Sunday, August 25, 2013

Color Theory and Prang Test

I LOVE color and I love teaching color theory. So earlier this month when I saw a cool poster on a Pinterest board (here) I decided to make my own for the classroom. Before I glued each example on the chart, I scanned them separately to use on the Smartboard later when I am focusing on a particular area.

Then, of course, I started fooling around with some projects using some of these ideas. 
First, I thought about having students divide their paper in fourths (using a ruler, and measuring). I met with some local art teachers not too long ago, and we were all bemoaning how many kids manage to get to 4th grade without having mastered this skill!!
After making some more divisions, I used cake tempera to mix colors in each section, showing a variety of the color theories on the chart (warm/cool, monochromatic, etc.)tertiary, etc)

Then I started thinking about that box of art materials that Dixon/Prang sent me to review and got out their Prang watercolor pan, the Crayola Washable set that they sent me and my own regular Crayola pan (not washable).

I started by discarding the brush from the Crayola Washable set. It is one of those plastic brushes with bristles that are cut straight across at the tip - no way you are EVER going to get a point with that brush. Then I compared the Prang brush from this new set to the brush I have been using for awhile from an older Prang Pan Watercolor set. The older brush is on top and appeared to form a better point when put in water. But, I gave the new brush a try.  After about 5 minutes I switched back to my older Prang brush because I got tired of picking hairs up from my painting!! This won't be an issue in the classroom, though, because we use different brushes altogether.
First I made some circles and tried painting various stripes. Most of what I ask students to do with watercolor is not this controlled. We are more apt to use them for washes and wet-on-wet work. But, I was mostly testing color intensity here. Prang is on the left and Crayola Washable on the right. At the bottom I did a quick color comparison adding my old Crayola (non-washable variety) pan watercolor. I have never used washable watercolors before, so I didn't know what to expect. Although it doesn't show too well in these photos, the washable blue was almost an aqua and purple was more of a magenta. I also had to stir and stir and stir (you get the idea) the brush in washable paints to get any color on the brush. The Prang Semi-Moist and the regular Crayola paints were very similar in intensity although the hues were not an exact match.
Then I decided to do a bit of color mixing to see what would happen. These both created OK results, just a bit different in the hues that I got.
Aside from the intensity of color, I actually have another HUGE criteria when I am choosing pan watercolors. I NEVER buy pans that don't have white lids. It is just too hard to see the color you are trying to mix in a clear lid. And, if it is hard for me, then I figure it is going to be almost impossible for children. You can see what I mean below.
So, what do I order for the classroom? Well, I actually have been using the Prang Semi-Moist for the last few years, although I do have some regular Crayola pans, too. When I order refill ovals, however, I buy some colors from Prang and some from Crayola (as the refills fit both trays), as I prefer certain colors from each. For example, the Prang red is deeper and has a bit more blue in it.

Of course, I had to figure out a way to use all this as a possible school project, so I glued one of the watercolor circles onto my tempera background lining up some of the colored stripes to make some interesting new shapes. I am hoping that a project such as this will generate some good art vocabulary as the kids work on it!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Doesn't This Look Like Fun!!!

Earlier in the summer I was approached by Prang and Dixon Ticonderoga to field test some of their products and write about what I thought and in return they would pass along a coupon offer for Prang Watercolors to all of us. Now I don't usually even respond to letters like this, but Prang and Dixon are two of my favorite brands for certain items so I agreed. Instead of just testing the products, I decided to use them to try out a few projects that I am thinking about for the classroom.
First, this is what they sent me:
OH, BOY!!!!! Don't you just want to dive right in?!!!
They not only sent their own products, but comparison products to test them against.

Well, I am starting with my favorite all time pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga. They sent the regular size, which are great, but I actually favor their "Laddie" and "Beginner" styles for the thickness. I LOVE this product!! The beginner pencil below is probably 3 or 4 years old. These pencils are a lot like using regular art drawing pencils. Yes, the eraser is gone by now, but the pencil is still going strong. We use Magic Rub erasers anyway, the the eraser on the pencil is not a big issue for me.
My first project for 4th graders is going to be a shading lesson on cubes. I haven't decided yet whether to use pencils or oil pastels, but I am trying out both. Today I'm using the Dixon Laddie pencil (middle size above -- it is just a bit skinnier than the Beginner).

I am planning a directed lesson on how to draw a cube, starting with a square for the front side, then 3 parallel lines drawn diagonally towards the "B" side (that is why I'll have the kids write "A" and "B" on their papers -- so they don't get confused about directions. Then they'll connect the diagonal lines drawing lines parallel to the original top and right side lines of the square. I'll circulate and check angles and parallels as the kids work. There are always a few who have spatial issues.

Next the shading begins. I have students draw an arrow indicating the source of the light. Actually, I usually do a quick demonstration with a box and a flashlight, proving that light doesn't bend around corners.
After shading the 3 sides with the regular lead pencil, (VERY light on top, medium value in front and darkest on the right side) kids will go over the regular lead with the color of their choice of Prang Triangular colored pencils. I had never used these before and after one session, I am sold and I am ordering some next week!!! The color is soft and easy to get even coverage, they are thick like the Dixon Laddies and they are really easy to grip with the triangular shape. I didn't find any down-side to this product. 

The next step is to make 2 more cubes, one medium size and one smaller, all shaded with a different color and using the same light source. When that is done it's time to cut them out. I usually review with students how to old and use scissors (I'm always surprised at the variety of ways kids can do this!!) See tips here. Notice that this right handed cutter is cutting on the right side of the cutting line -- much easier to see this way. A left handed cutter would start on the left side of the cube with the scissors on the left side of the cutting line.
You can see where I am heading with this lesson in the photo below. Students will create a "still life" type background for the cubes to be glued upon. I like the idea of having one of the smaller cubes look like it is falling or flying through the air!!

Notice that little red pencil sharpener?? It came with the Prang colored pencils AND they thoughtfully made it with 2 sized holes, one for regular pencils and one larger for their larger sized pencil -- love it. Now, at school, I have an electric pencil sharpener (I think it's a Boston X-acto School Pro) and it is another of my favorite things -- as a matter of fact I need to order another one, as mine is showing signs of giving up soon (it has GOT to be 10 or 12 years old -- time for a new one)!! Anyway, I take care of the pencil sharpening in the classroom, but this little red one is going to be great for at home because I don't have a larger sized one here.

I think I will follow up with part 2 of this lesson (the background and frame) later -- this post is getting to be WAY too long.

And, as promised, here is the link Dixon Ticonderoga gave me for our exclusive coupon for a set of their Prang Watercolors. I'll be doing a comparison test with them and the Crayola brand they sent me soon.
Coupon Link click HERE

To all of you who starting classes this week, hope you get off to a GREAT start!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer is Coming to an End

Hard to believe that in one week our students will be "back in the saddle" at school!!
We have a parent meeting the first day of school in our Auditorium and this is what will greet attendees:

 I asked pairs of 2nd graders to paint the cut-out figures last Spring using lines and patterns. Then I collected some artwork from a few classroom teachers and from my program and tucked it away for now. The other day a friend and I spent a few hours cleaning up the bulletin boards (removing old staples and little bits of paper stuck under them -- one of my pet peeves!) and putting up the new artwork to start the 2013-14 school year with a fresh look. I LOVE this time of the school year when everything is starting anew: great expectations and clean rooms!!!!