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1 | FEATURE | Color Tip Of The Day

Here is a detailed look at a complex color scheme.

| CLASSROOM How to Display To A TV Screen

We tried the wireless thing. It’s pretty fickle. So now we use these two little cord thingies to connect our phones to a TV really quick and easy.

| ARTICLE Washing the Dishes

Even advanced students often refuse to create practice sketches before a painting. Here’s a schema to help them.

| MATERIALS Why Use Phthalo Green?

It’s really hard to learn how to make this screamingly intense color look good. Here’s an explanation for why we love it anyway.

| GRAPHIC Share This Meme!

This month’s graphic is a funny mem we made that sums up one of our major frustrations quite well. Feel free to post on social media everywhere.

LESSONS What’s Inside

This month’s lessons – overviews for each week.


In this Color Tip, we look at a color scheme using 4 colors. It doesn’t fit into any standard scheme arrangements, but it looks great. So what’s going on?
Basically, any time you use a limited set of colors, it becomes some kind of color scheme, and will fit into a pattern on a standard color wheel. It helps us understand things to fit them into a model, but just knowing that limiting your colors, and adjusting them to your liking, is enough to call it a good color scheme, is super-helpful. Usually, you can fix a problem painting by examining the color scheme, and working to simplify it or push it into a more standard model.

Today’s color scheme has a more greenish blue-green.

Here are the four colors (minus the neutral white) on a basic color wheel:

  1. Red-Purple
  2. Orange
  3. Yellow
  4. Blue-Green
We can call this a “SPLIT TRIAD” because one of the colors of a tertiary triad (Red-Purple, Blue-Green, and Yellow-Orange) is split from Yellow-Orange into the 2 adjoining colors, Yellow, and Orange.

How To Display To A TV Screen


Avoid the connection hassles and dropped signals of wireless setups by getting a simple cord and adapter.

Step 1

Get this adapter. It’s an HDMI to iPhone adapter. You may have a different phone, and will need a different connection to it, but this is the standard lightning connector for most of the latest iPhones. Get it at the Apple store. Click the image for more information.

Step 2

Get an HDMI cord. It connects the adapter (from STEP 1) to the TV. All flat screen TVs have this connection. Most tech stores will have this or you can find one on Amazon.

These cables look like this on both ends.

Step 3

Plug everything in. Make note of the HDMI number on the outlet, since most TVs have several. You can see that HDMI 1 is empty. If you plug into HDMI 2, then you need that information for the next step. Plug the HDMI cord into the phone adapter, and the adapter into your phone.

Step 4

Use your TV menu to select the input to be the same one you plugged the HDMI cable into (in our case, HDMI 2). Then you should be able to see your phone screen displayed on the TV. Turn the phone sideways for the best position match. This setup works for a tablet too.

Washing The Dishes

Even advanced students struggle with doing practice sketches. Here’s a fun way to convey the importance of doing them.
By Dennas Davis
What in the world does washing dishes have to do with practice sketching? That’s what makes a schema good, when you want to know what is going on. In this case, the schema we use will be kind of gross, and what better way to capture kids’ attention.

First, imagine eating a great meal of steak and potatoes. A salad and green beens are on your plate too. What a fantastic dinner! But when you’re through, instead of scraping your plate off into the garbage and putting it in the dishwasher, you just set it back in the cupboard. With all the remnant food from dinner still on it.

That’s Gross!

And what if the next evening, you pulled that plate out and started piling on your spaghetti dinner? Then you put the plate back without washing it again! And the next night you use that dirty plate and put rice and beans all over it.

You just wouldn’t do that. You would not eat off a dirty plate from several nights worth of dinner debris still left on it.

I would imagine that unless you could find a clean plate, you would not use a plate at all. You might even go hungry rather than re-use dirty unwashed dishes. But that is what you do every time you decide to not get clean paper to create a new version of your sketch.

Drawing a sketch over an erased sketch is gross too, in that it is messy and prevents you from doing as well on the next version. Even drawing part of a sketch over is a problem. You can’t fix an old sketch very easily. But most artists will absolutely refuse to practice sketch. Instead, we draw right on our canvas or illustration board for the very first sketch of all. Then erase. And erase. And … over and over until we have done all those practice sketches we thought we were going to skip.

Except now all our practice sketches are like yesterday’s dinner all over our once-pristine canvas. They are stacked up, one on top of the other. It’s messy. It’s dirty. It’s hard to even see if we are accurate through all the smudges.

Every old drawing is under your new one. That is artistically gross.

If you drew any of the previous sketches with inaccurate proportions, it’s almost impossible to visualize new and accurate proportions right on top.

