Color Me Impressed/Watercolor Painting

“If one says ‘Red’ – the name of color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” – Josef Albers

Claire G

This last project for Semester One took a while to come to fruition thanks to delays in receiving the art supplies I had ordered for my students’ art kits. Although I had ordered pizza boxes and styluses (we are 1:1 with iPads) for every art student in the district in mid-August, I wasn’t able to place my supply order for the art kits until September. Most items came in by mid-October, except for the watercolors, Ebony pencils, and sharpeners, which arrived in mid-December. As soon as they arrived, we made up art kit supplements in the small white bags we had left over from the art show two years ago.

See the paper bags but also see the traditional individual school desk in the art room. Such a foreign item when we are used to tables for five.

Because we were in hybrid mode at the time, Cohort Two students were intended to pick up their art kits at school on Thursday 12/17 and Friday 12/18. But there was a snow day on December 17. I had intended for the Cohort One students to pick them up the following Monday and Tuesday, but there was a sudden change in schedule and the Cohort One Tuesday kids were in school again on Monday and on Tuesday the Cohort Two Friday kids were in school again, so my Monday and Thursday classes were without opportunity to be in school. Distributing the supplement art kits in school would have to wait until after vacation. Meanwhile, on Monday, December 21, my husband and I rode around the two towns distributing the supplement kits to my Stand Alone Remote students. We started at 3:00 and got home at 6:00. Although initially pretty easy, it was more challenging as it got dark around 4:30. It is hard to see house numbers in the dark.

3 hours of main streets and back roads of our regionalized towns

With that accomplished I was beyond ready to engage my students in some hands-on art making once my Monday and Thursday groups of students could get their watercolors when we returned the first week of January. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the superintendent called on New Year’s Eve to say that due to increased Covid cases in the area, we would be fully remote for the first two weeks of January! Gah.

My classes were immersed in a Snow unit (read more here) anyway, at least through the first week and a half after the break, and I would have to try to get the watercolors to the kids who needed them early in the second week. Throughout this pandemic, my guiding rule has been that I would not introduce a project unless I knew for sure the kids had everything they needed. So, I set up another art supply pick up opportunity after school on January 11. I’m so glad I did. About forty art kit supplements were picked up that afternoon!

My faithful partner keeping me company

Some families had watercolors at home or chose to pick up inexpensive kits at the store, so we were ready to start!

This unit had been designed to introduce a few skill builders around the concepts of value, shading, and color theory, including warm and cool colors, monochromatic colors, and complementary colors. The unit would then move on to introduce the medium of watercolor and culminate with a watercolor painting.

I had started the unit early in December because I thought the watercolors were going to arrive earlier than they did. We started with shading using regular #2 pencils (I had hoped to use the Ebony pencils) to create the illusion of prisms using simple geometry (point, ray, angles, triangular prisms) in different values of gray.

Shaded Prisms

My students were happy to be working in their sketchbooks and brought them to and from school with some success. The Shaded Prisms skill builder was accomplished either at school or at home, using the same materials at both places – sketchbook, pencil, eraser, blending stump. As you can see this would have been an ideal project for the Ebony pencil. Overall, the kids did really well with this. They generally enjoy learning how to make things look real and 3D and this was satisfying for them:

Ryder B
Julie C
Claire G

The next step in this project was to introduce color. I was preparing to release this on Monday morning, December 14 and planned to snip an image of a color wheel from the Internet as I posted it on Google Classroom. Believe it or not, Google went down that morning! I couldn’t search for anything, nor could I post to Google Classroom. I ended up making this in Word:


And was eventually able to post the assignment after a couple of hours, with these three exemplars.

Singular Cool vs. Warm
Multicolor Cool vs. Warm

During the Wednesday classes where I we alternate between the Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday classes, we looked at the work of Okuda San Miguel – especially his work at the Seaport in Boston.

