Color Theory Class Assignments Clip

All reading will be available online.


In order to pass the course, you must pass the class participation requirement and complete all assignments ---exams, homework, and, for lab students, the Lab assignments and formal write-ups of assigned lab experiments. There will be three exams during the term and a final exam. The dates for these and the percentage of your grade determined by them will be:


  With Lab Without Lab
Class participation  10% 10%
Exam I Wednesday, Feb 18 10% 10%
Exam II Friday, March 13 [Spring break begins at end of day] 15% 15%
Exam III Monday, April 2220% 25%
Final Exam Thursday, May 7 -- NOON25% 40%
Laboratory  20%  
 Seniors will take the Final Exam  

Class participation Your grade for class participation will take into account your attendance and your behavior. It is assumed that you will show normal courtesy to other classmates and arrive on time, then stay in your seat for the entire class. It's only 50 minutes. Once in a while the class will be asked questions about what's been covered in the current class, the previous class, or a salient reading. There also will be opportunities for students to clarify any questions that are unclear. Students who do not volunteer to answer questions in class may be called on. Occasionally, there will be short homework assignments and correspondence by email. Satisfactory participation in these also will count in the category of class participation. The point will be to help me stay in touch with what you are picking up, to increase the chances you will know the material well before exam cramming time.

Exams will consist of questions with short answers. Questions will depend on both classes and reading. You will not do well if you concentrate only on the reading or only on the classes. Moreover, the question usually will ask you to figure out the answer based on what you learned and not merely to repeat something you heard or read. I want you to understand how things work. Your goal should be to make the material make sense to you. If it does not, you need to ask questions --- ask in class, after class, over electronic mail, or any other time you can reach me.

For lab students there will be formal writeups to do based on data collected in labs. Data and short assignments based on labs will be due whenever data are collected from lab experiments. As you can deduce from above, your lab grade will contribute 20% of your total grade.

The syllabus for this course is on the World Wide Web. The address is: (No period at the end).

List of websites useful for this course

Sources of Publications Useful for this course

To stay on schedule, you should complete the reading listed for a given class day by that day. Thus, you should have read the first reading BY Friday, Jan. 23.


Schedule of Classes

Class 1
January 21
Landscapes Photo galleries from Stephen Palmer and friends. See especially, Gazzaley. This is a photograph.
Would you call this an object?

Syllabus description

Orientation to our readings.

What do we see? Movie (Koyaanisqatsi) clips and photographs.

Who sees? With what do we see?

Class 2
January 23

Read: Lehar cartoon presentation The issues in visual perception according to Steven Lehar.


More on the scope of the topic of perception and then back to the Truisms.



Class 3
January 26

Bach's illusion site

Read: 1972 paper by Gregory in the Times Literary Supplement; followed by the reply by Eleanor and James Gibson -- These readings are in the Documents folder for this course on Blackboard

Explore and enjoy some of the illusions on the Bach site. Why are scientists and scholars of perception interested in illusions? The essay by Gregory, as well as some of the commentary on the Bach site should give you a good start on answering that question.

Two very different points of view

Class 4
January 28


Consider some truisms with emphasis on the Causal chain

Information Theory

A pdf file primer on information theory

Spelling out last class

Longfellow's poem

Clues and Cues - Harper and Boring paper

James Gibson 1960 Stimulus paper pdf version

Gibson stimulus paper (same) in Word file; 1 page at a time.

References for Gibson paper

The Causal Chain takes us from light (both light sources and REFLECTED LIGHT) to the eye to the brain to experience.

Problem: Why and how do we go the other way? From experience to the world, i.e. experience of the world?

Thinking about "information" from the standpoint of Claude Shannon's 1948 information theory, as in "bits" of information.

Time to think about vocabulary: information, signal, stimulus, clue, cue, symbol

Class 5
January 30
Super Bowl Super-vision
Testing other athletes

Causal Chain

Paul Revere information

World - Eye - Brain - Experience Problems

Class 6
February 2



Class 7
February 4

Summary of argument from illusion and introduction to the work of the Gibsons

Argument from illusion and its relatives



Reviewing the key related terms: codes, signals, symbols, information (in Shannon information theory).



