Saturday, November 28, 2009

Teaching Art Through Coloring

This is an article from my weekly CurrClick email (Sign up at for a free download and article each week.) She ends this article with a commercial for her magazine, but I thought the principles she mentions were a good one. I would also mention that you can art through coloring by having the student color line drawings of famous pieces of art.

By Joy Marie Dunlap

Kids enjoy coloring, but can just coloring a picture be considered an art education? Just how much can a child learn through coloring? It depends on the input of the teacher (you) or the materials you are using. Coloring can be anything from just playing around to a real and successful art course.

When I was a child, a lot of people complimented me on my finished pictures, especially my peers and friends. I always told them "You can do this well, too, if you let me show you how," but they did not believe me. Fortunately I had the opportunity with my own 5 children to see just how far kids can go in their art skills with a few important secrets to artistic coloring.

We all know that a child should learn to color inside the lines. Some people even go so far as to point out that staying inside the lines is much easier if you outline the picture first. And most of us learn to color back and forth in the same direction instead of making strokes all over the place in different directions. These rules certainly make neater coloring, but are they all that one can learn through coloring?

When I was a child, I loved using strokes that emphasized the textures of the things I was coloring. I loved stroking in hair in the natural way that hair falls on a person, or waves, or blows in a light breeze. I loved making up-and-down strokes for grass, swirls for leafy trees of bushes, rounded strokes on flowers, flowing strokes in a bubbling brook, and so on.

Texture is, I think, one of the very best places to start in teaching a child art skills through coloring. Tree trunks can be given thick lines indicating bark. A haystack should be colored with straight strokes in many directions. Birds’ nests have a combination of stiff, straight sticks and smooth curved grasses. The ripples in a pond or lake have curves going outward, curve after curve. Pet fur can be colored with short strokes for shorthaired animals and long, smooth strokes for long-furred animals. Dirt and stones on the ground should be colored with bumps of concentrated color. There are so many fascinating ways to color different textures.

I use coloring pages from Dover, which are reproducible with some minor limitations. I love these pages for their textures, birds’ nests, branches, background foliage stroked in different directions, strokes on animals to suggest the length of fur, pictures of water, trees, scenery, and so on. I used these with my kids when we homeschooled and now use them in our new art and nature magazine, Creative Homeschooled Kids.

Even as an adult, I still love to color sunsets and ocean waves, birds in flight, butterflies landing delicately on flowers, flowing water and reflections in water. I love the use of color as well. To give a 3-dimensional appearance to any object (including animals), use a darker shade of the color at the sides and leave a lighter area in the middle. When coloring water, have the turquoise, blue, or green you use get darker as the water gets deeper. As water deepens, a light sea green gradually turns into a rich, dark turquoise. Very deep ocean water is a dark blue that is almost black.

Another interesting thing when coloring water is the way parts of the water, especially ripples, reflect the sky, while the spaces between ripples often show more depth, and therefore are a darker color. So to color ripples on water’s surface, you alternate sky colors and water depth colors. (Water is one of the hardest things to learn how to color or paint.) Once you get the idea, water can be so interesting to color, with sunsets and sunrises splashing colors across a sea or lake below.

These and so many other fascinating principles can be applied to a regular coloring page and allow you to do some incredible things with crayons, colored pencils, colored markers, oil pastel crayons, or water colors. You can actually create pictures that look like an artist’s masterpiece if you know the right principles.

I could not leave coloring behind when my kids all grew beyond the need for further art instruction from me, so I recently launched Creative Homeschooled Kids Magazine, a printable electronic magazine, to teach kids these exciting art principles through coloring, with art instruction mixed in alongside articles on nature topics such as gardening, birds nesting, scenic America, marine mammals and more.

Since kids love learning about nature and enjoy coloring, the combination of the two makes a fantastic, fun and educational magazine for children of all school ages. The topic of the most recent issue of this Nature / Art magazine is Whales and Dolphins and other Sea Mammals. In it I show kids how to color water so that it looks deep or shallow, how to show what it is like looking up to the light on the water surface or down in the depths where whales swim, and how to show transparency and reflection on the water's surface. We make these difficult art concepts easy, even for kids. You can buy this issue right now on its own for only $3, which is one-third off the usual price! Or join the hundreds of children who are already enjoying an annual subscription to this unique magazine and get this and 5 more issues for less than $1.60 each. Why not start teaching real art through coloring now, in your home school?

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