Foundations Unit One: Light and Color

In Foundations of Studio art we are beginning the year with a unit on Light and color, as you’ve seen the past two years. This year I would like to do something different and break down my units by day. Please feel free to use the comments section and let me know what you think.

Our Light and Color unit is a study of the color wheel, color families, color mixing, light vs. pigment, an introduction to the elements and principles of art and design. Students start by making a color wheel poster in small groups, and then a logo in Adobe illustrator. Finally, they use their color mixing techniques and color theory to create a beautiful still life painting. We also take a closer look at Photorealism from 1968 to the present, and artists like Mary Pratt, Robert Bechtel, Charles Bell, and Chuck Close. We focus on the elements of color and value specifically, and work with the principle of contrast. 

At the end of this unit students present their still lifes and are asked to reflect on how they have used their color wheel skills, captured light, and how light is interacting with their object. The final piece here hopes to connect this project with the study of the electromagnetic spectrum and the study of visible light that they are beginning in their Physics classes.

Also, just so you can get an idea, the classroom time is broken down into four or five parts depending. We begin each class with some form of quiet reflection in the form of a Visio Divina, a method of meditation I picked up this summer at a catholic teachers conference. Or we have another form of warm up. Then I move into a demonstration and explanation period. Afterwards we usually have work time, which is followed by a reflection period on days when time allows, or we have finished a project and are presenting. Finally I allow at least ten minutes for clean up. It is important to keep our room neat and organized so that our students feel empowered to find and use the art materials. This structure also helps students monitor their own use of time.

Breakdown of Warm-Up and Daily Activities:

Day 1

-We reviewed the Syllabus, wrote down the Elements and Principals in our brand new Sketchbooks! Which I also handed out that day.

Day 2

-I introduced Visio Divina, a method of meditation I picked up this summer at a catholic teachers conference. 

-We also began our color wheel assignment 







Day 3

-Visio Divina

-Color Wheel Assignment was finished and presented. See google doc for presentation questions. 



Day 4

-Visio Divina

-Introduced Color in Design:

-Invented imaginary companies and begin logo design with colored pencils.

-Reminded students to bring in special objects for still life paintings.


Day 5

Reviewed color contrasts

-Began Logo Designs (Emphasize meaning in color, list adjectives)

-Began designing logo on illustrator.


Bouquettes for Ballet

Caroline Tangang


Cecilia Hornyak Logo


Jillian Perry

Logo Beyer Bulard

Day 6

-Warm-Up: Drew Nats Logo from memory, then revealed. Many students were suprised at how accurate theirs were.

-Finished Logo design, and present.



Shira Nash

Day 7

-Visio Divino of Mary Blair

-Quick, fun, simple collage on bristol board folded in half. (This is a ONE DAY assignment) Created  collages on cards, employing color schemes or groups, and color contrasts, inspired by the work of Mary Blair. (Los Colores de Mary Blair, video)

-Reminded students to bring in Special Objects!


Day 8

-Visio Divino Mary Pratt

-Intro to painting (How much, what brush, from where, what colors)

-Painted Ground on canvases

-Constructed light boxes

-Begin backgrounds

-Ended early for introduction to clean-up (Brush cleaning, storage etc.)




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Day 9

-Short Visio Divino (Robert Bechtle) w/ reflection in sketchbook (an example of analogous color scheme)

-Intro to photo realism w/ article (

-Began sketching objects in charcoal


Day 10

-Visio Divino (Charles Bell)

-Intro to acrylic mediums: Slow Dry, Glazing, Gel etc.

-Began painting objects.

Day 11

-Article on Chuck Close w/ reflection in sketchbook

-Worked on Paintings






Day 12

-Visio Divino (Chuck Close)

-Finished Paintings


Day 13

-First half hour for finishing touches

-Presentations (*see requirements below)

-Rubrics Graded

-Homework for the semester handed out: 

*Below are the final works of art hung up and on display in our school gallery space. You can see some of my new colleague Tom’s student work from his section of Foundations of Studio art. Notice that they used pastels and more than one object. It is nice to see another art teachers perspective on this assignment, and the variety adds to the look of the show. (You can also see a few Ceramics 1 pieces in this first photo.)












Final Presentation Requirements: Did your color wheel influence your final painting? How? How has your understanding of color changed, or has it? What color scheme or group did you use in your painting? What color contrasts did you use? Did you use value to create the illusion of a 3D object? Finally, since you are learning about light in physics, please explain how the light is interacting with your object. For example, is it going through your object? Reflecting? Being absorbed by your object?


Physics Connection: Electromagnetic Spectrum, Light Interacting with Objects. 

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