Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kandinsky & The Color Wheel

Adapted for use at George Kelly Elementary by Lynne Millar, from a lesson by Patty

Principles: Learning the color wheel…complimentary colors, cool and warm colors, and how color affects the feel of a piece of art. Also learn about Wassily Kandinsky.

Obejective: Students will learn about the color wheel, and make a Kandinksy-inspired project using complimentary colors.

Supplies: (each student needs)

*glue stick



*large piece black construction paper

*scraps of colored construction paper: red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange*circle

*templates for tracing – either circles of various sizes cut from chip board or poster board, or plastic lids. 5”, about 3”, and 1”

Pre-class Prep:

Make sure that you have enough paper scraps for each student to make 9 colored circles of varied sizes (they’ll get to cut out the shapes)


Distribute a piece of large black construction paper, scissors, glue stick to each student. Every few children, place a pile of scrap colored construction paper for them to work with.

Art Appreciation Lesson:

Summarize for the kids information about the life of Wassily Kandinsky (see end of lesson for biographical information). Familiarize yourself with this beforehand so you can use your own words – but beware! Kandinsky’s modern style might be difficult to explain in much detail to first graders – so keep it short and sweet. In fact, the information provided within the Power Point presentation may be detail enough. It’s up to you.

Power Point Slide Presentation: (click here for link)

1. This is the color wheel. You can make most colors out of the three primary colors: blue, yellow, and red.

2. If you mix these colors together, you get secondary colors. Do you see how blue & yellow make green? And yellow and red make orange? Every color also has an opposite. Like green and red. When you put opposites next to each other, they make the other color look super bright.

3. Here’s a picture of Kandinsky. He was an artist who loved colors, and lived in a country called Russia – on the other side of the world.

4. He didn’t decide to become an artist until he was 30. When he first started painting, you could see things in the pictures he painted. For instance in this picture, what do you see? (clouds, buildings, people…)

5. As he got older, he decided he wanted to make his pictures a lot more abstract. That word means that they don’t really look “real”, or the way things look in a photograph. Instead the paintings are about color, and feeling, and shapes.

6. Do you like how all of these colors and shapes just pop out of the picture?

Activity Plan:

(note: the original lesson, see example picture, called for 6 circles in each size. This took forever! Unless you have super speedy cutters you might want to just have them do 3 of each size.)

Pass out the colored scrap paper and your largest circle template. Have the kids cut out 3 circles. They can use different colors, or the same, depending on what they want.

Then have them glue the circles onto their black paper, in two rows (see the example).

Now have them cut out 3 more circles, using the medium size circle. This time they’ll need to pay attention to their colors really closely – as the goal is for them to use opposite colors from the largest circles, so the colors really pop. When they’ve done this, they glue the circles onto the large ones.

Do the same with the smallest circles. Again, make sure they use contrasting colors! They don’t need to be exact opposites, just different enough so they don’t have yellow glued to yellow, etc.

Extra Background Information:

Wassily Kandinsky - 1866-1944

Born in Russia, Kandinsky spent much time as a child learning to play the cello and piano. Good at many things, he decided to train to be a teacher of law. In 1895 he saw on exhibit Monet's painting "The Haystack" and was upset by it, as he found it difficult to tell what the painter was trying to show in the picture and this was a radical way of making/seeing art for him.

The next year he left his teaching job and entered art school. His early art was expressionistic, much influenced by Henri Matisse, but in 1910 he saw an exhibit of Islamic art in Munich (Islamic art is highly decorative, and forbids the representation of human images), and that same year painted his first abstract painting.

In 1911 he formed a group with other abstract artists called The Blue Rider that exhibited widely through Europe and hugely influenced the direction of modern art. Among other members of the Blue Rider were Franz Marc and Paul Klee.

In 1933 the Nazis came into power. They considered abstract art to be degenerate and removed it from all museums. Kandinsky fled to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life.

Now Kandinsky is considered to be the father of abstract art in the 20th century.

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