Class 8
February 6


Presentation of the TLS paper of the Gibsons, countering the Gregory, 1972 paper.


Colors of the Rainbow. What we know based on MATCHING wavelength mixtures.

Class 9
February 9

Newton's prism demo

Class demos of basic color mixing

Differentiation and Enrichment revisited and reviewed. Are we really assaulted by too much information? Is the world a sender? Are we receivers over a communication channel?

Remember that the differentiation view begins by assuming that the world is indefinitely rich and that one could never know all of it -- but that what we do pick up from those riches was there all along (realism).

Color I. Psychological data used to make physiological discoveries. Newton & Helmholtz. Three color theory.


Class 10
February 11


Subtractive colors (is this "mixing?")

Color filters as examples of subtraction

Color Demos from Boston U. set above

Light going through 2 sample filters

Edmunds filter data -- Find Excel spreadsheet in Course Documents section of Blackboard

NY Times valentine's day article on seeing red. Look at the two paragraphs beginning with the sentence, "What is it, then, to see red, to see any palette at all?"

Or -- Consider this version of how vision works in an ad for lighting.

Basic experiences, trigger features, and neural codes

What happens if we additively mix 3 very narrow band wavelengths? Say 440 nm, 575 nm and 620 nm.

Demonstrations of additive and subtractive color "mixing"




Class 11
February 13

NPR story on paint

Lighting from GE. Try looking at the spectra. Look at sodium vapor last.


Further discussion of "mixing." Note that "mixing" light and "mixing" paint are different. To mix paint is NOT to mix light, but to increase the filtering. More wavelengths are subtracted.

What happens if a yellow light is shined on a cyan sweatshirt?

Additive color mixing on your PC

Basis for distinguishing wavelength from intensity variation.

What happens if someone has one sensitive pigment and is asked to discriminate lights of different wavelength? The response of a single pigment, single receptor, remember depends on photons caught. Can a pigment / receptor catch photons at "nonpeak" wavelengths?

Last day to withdraw from a class

Class 12
February 16


Final review for exam

Still more discussion of details of relation between number of underlying pigments in the retina and number of wavelengths that can be discriminated.

Finishing details about how 3 pigments work with respect to matching experiments


Class 13
February 18

Be prepared to take Exam 1


Exam I

Class 14
February 20






Discussion of color as a psychological experience vs. wavelength as a physical measure. Note all the ways that they are different --- wavelength is a continuous measure, color experience is in clumps. Color is not perceived just because a given wavelength is present. Color mixing of lights can be predicted from experience of separate lights that go into mixture. Many wavelengths can be left out.


Class 15
February 23

Full presentation of cone pigment logic. If you cannot read this file, it can be obtained from the course Blackboard site, in Course Documents, as a PowerPoint file.




Class 16
February 25
Color Vision Section of the Web Book by Kolb, Fernandez & Nelson. This is a very detailed source. I'll try to make clear which details you are responsible for, but it is good to know where you can find this material. The general source is the third one in this list.

Kolb on the RetinaAmerican Scientist 2003

The Kolb, Fernandez & Nelson book. This is a collection of articles about and pictures of the retina. It adds up to a rather large book in its own right and can be used as a reference for a long time.



Class 17
March 2



More about colors of the Rainbow. What we know based on COLOR APPEARANCE.

Class 18
March 4

Color Vision Section of the Web Book by Kolb, Fernandez & Nelson. This is a very detailed source. I'll try to make clear which details you are responsible for, but it is good to know where you can find this material. The general source is the third one in this list.

Kolb on the RetinaAmerican Scientist 2003

Full presentation of cone pigment logic.


