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Explore Abstract Nature & Complementary Colors

Middle School Painting & Drawing Activities: Explore Abstract Nature & Complementary Colors

See more activities in: Middle School, Painting & Drawing

A mixture of botany, exploration, Abstract Art and Pop Art color theory—this exercise never gets dull! Your child will start outside gathering drawings on his very own expedition and afterward recreate them as abstract shapes. The result will be a vivid eye-popping picture inspired by nature.

What You Need:

  • Pencils
  • Drawing board
  • White paper
  • Watercolor paper
  • Oil Pastels

What You Do:

Part One - The Botanical Expedition

  1. Discuss with your child how scientists make field study or botanical drawings of things found in nature. Share some examples of sketches that you can find on the Internet.
  2. Give your child a pencil, sheets of paper and a drawing board, or a sketch book with a hard back, and send him outside to hunt for a natural object to draw. Leaves or flowers are the easiest to work with because they don't move. Encourage him to make his sketches larger than life on his paper. He should sketch the same object from three different angles on one piece of paper.
  3. Ask him to choose his favorite sketch and draw a rectangle around part of it creating a composition. Encourage him to crop the drawing creating an abstract composition that includes interesting lines or shapes.

Part Two - Abstract Shapes/Complementary Colors

  1. Discuss the three pairs of complementary colors in color theory: blue/orange, violet/yellow and green/red. Artists use these color combinations to create artwork that is bright and vivid, such as Pop Art. This is a good opportunity to introduce the work of Andy Warhol to your child.
  2. Ask your child to choose a pair of complementary colors that he would like to work with.
  3. Help him transfer his rectangular-cropped field drawing onto the rectangular white watercolor paper using a pencil. Pay close attention to where lines begin, end and intersect on the paper in comparison to the sketch. The end result will be a very large version of his cropped sketch. It will appear abstract and may not resemble the object he initially drew.
  4. He should then assign one color to the positive space, or the actual image he drew, and one to the negative space, or the background.
  5. Have him color in all of the areas, allowing the white of the paper to remain as the veins of leaves or intricate details. Oil pastels will need some elbow grease (heavy pressure) to get rid of all the little white spots on the paper.
  6. Now you're ready to frame and hang up a beautiful abstract oil pastel picture inspired by nature!
Ellen Dean has worked as an art educator in Thailand since 2005, working with both children and adults. She has also been a professional artist working in painting, sculpture and photography since 1996.

Updated on Jun 20, 2013
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