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Warm and Cool Colors Elementary Art Lesson

Updated on September 13, 2018
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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 8.

Warm Colors and Cool Colors Art Lesson for Early Elementary
Warm Colors and Cool Colors Art Lesson for Early Elementary

This is the 3rd lesson in a series of 30 hands-on art lessons for Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grade. This lesson focuses on warm colors and cool colors. I used this plan while teaching a weekly 45 minute art class for children in Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grades. Each lesson includes an art concept, introductory book, focus on an artist, and a variety of art techniques to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

A Book About Color: A Clear and Simple Guide for Young Artists by Mark Gonyea
A Book About Color: A Clear and Simple Guide for Young Artists by Mark Gonyea

Warm Colors and Cool Colors

1. What is something that is red, orange, & yellow? (fire, fall leaves, etc.) What is something that is green, blue, & purple? (the yard and sky outside the window, a sea shell, etc.) Artists call the colors red, orange, & yellow warm colors. They call green, blue, and purple cool colors. Let's read a little bit more about that.

2. Read parts of A Book About Color: A Clear and Simple Guide for Young Artists by Mark Gonyea that cover primary & secondary colors and warm & cool colors.

You will need:

  • A Book About Color: A Clear and Simple Guide for Young Artists by Mark Gonyea or other book about warm and cool colors

A Book About Color: A Clear and Simple Guide for Young Artists
A Book About Color: A Clear and Simple Guide for Young Artists

This is a clear, concise explanation of color theory that is perfect for this age group. We used it to review primary and secondary colors and warm and cool colors. It also includes additional topics such as the color wheel, complementary colors, hues, saturation, etc.

 
Autumn Leaves, Lake George, 1924 by Georgia O'Keeffe - Image credit: https://www.georgiaokeeffe .net/autumn-leaves.jsp
Autumn Leaves, Lake George, 1924 by Georgia O'Keeffe - Image credit: https://www.georgiaokeeffe .net/autumn-leaves.jsp

Georgia O'Keeffe's Painting

3. Show students a copy of Autumn Leaves, Lake George, 1924 by Georgia O'Keeffe. What do they notice? What colors do they see? Do they mainly see warm colors or cool colors? Even though this print is small, the actual painting is quite large. Georgia O'Keeffe is well-known for her paintings of enormous flowers, but she also did some paintings of leaves, like this one. She painted them so big because she wanted to make sure people noticed the beauty of the flower or the leaf.

You will need:

  • a copy of Autumn Leaves, Lake George, 1924 by Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired warm and cool colors leaf print and painting
Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired warm and cool colors leaf print and painting

Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired warm and cool colors leaf print and painting

4. Have children use warm and cool colors to create a painting inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's work.

  • Have children use watercolor paints to paint the background. They may only use cool colors (green, blue, & purple). They can use whatever pattern they would like. Some children painted stripes, some painted swirls, and some mixed dots and splats of paint.
  • After they've finished covering all the white, let the select a leaf.
  • Place a few dime-sized amounts of yellow and red tempera/finger paint (and orange if you'd like, though they can mix the two colors to make orange) on the back of the leaf.
  • Let the children spread the paint over the back of the leaf covering it all, including the stem. They should start with the yellow. Emphasize that having the colors touch or swirl is good, but don't blend them too much or you'll only have orange.
  • After they've painted the back of the leaf, they can carefully lay it paint-side-down on their watercolor paper. They should gently rub the leaf and then quickly pull it up by the stem. They can then place it on another part of the paper and repeat. Don't replenish the supply of paint on the back of the leaf, as a thin coat will produce more detail.
  • Have the children notice how the warm colors really pop and grab your attention while the cool colors in the background are less noticeable.

You will need per child:

  • watercolor paper or other sturdy white paper
  • watercolor paints with a larger paintbrush
  • small container of water
  • leaf
  • red, yellow, & maybe orange tempera paint

6. Take a photo of each child with their masterpiece.

7. If you have extra time, place colored construction paper squares on the floor. Have the children step on warm colors, cool colors, secondary colors, & primary colors.

You will need:

  • construction paper

A sampling of some of the art pieces
A sampling of some of the art pieces

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