Wednesday, January 13, 2016

3rd Grade Art Lesson: Contrast Colors in African Dancers

Yesterday, I went to volunteer teach art in my daughters 3rd grade class.

I taught them about a new (sub)element of art, how to use a new medium art technique and also spent some time talking about a new artist.

3rd Grade Art Lesson: Contrast Colors in African Dancers by A Crafty Arab

Since it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week, I wanted to introduce the kids to an African American artist. I chose artist Augusta Asberry*.

I had met Mrs. Asberry sometime in the late 90s when she had an exhibit at a local Seattle art gallery, Isis on First. I have always enjoyed her beautiful dancing African women and thought the students would enjoy them too.

We are continuing our talk about Color, one of the seven elements of art. I just wanted to go into more detail about one of it's sub-elements, Contrast Colors. 

Our class had covered the primary and the secondary colors*, so I showed the kids the color wheel all together and explained the difference between warm and cool colors.


Complimentary colors are those on the same side of the color wheel (red, orange, yellow OR blue, green, violet) while contrast colors are those that are on opposite sides of the color wheel.

We played a game to help illustrate the point.  We thought of logos of major brands and everyone guessed if they were complimentary or contrast. Examples were: McDonalds? Complimentary (red, yellow). Seahawks? Complimentary (blue, green). Our school colors? Contrast (yellow, green).

I then introduced them to Augusta Asberry and told them a little about her.  We looked at her paintings and talked about the contrasting colors in them.

Augusta Asberry (1931-2007)

I mentioned she drew all the time as a kid in school. Later, she studied to be a nurse and did that for 38 years before she went back to school and studied fashion design.

She moved from Los Angeles, CA in the early 90s to Bremerton, WA until she passed away in 2007. First she started documenting her landscape around her, but then painted African dancers.

Augusta Asberry - Baga Woman
She had this to say about them.
"When I created my first Dancers they were patterned after the crude figures found on the rocks and cave walls of Africa. My own animated style has evolved but it is still inspired by the spirits of the Ancestral Artists. The Dancers are clothed in my original fabric and costume designs."
Augusta Asberry - Lead Dancer in Purple

Our new medium art technique was to learn how to paint with both tempura paint cakes and wet tempura liquid paint.

I showed them the difference between tempura cakes and liquid tempura but explained how they both still needed water. I told them this type of paint used to be made with eggs and is one of the oldest known to man. It was even found with mummies in Egypt!

I finally got down to the paint lesson itself. They were painting black and white birch trees and then placing them on a contrast landscape. They were going to paint the trees first with thick paintbrushes and cardboard.

I gave each student a piece of watercolor paper which I had precut into a 8x17 size. They also got a bowl to put a dab of liquid tempura paint, which they mixed with water.  They then drew two long lines of black paint along the vertical length of the paper with thick paint strokes.

I then gave them a precut 1x2 inch piece of cardboard which they used to make the birch bark. They dipped the short end into the black and placed it on one of the tree lines and then swooped across, stopping at the other side.

3rd Grade Art Lesson: Contrast Colors in African Dancers by A Crafty Arab
The end result of a single tree looked like this.They also stood the cardboard on ends to add more lines. The students could also decide if they wanted a fork in their tree by adding a V between the two lines.
3rd Grade Art Lesson: Contrast Colors in African Dancers by A Crafty Arab
They each painted three trees and then put them aside to dry.

For the background landscape, they used a precut watercolor 11x17 paper and painted one color across it horizontally several times. They got to pick how thick their lines were and how often they occurred. After that color was done, they picked a contrast color to fill in the other space.

The background looked like this one I did with yellow and violet.

3rd Grade Art Lesson: Contrast Colors in African Dancers by A Crafty Arab
Unfortunately, our trees were not dry when we finished our backgrounds (a lesson on water usage was inserted here) so you'll have to wait another two weeks before you see what we do next!

*The name of the Augusta Asberry painting in my title graphic is Dancing in Red and Purple.
*Our 3rd graders did a lesson on Lines too. Be sure to check out my Pinterest board for past lessons in other grades. 

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