Part 2: Learning About the Elements of Color and Value in Art

This week at Fishtown Recreation Center, we continued with our oil pastel projects by adding color to their original designs created last week. The students learned about warm and cool palettes and we discussed how each palette evoked certain images or feelings. For example, warm colors like red, orange and yellow reminded us of the sun and fire and made us feel active, warm, alive.  Cool colors like green, blue and grey reminded us of the sky, oceans, grass and felt cool, calm, peaceful.

Warm vs. Cool Palettes. The students each chose a warm or cool palette and then used corresponding oil pastel colors to color in their entire shape picture — both the positive space inside the shapes and the negative empty space outside the shapes. Mixing colors within their palette was highly encouraged to make their artwork more interesting.

Experimenting with Value. Oil pastels were a new medium for all the students. These kinds of crayons glide on the paper quickly and allow young children to cover large areas of the paper with ease. Many students quickly realized that they could control the value of the colors by pressing harder or lighter while coloring. Value is the darkness or lightness of colors, with white being the lightest and black being the darkest.

Secret Ingredient for Blending Oils: Baby Oil.  The final step in the project was to blend the oil pastels by dipping a Q-tip in baby oil and rubbing an area of color with it. The baby oil is like a little miracle on a Q-tip — not only was it fun to do, the baby oil transformed the oil pastel into a smooth, paint-like surface and facilitated the color blending process. The students were visibly pleased and amused with their results.


Reflections. As we are approaching the final weeks of the fall session, it has been a joy to see the students building on their art knowledge every week. They have progressed beyond simple art projects that involved gluing pre-cut paper shapes to being able to draw their own shapes with stencil and adding color to a piece of art using oil pastels. These students have eagerly met the various artisti challenges we have presented and demonstrated a mature level of respect for the many materials we have offered for their use.

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