Units of Work

Plenty of colouring added!

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Stears, colour, color, hue, tone, chroma, projection, acetate, Colourscape, Kapoor

A project for 14 to 18 year olds to introduce them to colour through a number of fascinating exercises that progressively work towards opportunities for personal expression. The project has been written as a potential work-sheet for students.


  • What happens when you mix primaries (red, yellow and blue); and secondaries (orange, purple and green)? and add black and white to them?
  • What do hue, tone and chroma mean?
  • What happens when you prepare the paper or surface you are painting on by soaking or gluing or wrinkling the surface?
  • What happens when you put certain colours alongside each other?
  • are colours hot or cold?
  • do colours move towards and away from you?
  • Do colours change under different lighting conditions?
  • and from various distances?
  • Construct with colour by folding, twisting, bending, tearing, ripping, making holes in and projecting light through sheets of coloured paper, plastic, textiles, water, jelly, card, string.... (compare a yellow zig-zag made out of wire covered with tissue with a watery blue circle made out of painted polythene).
  • Make immediate coloured art forms by using acetates, old film strips, transparencies, wrappers, crisp packets and any interesting junk materials such as scrim, newsprint, gels, hole-punch off-cuts. Make three or four transparencies and put them in a projector in a very dark room. Try various distances and surfaces, still and moving, and vary the size by controlling the aperture/enlarger.


  • By words. Make a sheet of colour and stare at it for three minutes. Without looking away, jot down your responses. What can you find in it? These might be memories, images, dreams, fantasies, trompe l'oeil effects, surreal references. Then link your words up to make a poetic account.
  • By shapes and forms. Collect interesting coloured objects (everything is coloured, so this should be easy!) such as peppers, oranges, lemons, apples, flowers, bananas and so on - work from them using different colour tools such as paints, dyes, inks, felt-pens, pastels, crayons and layers of tissue or sticky-paper.
  • Match the colours against the original objects and consider the cast light, shadow, reflection and relationship between the pieces...
  • By light. Use colour sheets and explore how the colours appear to change when you project different colours on to them. Try in a very dark room, projecting red, green and blue on to a variously coloured sheet and see if you can remember what the colours were like in normal daylight!

  • (Try to find out about the London-based art company Colourscape which makes huge walk-in sculptures which bathe its participants in light, to music. Could you make a colour environment?)

  • Some colour triggers worth checking out: the spectrum, rainbows and bubbles, living things, survival and attraction (camouflage?), Fauvism, Body painting in Papua, New Guinea, Monet's studies of Rouen Cathedral, Moroccan, Malay and Syrian dyeing, stained glass, Andy Goldsworthy, Anish Kapoor.

Simon Desorgher, 'Clourscape', 1996. Click here see a larger version.