Logic of 3 pigments for matching experiments

Class 19
March 6

Opponent processes

Summary for Bookkeeping: Light rules

Color II. Goethe, Hering, and Hurvich & Jameson.Finishing Opponent Processes.
Explaining the Hurvich and Jameson measurements of opponent colors
Class 20
March 9

Going over presentation on Web

Review and complete description of Hurvich & Jameson

Hurvich and Jameson experiments
Class 21
March 11

Review for Exam


Review for Exam
Class 22
March 13

Be prepared



Organizational purity

Class 23
March 23

Class demonstration -- What is "Black" on a screen?

Lateral inhibition

Mach Band demo

Black - White - Gray perception. These are called Neutral Colors. A necessary condition for these colors is CONTRAST.

Appearance of one area can depend heavily on the appearance of neighboring areas.

Lateral Inhibition

Perceptual Constancy in color and lightness. Black and White. Classic work of Wallach and recent work of Gilchrist.

Class 24
March 25

For a thorough review of the literature and issues on lightness perception, see this review paper by Alan Gilchrist and his colleagues.
For now, READ ONLY to the top of p. 798 of this paper. We'll return to it later. Pay special attention to the "ratio principle" of Wallach.Lightness; Wallach's ratio principle

Wallach's Ratio Principle

Lateral inhibition demo. Notice that the diagrams are upside down compared to what we did in class. The receptor level is represented on bottom and the ganglion cells on top.

Lateral inhibition slides

Wallach -- gray as contrast color

More on lateral inhibition

Class 25
March 27

Continue lateral inhibition. Wallach
See Gilchrist Powerpoint presentation in Blackboard Documents


Class 26
March 30

Then begin Land

Scene with no filter
Scene taken with red filter

An artist influenced by Land

Land's Retinex Theory

Read: Land's Retinex Paper

Figures to illustrate Land's "Mondrian" experiment

Powerpoint from class illustrating Carlos examples and magnifying to pixel level so that you can see that it is all shades of gray and red.

Real Mondrians


Land's Red - White experiment

More Land. I now give you the option of reviewing the black and white slides we saw in class, for the Land Red - White demo.


Elaborating the Land Red and White experiment to segue into Retinex demonstrations and theory.

Class 27
April 1
Read: Land's Retinex Paper

Retinex theory

Class 28
April 3
Continue reading Land paper

Finishing Retinex theory

Land Mondrian demonstration

Class 29
April 6


Details of Retinex demonstration, with Mondrians

For Review of Land Red-White demos -- Carlos version

Finishing Retinex theory

Class 30
April 8

Adelson Checkerboard

Review paper by Gilchrist

Tutorial paper on lightness by Adelson



Lightness in 3D. Gilchrist; Gilchrist Powerpoint

Finishing Retinex theory

Gilchrist experiment
A related brightness demo

Slides from Gilchrist class

Finishing Gilchrist

What do we need to see blacks, whites, and grays? Gilchrist shows that the 3D arrangement counts, not just contrast on the retina.



Class 31
April 10

Slides from Gilchrist class

Gilchrist experiment: Neutral color perception involves all 3 dimensions of "space."

Class 32
April 13

Campbell-Robson Contrast Sensitivity

Hubel and Wiesel Class slides

Finish "detectors." Space Time Receptive fields site can be selected here
More receptive field work

Multiple spatial frequencies in facial expression

Edges -- Multiple scales possible

Return to physiology

What did Hubel & Wiesel find? Consider DeValois alternative


Spatial Frequency thinking

Class 33
April 15
Fourier series

Quick Summary of Gestalt Psychology

Henle article on what Gestalt Psychology is not

Westheimer on Gestalt Psychology

"Phi is not Beta" paper

Custom MagniPhi from Pizlo

See Lehar cartoon web site


Highlights of single cell research

Summary of Gestalt psychology and Motion perception.

Appreciate the problem dramatized by the Dalmation demonstration. What is the difference when you see the Dalmation and when you only see spots? The set of spots has not changed. They are "given" all along. Is the Dalmation "given?" How do we describe "the retinal image?" With or without the Dalmation?

