Launchpad: Color in Visual Arts

In Depth with the Full Spectrum

Section:  The Whole Spectrum | Drawing the Eye: Saturation | Running Hot and Cold

The Whole Spectrum

View the following series of images, starting with this print:

Then:

Complete this chart as you view the images. Consider the differences in color across this set of prints, and how those differences affect your impression of the scene depicted in these images, as you answer the following questions:

  • How do the changes in color across this group of images affect the perception of depth in the image?
  • Which images seem to have more or less depth than others?
  • How do the changes in color affect the mood or tone of the image?
  • Which prints appear more upbeat, or more somber, than others? Why?

Drawing the Eye: Saturation

View this image:

Then answer the following questions:

  • Where is your eye drawn to first? Next?
  • Why do you think that your eye is drawn to this point in the composition first?

Next, examine this painting:

Now, answer the following questions about Johnson’s painting:

  • Where are your eyes drawn to in Johnson’s painting?
  • Why does your eye alight on these points in the composition?

Then, take a look at this painting:

Write a paragraph identifying the ways in which Homer uses color to draw one’s eye to the central figure of the milk maid. Be sure to discuss the use of bright, saturated colors, as well as complementary colors.

Running Hot and Cold

Examine the following painting and identify the warm and cool colors, noting places where warm and cool colors are clustered in the composition:

Then answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think the artist placed the warm and cool colors in particular?
  • Where are most of the warm or cool colors clustered together in the imaginary space of the painting? (i.e. are warm or cool colors all or mostly found in the foreground, middle ground, or background?)
  • Does the placement of these warm and cool colors have an impact on whether or not objects or buildings appear closer or farther away?

Group 1: Titian painting
View the following image with your group:

Work together with the members of your group to answer the following questions:

  • What do students notice about the distribution of warm and cool colors in this painting? Do warm and cool color cluster together, or are they evenly distributed across the composition?
  • How does Titian use color to help create a sense of depth in this image?
  • Why do you think that Titian clothed Saint John in red? What effect does that color choice have on the viewer?

Group 2: Cassatt painting
View the following image with your group:

Work together with the members of your group to answer the following questions:

  • How has Cassatt distributed warm and cool colors in this painting?
  • Do warm and cool color cluster together, or are they evenly distributed across the composition?
  • How does she use color to help create a sense of depth in this image?
  • Why do you think Cassatt chose to depict the boat as bright yellow?
  • What kind of effect does that color choice have on the viewer?