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Middle School Art Lesson: Create a Painting with Fall Colors

By Nicole Hilsabeck

Teach students to use naturally complementary colors to create fall paintings.

Objective: Students will use color wheels to identify and select complementary colors to create their own autumn scenes.

Materials: Color wheel, art boards, masking tape, reference photos featuring autumn scenery, watercolor or mixed media paper, painting materials (pastels, watercolor, or tempera are recommended), water, cups, brushes, paper towels

Lesson Procedure:

Step One: Teacher will discuss complementary colors on the color wheel (a brief introduction can be given for students who are not familiar with the color wheel). If possible, students may use their own color wheels or refer to a large one posted on the board for this lesson. Teacher will list colors identified as colors they tend to see in the season of fall, and list the complements for each color. Examples might include the following pairs:

Red (Complement: Green)

Blue (Complement: Orange)

Gold (Complement: Violet)

Red-Orange (Complement: Blue-Green)

Blue-Violet (Complement: Yellow-Orange)

Step Two: Teacher will share reference photos of fall scenes, asking students to identify complementary colors they see in the photos, and comparing the colors to what they see on the color wheel. Teacher will give students their own reference photos of fall scenes (color photos are best) and ask them to choose a photo to use for their own paintings.

Tip: Teacher may want to ask students to bring in their own reference photos for this lesson to increase student interest.

Step Three: Teacher will allow students ample work time to sketch compositions, choose a color scheme, and complete their fall scene paintings using complementary colors. Teacher should encourage students to incorporate strong colors (such as red-orange) and use only a minimum of neutral tones (such as brown) in order to maximize the effects of the complementary colors for this exercise.

Assessment: Students will post their works on the board for a group discussion to identify the complementary colors they see being used in the posted art pieces.

Extension: If time allows, teacher can give students a few days to work on additional fall scenes, continuing with the color schemes they had originally chosen for the above activity. This will give them experience in working on a series of paintings.