Dalmatian II

Motion perception

Thinking with Lehar

Class 34
April 17

Westheimer on Gestalt Psychology

"Phi is not Beta" paper

Custom MagniPhi from Pizlo

Basic Julesz displays In this case Wikipedia and its links are a good introduction.

Binocular vision comparison with motion perception


Gestalt Psychology had a good way to solve the matching problem. What happened?

Still finishing binocular vision; how many ways are there to show separate images to each eye? Why do researchers want to show separate images to each eye anyway?

Class 35
April 20
Class 36
April 22




Class 37
April 24


Photo: James Gibson and Gunnar Johansson

Gunnar Johansson's work. Compare the matching problem in biological motion with binocular vision


Class 38
April 27

Perception and Action: Lee Film

Lee Film

Seeing yourself move in the world
David Lee Film
Class 39
April 29
Horizon Link to Powerpoint horizon photosWrap up and Final Exam Review


Edible Color Wheels

Submitted by: Sandra Hildreth (retired) Madrid-Waddington Central School
Unit: Color Theory
(See alternate approach)
Grade Level: ALL! even adults like this one!


Edible Color Wheels

(Note: This lesson by Sandra Hildreth is copyrighted and can not be published without her permission. It is on this site with her blessing.) | More Color theory Lessons

"Got Frosting!" © Copyright Cathy Gaul, Beck Middle School

Begin your lesson with The Red and Yellow Blues - song by Greg Percy
Lead on into Secondary Samba - song by Greg Percy
Then round them up for "Roy G Biv" - song by Greg Percy
Be sure to include "Complementary Colors" - song by Greg Percy
Hope you saved enough icing for "Tints & Shades" - song by Greg Percy



  • Students will explore color mixing - review primary and secondary colors - intermediate (or tertiary colors) colors.

  • Student will create a meaningful, edible, color wheel and photograph if for further study

  • Students will work cooperatively to complete the assignment - and will further explore mixing tints - shades - color planning - complementary colors


Teacher will save out some white icing from each frosting can and store - then mix one bottle of red - blue - yellow into the remaining icing. Divide into cups for each table and seal with lids. Sort out cookies into zip lock baggies. Check for allergies to Red food dye. NOTE: Graham crackers are cheaper!



Vanilla Wafers (13 per table for starters) - baggies - white icing (3 cans) - food coloring (one bottle of red-blue-yellow) - save some reserve white icing for tints -
plastic knives or Popsicle sticks - small paper plates - sauce cups with lids (or solo cups) - paper towels - optional - Color Wheels placemats (students could arrange on white 12" (30.5 cm) Drawing Paper) - Digital Camera - Printer.

NOTE: You need more yellow than any of the other colors.


When students entered the classroom, each table group of 4-6 students received a 12x12" (30.5 x 30.5 cm) diagram of a blank color wheel (optional - plain white paper may be used), 13 vanilla wafer cookies in a bag, and paper cups of Red, Yellow and Blue frosting. Small sauce cups from the cafeteria also work well (you can even get lids for these) . Save the reserved white for later.


Note: In myexperience - the more you can have things ready ahead of time - the more smoothly the lesson will go -- and the more time for meaningful talk.


Step 1: Frost 1 cookie with each of the 3 available colors and place them at the points of one of the Triangles (I really doesn't matter which color goes where - just place future colors accordingly) While they did this, they were reminded about the 3 Primary colors and how they would be used to make all the other colors. They were also told they would be able to eat their project, but only after they completed the full Color Wheel and a picture was taken.


Step 2: Questions were asked to help review the 3 Secondary Colors. Students were instructed to mix equal amounts of 2 Primary Colors and frost 3 more cookies, placing them on the points of the other triangle, in between the 2 colors that were used to mix them. (Note: Some primary colors may not be able to be "treated equally" - your color intensities will vary. See what works for your colors - and "fudge" a bit to get the best secondary colors possible).


