Art lesson on hot & cold colours

Written by andrea griffith
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Art lesson on hot & cold colours
Colours play a bigger role in paintings and drawings than just filling in the lines. (colours image by dinostock from Fotolia.com)

Colours aren't just used to make a picture prettier, they are also used to make a specific feeling. This is where hot and cold, or warm and cool, colours come into play. Some colours can make you feel relaxed, some can make you feel hungry, some can make your feel happy, and others may make your feel sombre. To explain this to your students -- especially those in middle school or younger -- create a few different art lessons on hot and cold colours.

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The Hot and Cold Test

The night before your first lesson on hot and cold colours, make two batches of crispy rice treats. Dye one batch red and the other blue. For something a little easier, you can also bake some pre-made sugar cookies and frost half with red icing and the other half with blue. Separate the two different-coloured treats on your desk. When the lesson begins, ask each of your students to pick one treat up from your desk (ensure there are enough in each pile for every student). If the experiment goes as planned, when every student has taken her seat, point out how there are more blue treats left untouched on your desk. This is the hot and cold test. Red foods are said to be more appealing and seem tastier -- one reason why so many foods are artificially dyed red. But blue foods are said to be least appealing to consumers. Use this "experiment" to start your lesson on what an important role colours play in art.

Identifing Hot and Cold Colours

Tape different-coloured pictures on your chalkboard in no particular order -- you may want to use solid construction paper to avoid confusion. Ask your students if each picture is hot or cold; chances are, your students will be able to correctly label most of the colours without any previous lesson on colour tones. When finished, put the colours in order: red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, violet and violet-red. Explain to your students how the hot colours start with red and end at yellow. Cooler colours start at yellow-green and end at violet-red.

Hot and Cold "Feelings"

Hot and cold colours are often used to create different "feelings." There is no mistake that the walls and decorations in many spas are blue or green, that many restaurants use red, or that paediatrician offices very rarely use the colour yellow. Warmer colours make you actually feel warmer, more upbeat, passionate, hungry and/or excited; whereas, cooler colours can actually make you feel cooler, calmer, more relaxed and/or patient. Pass out different prints from artists that are created in mostly hot and cold colours -- "The Kiss" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and "Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh are two good examples. Ask your students to write down different words to describe how each picture makes them feel.

Hot and Cold Collage

Bring in some old magazines, printouts, pictures or other coloured paper. Have each student take some materials and tear out pages with specific colours featured on them. The students will then tear each colour page/piece into smaller pieces -- no bigger than a 1-inch by 1-inch square. On a separate, white piece of card stock, the students will glue their torn coloured pieces onto the paper. They can create the collage from hot to cold colours, cold to hot colours, starting in the corners of the paper or the outside edges. Once finished, hang the hot and cold collages up around your classroom.

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