Term: 3 Year: 2008
“EXPLORING COMPLEMENTARY COLOURS”
Box Hill North Primary School is a growing school of three hundred and eight students and is located within the
quiet surroundings of Elizabeth Street, Box Hill North. The school was opened in 1955 and has celebrated its fiftieth anniversary
At the beginning of every school year, year levels focus on their ‘Learning to Learn’ unit, where the emphasis
is on developing and building on a harmonious working environment within the classroom. It was during this time I decided
to explore and observe students skills and understanding of the dry pastel media as well as introducing new arts language.
This unit ran for three weeks, which students where made aware of as their time management was also being assessed.
Our first lesson began with looking at two words. The first was monochromatic. Students listened to the word and had
to unpack it to discover the meaning. They picked up very quickly that ‘mono’ meant one and with a little guidance
from me, that chromatic had to do with colour. Placing the words together and they soon understood that monochromatic was
the application of on colour in a myriad of tones ranging from that single colour.
The second word was complementary.
This discussion was an interesting one as students understood complementary as to pay respect to someone (which is spelt
complimentary) rather than anything that makes something else whole. However both definitions assisted with the artistic
meaning – complementary colours are a pair of colours that assist each other to stand out and help complete the overall
This was a great literacy link as students were able to deconstruct words and their meanings and reconstruct the meanings
for artistic purposes, strengthening the importance of language in art.
Students then studied the colour wheel and I asked them to guess the complementary colour combinations. This was entertaining
and once they hit on one correct combination they studied the wheel and realised that complementary colours where located
at opposite ends of the wheel. So therefore the complementary combinations are: blue and orange, red and green, yellow
Placing the above new understanding aside, we then looked at our drawing project. Students were given an A3 sheet of
Cartridge Paper and had to take their pencil for a ‘walk’ and create a ‘paisley’ pattern. These
lines could not be too close to each other and they were able to place shapes in-between larger areas. Using our new colour
theory knowledge, students selected a complementary combination they wished to use and applied dry pastels, first by loosely
marking inside each swirl their colour areas, making sure that the same colour did not touch each other, forming a colour
pattern. It is at this point that students could still add in another line or shape to rectify this.
Referring back to our discussion on monochromatic colour, I demonstrated how to apply a tonal range using the delicate
and beautiful medium of soft pastels. I explained how colour application can be achieved by laying the medium, from light
to dark and to begin with blocking each area with a lighter shade. To build tones and a three-dimensional illusion, students
applied darker and lighter shades of the one colour, along the edges of each line or shape. I illustrated that through
careful rubbing with finger tips, students were able to blend in colours to create softness within their work as well as
that illusion of a seamless gradation of tonal colours. When students felt they were finished, they applied a few strokes
of either a lighter tone or white pastel without blending it in – to give an extra edge to the work. Each piece was
then fixed with fixative spray to prevent the work from smudging further. Hairspray can also be used as a cheaper alternative.
Using a piece of black paper, students created an insect-inspired shape. We discussed and viewed a variety of shapes,
swirls and lines to create an intricate and interesting pattern. We also discussed how to achieve a symmetrical shape by
folding a piece of black card in half, drawing the design on one side, and then cut it out, always being careful not to
cut too close to the fold as this can break the symmetrical nature of the work and become two pieces instead of one. Once
cut, the insect creature was then opened up and glued down on top of the pastel work.
The criteria used to assess this project were:
- Design/Composition – the student has used line and shapes to develop interesting patterns
- Use of Materials – the student has applied dry pastels with care and confidently developed a variety of tonal
- Colour Choices – the student has selected complementary colours from the colour wheel
- Time/Effort – the student has used class time wisely and effort into the planning, designing and developing
their art piece.
The biggest success to come from this activity was that all students were able to create a unique art piece. There
was no emphasis on having great drawing abilities to complete this task and all students were extremely proud of their
own artistic success, developing positive self esteem about their artistic abilities and about their working environment.
These works will not only be on display at Zart Art during Term Three, but will also be exhibited, along with other
works created by the students of Box Hill North Primary School during our Biennial Arts Festival on Friday 12th September,
2008. Hope that you can all come along to the festivities.
Visual Arts Coordinator
Box Hill North Primary School
Box Hill North