Step 3: Directions were given for mixing the 6 Intermediate or Tertiary Colors. The frosted cookies were to be placed in between the Primary and Secondary Color used to mix each Intermediate color. In order to know exactly how to mix the intermediate colors - you will have to make a sample yourself -- or at least experiment with the colors you have made. The amount of each color needed will depend solely on the intensity of your primary colors. This is where "exploration" comes in too - have your students discover how much of each primary is needed.


Step 4: Students mixed all 3 Primary Colors together to frost the 13th cookie. It was placed in the center of the Color Wheel - for Neutrals. Sandra took pictures, then they ate their Color Wheels!  Try serving them with milk for a healthful snack. Tie in Wayne Thiebaud and draw them first if you have time.


Step 5: (Optional) - With left over cookies and icing. Try mixing tints - try mixing compliments to get neutrals. Save one color wheel intact - place tints to the outside of each color and mixed complimentary to the inside. Take a photograph of extended color wheel - then eat that too. This could be a composite color wheel from all classes - just keep adding to it each period. Make sure each child has a print of the color wheel for reference.


Look how clever these students are! They made a color wheel with their mixing cups. Completed Wheel. Photographs Copyright Cathy Gaul, Beck Middle School. Used here with permission.


Alternate Idea from Marvin Bartel - Color Exploration and Invention (How Brave are You?)

For any age that does not already "know" the color wheel - try a more scientific approach.

  • What if we did NOT show anybody the color wheel?

  • What if we started with only primaries and black and white without saying that they are primaries and neutrals? (You may have to go to a cake decorating place to get black icing)

  • What if you ask students to see what they "discover" by experimentation when we direct them concerning which colors to combine and which colors and neutrals to combine? This is not exactly "playing around" but it is "directed research". I suppose it is the scientific method being used in art.

  • What if we ask them to "invent" a chart or something that helps them remember the combinations and their results?


Suggestions for Success from Getty TeacherArtExchange - Helpful Links


Tips from Susan Stewart:

Some specifics of the edible colour wheel might help some others. I use 3 cans of vanilla frosting (not whipped or cream cheese)  and two boxes of vanilla wafers.  This is enough for 24 kids to do primary colours, secondary colours and gray.  I mix one little squeeze bottle of colour (simple box of decorating colours from grocery) into each tub of frosting - red, yellow and blue.  At school I give each student 2 paper plates, 7 cookies and Popsicle sticks for mixing and spreading.  I dish out a good dollop of each colour into the tarter sauce plastic cups we use all the time (school supply 1500 in a package) and they mix on one plate as palette, and frost and arrange on the other plate. They have to label their colours and draw lines to the complements. I usually have nothing left over (yes, they eat the leftover frosting - this is high school - boys will eat anything) and the whole mess is disposable at the end. Great fun! - Sue Stewart


Tip from Deborah for Success:

Deborah made some twelve inch mats of diagram above and laminated them so she can use them every year. She simply washes them off at the end of the lesson. You could make some vinyl placemats as well that can be laundered or put in the dishwasher (for safety - kill more "germs" that might accumulate on them). Deborah gives 13 cookies per table to start with - then does more mixing with time remaining.


Tip from Cathy Gaul:

Cathy can't wait to start the new year with this fun activity. She is even going to spring for beverage, too - "Got Milk?". Provide another beverage to in case there are milk allergies. A picture from Cathy soon to come.


Tips from Sharon Kennedy:

(Sharon does 13 cookies per table  and it becomes a group project). This worked extremely well with my 5th through 12th grade students, and days later they were still talking about how much they enjoyed it! This may be extended by having them eat a color and its complementary. Or say that they can start by eating analogous colors--or only the tertiary colors (intermediate). Whatever! Clever students (who want more cookies) may suggest that they show their proficiency in color mixing by producing tints. Or doing a "tint strip" by choosing a color and adding white to a series of cookies. Amazingly, I only used 2 containers of frosting for 50 students—I’d bought 6 containers. On the other hand, I used 3 boxes of Vanilla wafers in order to be able to use all unbroken cookies. This would also be a GREAT lesson plan to use for an art job interview that involves a panel!


