Art Education Association Fall Conference. She spoke eloquently about drawing upon the interest, cultures and backgrounds of the individual students in developing an art lesson. Ms. Unsworth inspired me to go back to my sixth graders with a painting lesson I call The Colors I Am Inside.

I begin the painting unit with an exploration of Post-Impressionists Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cezanne, and the way they pushed painting in a new direction from previous styles. In 1905, a group of young artists strongly influenced by the Post-Impressionists shocked the critics with their painting experimentation, thus earning the name Fauves (wild beasts). The students view slides and prints of these artists: Henri Matisse, George Roualt, Max Beckman, Oskar Kokoschka and Wassily Kandinsky. We discuss composition, brush-strokes and particularly, the use of color. In addition, we look at Picasso's Blue Period and works by Edvard Munch. Students are surprised by Matisse's painting of Madame Matisse, The Green Stripe, and the prominent green line on her face.

Students are shown examples of the use of color in advertising and told about the psychology of color. Feelings and moods frequently associated with certain colors are explored. However, students are encouraged to be inventive with their use of color when exploring the feelings they wish to express.

After the visual stimulations and the verbal discussions, the students are ready to get out the brushes and paint. The initial exercise is practice in mixing tints, shades and tertiary colors with the tempera paint. Students are quizzed on color vocabulary.

Students are then given the task of drawing themselves in a pencil contour line on 12 x 18" (30 x 46 cm) white paper with emphasis on the head, neck and shoulders. Mirrors are provided and we discuss basic face proportions. On the chalkboard, I demonstrate the components they need to include in their drawings. Sixth graders need constant reminders to include such features as the forehead, eyebrows, eyelids and ears. Skinny necks and shoulders have to be modified before the painting begins.

Returning to our theme of Expressionism, we engage in a discussion about our individual interests, our heritage and ancestry, and our Midwestern culture. Next, the students are asked to think about the colors they feel inside. Middle school students run the gamut of emotions on a daily basis, and this assignment frequently brings out unusual color combinations. Tints are encouraged and the urge to use color directly from the bottle is discouraged.

The unit takes about eight to ten, forty-two minute periods to complete. The results are always uniquely wonderful, and several award winners have resulted from this successful lesson. The follow-up lesson continues with the study of collage and the cut-paper designs of Matisse.

I encourage you to try this idea and to consider what colors you are inside.
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Author:Watson-Newlin, Karen
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Expressive human imagery in clay.
Next Article:Portraits in brass.

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