Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pattern Pathways & Mixing Browns

2nd graders, using an ant farm photo as inspiration, created black crayon patterned pathways this week. That was the first part of the lesson. Next, using cake tempera, they mixed complementary colors from the color wheel to experiment with different brown tones for the background areas. My final focus was use of the paint brush, including brush control and, of course, how to clean it well.

There was a lot of changing colors, so kids had ample opportunity to clean their brushes. I asked them to "Swish, swish, wipe and check." The checking part was new for me. I read about it on somebody's blog recently (I can't remember which blog and, unfortunately forgot to pin it -- sorry!). Anyway, this clever teacher (whoever you are) has the kids check if their brush is clean at the end of class by painting the "clean" brush on her arm. Loved it so much, I asked the kids to paint their "clean" brush on their hand each time they cleaned it before dipping into a new color. Worked like a charm!!! If you were the one who wrote about this recently, let us all know, and THANK YOU!
Some students did step 3 and others ran out of time or chose to leave their pathways black and white.

This was the ant farm photo that we used as a model for how ants dig their curvy tunnels:
And, finally, here is some of the students' work:
 I was so pleased to watch students work so conscientiously to experiment with how much of each color to add to their mix to achieve the brown they wanted!! We used recycled white, plastic lids (which they easily cleaned themselves at the end of class) for palettes.

For some of the classes I mounted their 6" X 6" abstracts on a colored matte:

Instead of mounting these, I had the kids assemble them on the rug, trying to connect their pathways in a pleasing composition. This was really fun to watch! There were a LOT of directors in this part of the collaborative process!!!!

This was a portion of one group's work:


  1. Hi Christie
    This lesson is so good on so many levels I am at a loss as to where I should pin it!

    1. Thanks! Today we finished up with the last 2 classes to do this. I wish I could post an audio so you could hear ALL the kids discussing their various browns with "art rich vocabulary" as they mixed the colors at their tables. It was, indeed, heartwarming to an art teacher -- a perfect Valentine's Day gift!!!!!

  2. Such beautiful colorful compositions.
    I love the group work.
    Fantastic results.

  3. Christie,

    I am kind of jaded when it comes to finding new and exciting color/painting projects. You really knocked this one out of the park! It has a science connection, (always looking for interconnected subjects)a math connection (PATTERNS!) and color mixing which is my FAVORITE thing to teach! Thank you so much for such a different and fun project!


  4. This is great. Also lovely that you let the children arrange the composition at the end. Thanks.

  5. Brilliant how you tape off the black and white when when it's not needed. Probably helps alot in keeping the tray clean. The clean brush technique is also great. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Christie,

    Just thought I'd let you know that The Boy used this post as inspiration for a project he made during the March Break posted here:

    Thanks so much for blogging yours and your students works of art. So fun to read about and discover!

  7. beautiful and a fun group project!

  8. I make my kids paint on my arm when they turn in their brushes to me to make sure they are clean! Have done it for YEARS! Wonder if it was me! :)

    1. The kids always giggle when I show them how to do this!!! They LOVE it:))