Tip from Jan Hillmer:

Use this idea to introduce the artist Wayne Thiebaud. Jan used this lesson for her "Meet the Masters Series: Wayne Thiebaud" and it was a huge success. (Unable to find the series on the internet) Sue Stewart had recommended it.


Tips from Rozx Gallegos:

Warning - go out and buy the frosting - I made the mistake of making mine and now have enough frosting to last enough to frost birthday cakes until 2020 (paraphrased).  I just finished this project with 145-8th graders. We tackled this project after having other color exercises - It most definitely was a hit!

Plastic sandwich bag kits - one per every four students:

  • 15 Vanilla Wafers (I have students mix all 12 colors, two extra cookie just in case)

  • 3 craft Popsicle sticks - or plastic knives

  • 3 small Styrofoam Trays per group (primaries go on one, mix cool colors on
    plate #2, warm colors on plate #3) You may give small nut cups for mixing like Cathy Gaul did.

Note: You can get WalMart brand vanilla wafers much cheaper a box and salvage about 60-75 "good" wafers from each box = 5 baggies.

Each group needs only about 2 tablespoons of each primary color to complete the wheel. Review the rule of color mixing (using lighter color as a base and slowly adding small amounts of the darker color). I get really dramatic about this and tell them they will run out of frosting if they don't adhere to the rule (some primaries are not "created equally")... you should see how excited they get when they have extra frosting left over.


Frosting notes:

  • Buy commercially - it's definitely worth the time savings. 6 containers is plenty (2 per primary color) for this amount of students. One each for fewer students (be sure to reserve some white)

  • Buy the frosting that already has a color base (e.g. strawberry for the red, lemon for the yellow... you'll have to buy vanilla for your blue

  • To enhance the frosting color use Kool-Aid! (cherry for red, "berry blast" for blue... you might have to resort to food coloring for yellow... this is a great (and inexpensive) way to get intense color and add wacky flavor that the kids love... but shhh, don't tell them how you did it - let that add to your mystique as a teacher

An added note - I've found that you need more yellow than any of the other colors (edit recipe to 2 pints of yellow, 1 pint red, 1 pint blue... per 140 students)... and have made the big switch from vanilla wafers to graham crackers (they're cheaper and just as edible).


Helpful Links:

  • Color Symbolism

  • Color Schemes:  [Archive] - Justin Kramer (Australia) has had great success using this site with his students to help them understand more pleasing color combinations are obtained by mixing colors. Let the student explore their own color profile. (I had to do it twice before the profiler got it right for me -- smile. It was interesting and fun. I have decided I am a blend two color schemes).

  • Color Schemer - This is a site for web designing software. This link is not provided as an advertisement for the software - but rather for the article/tutorial on color theory.

Color Theory Lessons


Step 1

Decide who in the group will serve as other roles besides the original four. For example, this project will probably require the following roles: hand writer, designer, painter, shape cutter, research and information gatherer, creative specialist.


Step 2

Begin work on the project. Any information or words that you do not know, you will have to research them using the books in the art room.

The wheel must include all of the following items for the group to receive a passing grade:

An originally designed color wheel for a poster. (10 points)

A 12-color wheel that includes the primary colors, secondary colors and the tertiary colors. (10 points)

The primary colors must be painted and cutout into organic shapes. (10 points)

The secondary and tertiary colors must be painted and cutout into geometric shapes. (10 points)

Each primary and secondary color needs to have a 1-2 sentence description that tells what each color represents. For example, is the color warm or cool? What does the color evoke or represent? (10 points)

The wheel may, but does not have to, include magazine cutouts or an originally drawn artwork. (10 points)

The wheel must show the formulas for making Brown, Black, Gray, Orange, Purple, and Green.