Okuda San Miguel

I had been to see it with two of my granddaughters in the summer of 2019 and just knew my students would love his work with triangles and animal symbology:

In Google Classroom, I posted the project with the color examples above and this description:

Follow the directions for making shaded prisms, except instead of shading, add color, choosing from the options on the Colors image attached:

🌈 Monochromatic: Different shades and tints of the same color

🌈 Complementary: Triangles in one color, Background in a complementary color

🌈 Cool vs. Warm: Triangles in warm colors, Background in cool or Triangles in cool colors, Background in warm

🌈 A la Okuda San Miguel: Multicolored as in the squirrel below

I hoped this was wide open enough for students to evaluate the options enough to understand the difference between them and to know there were no limits to how they could engage with the concept. Here are some of the results:

Sloane R
Dahnia C
Cody K
Sadia D

While I love the way the kids handled the choices, I especially appreciate the ones who took the step to imitate Okuda San Miguel!

As mentioned above, we took a couple of weeks off from this unit and shifted to the snow unit while we waited for the watercolors to be delivered. Once I knew everyone was all set and with just two weeks left in the term, we resumed the color unit using watercolors. We started with color mixing – both on paper and in the cover:


And an example of student work:

Emmett K

I was able to release the final project assignment information with plenty of time to get it done. I wanted the kids to have a chance to make this painting within their own time constraints, so I offered 3 examples of different levels of engagement:

In case you hadn’t noticed, this is the year of “Among Us”

Rather than make a tutorial video, the kids really had all they needed, so I simply assigned it in Google Classroom with the exemplars:

This project will give you a chance to flex your color mixing muscles with watercolor:

🖌 Use a ruler and pencil to lightly draw a grid on a clean page in your sketchbook (in-school AND at home 1/19 &1/20)

🖌 Draw a simple shape across the middle of the grid (heart, star, bell, clover, etc.) (in-school AND at home 1/19 &1/20)

🖌 Use watercolor to add colors in each section, warm or cool in the shape and the opposite in the background (at home 1/21, 22, 25, 26)

🖌 You will have two classes (1 at school, 1 at home + asynchronous time) to work on this, so choose the best level of difficulty for you – 3 examples below.

🖌 You can use any shapes or themes you want (like my Among Us, Circles, Heart or star, 1 Among Us, sun, etc) but you must put your shapes on a grid

🖌 When finished, take a perfect photo and turn it in to Google Classroom and Artsonia ( )

Make sure to bring your sketchbook, pencil, and ruler to school on Tuesday and Wednesday this week!

And the kids went to work. The favorite part of my job is looking at student artwork on Google Classroom and on Artsonia. These watercolor paintings were a delight! Here are just ten or so and the rest can be seen in our Artsonia gallery.

Rachelle R
Zach D
Lillian P
Jake G
Jacob C
Cameron H
Ava T
Toni C
Avery B
Ben M

Although teaching during the pandemic is challenging in many ways, scheduling instruction and the timing of projects has been the most challenging by far. When my students are in school two days and out of school three days on different schedules, I have found the at school/at home model to work best. This is when there are two projects being completed concurrently – one at home with art kit materials and one at school with the iPad. For this project, I asked students to bring sketchbooks, pencils, and blending stumps to school to start the shaded prisms. I’d say about 70% of the kids were successful with that. The other 30% were given a piece of paper and a pencil at school.

Knowing all students would be remote for the first two weeks after vacation allowed for full on use of art kit materials (watercolors) for everyone, which was perfect. While I know kids need to see each other and parents need to work, which is why we adopt the hybrid model when we can, a fully remote program has benefits, too. With remote learning, we eliminate the bounce and the hop of hybrid with a more consistent, smooth delivery of instruction, access to materials with art kits, and additional contact with the teacher. During hybrid learning my students have synchronous learning once per week, during remote learning, they have it two times per week. While we can continue to discuss the pros and cons of the various modalities, I’ll just be really glad when we can stop thinking about all the variables and resume full time in-school learning.

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