The poster must have a visual organization. For example, is the poster "balanced." (10 points)

Also, make sure the poster has good craftsmanship and is not messy. (10 points)

The colors have to be at least 2" (5 cm) in size no matter what shapes your group chooses. (10 points)


Teaching Color Theory - from Marvin Bartel. From Getty TeacherArtExchange post - May 17, 2006

Recently, my third grade granddaughter phoned to ask me, "What colors do you use to mix red?" I told her that this was a very good question.  We had an excellent discussion about experiments she could do to try to find the solution.  If you think it is not possible to make red from other colors, consider your ink jet printer.  Does it come with red ink?  How does it print red?

Joseph Albers, Bauhaus teacher and Yale art professor, wrote the book on color theory.  His square paintings were color studies.  He also had some great insights about learning.  In March, I had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit of Albers' work at the Tate Modern in London.  The Tate had these quotations from Albers on the wall.


"The school should nurture the individual passively without disturbing personal development --  School should allow a lot to be learned, that is to say that it should teach little -- Learning is better than teaching because it is more intense: the more is being taught, the less can be learned --  In the end all education is self-education --  All knowledge, theoretical or practical is deadwood when it does not result in a positive attitude proved by action" (See Teaching through Practice)


I. LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS method (following experts)
Teaching color theory and principles can be taught as a series of expert ideas to look at and memorize.  In this method the teacher displays the color wheel and explains it.  The teacher explains the established color terminology and phenomena and students are required to memorize as much as possible.  Students look at a famous artwork that employs color theory and review their learning by painting something that uses the same color theory.

II. REINVENT THE WHEEL method (active learning)

In this method of learning color theory the teacher does NOT tell or show students anything about the rules.  The color wheel is NOT shown. The teacher has students do experiments to discover things until the color wheel is invented by them.  The color principles are developed out of their comparisons, experiments, and observations.  In the Reinventing the Wheel method they experiment, and the teacher helps by asking questions to focus and keep the experimentation on track.  Students learn how to question, how to experiment, how to observe, how to feel, how to think, how to invent, how to be creative, how to be independent, and how to make their own choices.  These are the kinds of thinking, feeling, and expression done by most great artists, scientists, poets, composers, and so on.

In this method, it is essential for the teacher to be sure that students review and summarize their discoveries and inventions so that they realize and appreciate what they have learned.  In this method students are solving visual puzzles.  In this method they are and making discoveries and inventions about depth, flatness, feelings, relationships, observations, and meanings related to color.  The experimentation is followed by paintings based on memory, imagination, or observation, that make observational, depth/flatness, emotional, and/or symbolic use of the color principles that they discovered through experimentation.  By prohibiting the use of unmixed paint students continue to make discoveries as they paint.

What follows are a few COLOR THEORY ideas for the teacher to KEEP SECRET until after the students discover them.

Color studies can involve the SYMBOLIC meanings of color (green with envy, yellow mean coward, etc.) & PSYCHOLOGICAL effects of color (some color schemes are depressing and others are exciting---a warm painted room can allow lower thermostat settings in winter--saving energy, but a dentist office should probably be painted in a cool color).

Black, white, and grays are considered NEUTRALS, but brown is an orange (secondary color) with a small amount of neutral (black) added.  A dark brown is a SHADE of orange.  Pink is a TINT of red and maroon is a SHADE of red.

All pigments are quite variable and can each be described in terms of HUE (name of color), SATURATION (intensity), TEMPERATURE warm or cool), and VALUE (tone).  Some are PRIMARY, but others are just as important.  Primaries in light are not the same as in pigments.

Color experiments and assignments are often related to studies in the illusion of depth (warm, intense, and lighter colors generally come forward, but this effect can be canceled in certain situations).

Some very interesting experiments and assignments can be assigned by asking students to make simultaneous similarities and opposites together.  For example green and red may be adjusted until they are identical in value, but much different in temperature, saturation, and hue.

There are many ways to teach and many ways to learn, but as Albers said, "In the end all education is self-education."

Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526


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