Also, just like spaghetti doesn’t go well with yesterday’s barbecue remains, an innacurate sketch clashes with your ability to draw accurately. You are always starting from the innacurate visual decisions you made on your very first attempt.

This is crazy. Like eating-on-dirty-dishes crazy.

Every artist should be truthful with him or herself. There will be practice work. You can either do that practice work on your beautiful canvas, or you can do it all on other less important papers in a sketch book.

Then, after you are familiar with the subject and have made all the accuracy errors you will inevitably make, you can move to your actual canvas and draw like a pro.

Pros don’t draw things perfect the first time. Pros know that they have to practice and get the big shapes and proportions on every new subject.

However, there are valid arguments against practice sketching.

A problem that often arises with the idea of doing practice sketches, is that sometimes an artist who is learning and improving, will make their best work on the first, second or third try. Without consistency, it’s hard to predict which sketch will be the good one, and afterwards it often can’t be reproduced again. This makes students nervous. They don’t want to lose the good one by doing it on cheap paper.

For this, I always tell students, “it’s not cheating to trace, especially if you’re tracing your own drawing.” I often let them cut the shapes out from their sketch, and trace around them. They can continue to cut away large areas and trace the smaller shapes, getting plenty of accurate guidelines right on a canvas. If the size isn’t correct, a copier or projector can help enlarge and reduce. It’s also a great idea to lay your canvas on your sketch paper first, and trace around your canvas so the sizes match exactly.

Clean Paper

So, if you practice sketch a few times, all that work you’re going to erase will go into the trash can instead of being smeared into the canvas. It’s like getting a clean plate when you start on your canvas after learning your subject. It’s like washing your dirty dishes.


We tell our students that Phthalo Green is the Incredible Hulk of pigments. It’s so strong that all other pigments are weak by comparison. It’s also very blueish. It is so intense that you don’t find the color in nature very often. Using it even a little bit can make a landscape look too dark, too brilliant, and too blue. So why use it at all?

That’s a question some manufacturers have asked, and for student grade lines, some have discontinued this essential pigment. It is viewed as too hard for beginners to learn with.

Above: Making a mix using white and green allows you to weaken it’s amazing strength. You can see how blue it is too.

Phthalo Green is by far the most versatile green pigment.

You’d need a yellowish green, and a blue green, to replace Phthalo. The fact is, that if you learn to use Phthalo correctly, by using only small amounts in your mixing, you have a huge range of greens you can make. Some color theorists say that having Phthalo green is like having 200 different tubes of green colors!

So, to use Phthalo Green you just need to shift your thoughts. Instead of approaching it like other colors, approach it like a super hero. Here are it’s 3 special powers.

1. It’s way stronger than all other colors. You can consider it to be 3 times as strong as red, and 8 times stronger than most yellow pigments. 

2. It’s almost blue. Never try to make a normal green by adding Yellow to some Phthalo Green. Nope. You have to add tiny amounts of it TO the Yellow. Think 1 part to 8 parts to get a regular green!

3. It’s super bright. To make a normal Green, it can take a bit of Red or Orange colors to tone it back. More Red will make it duller. Orange will make it more Olive-Green.


A meme just for art teachers, because who else would understand? Open this in another window by tapping or clicking right on the image. Then you can save or download the original 1000 pixel high-res square image. Perfect for Instagram and Facebook. Enjoy!

Our April curriculum

Read an overview for this month’s lesson plans below.

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Week 31: Stacked Up Art
Students will make an art sculpture by cutting and pasting to create a 3D stack of shapes and color. They’ll be using paper they’ve colored and drawing on themselves. They’ll also have time for a fun artist game today.


Week 31: Treasure Hunt
Everyone gets a chance to use learned skills and freedom to choose what to do with an exciting “Treasure Hunt” for different elements of art. It’s also a great day for finishing existing works such as the complemented animals or palette knife paintings.




Week 32: Near And Far
To understand the basic idea of drawing from a viewpoint (perspective), artists need to learn how to look. Students are introduced to the ideas of viewpoints and then cover up one eye and use their table to see how the horizon edge is behind a toy figure instead of beneath it. The idea of near and far also shows students how drawing small makes things look like they are farther away. It’s a great lesson of artistic discovery, and most kids are very proud of the work they do.


Week 32: Robots & Skeletons

Students will learn about the skeletal system and how it affects the way an artist draws people. There is also a fun robot project using pipe cleaners and foil that helps them understand the proportions of the human figure.




Week 33: Layered Landscape
Students will use lots of layers of colored papers to create a wonderful landscape. Circles can be stacked for colorful clouds and hills.


Week 33: Mid-Tone Still Life
Students create a still life painting using an acrylic technique that begins with a mid-tone of a warm neutral color. Then they will paint the dark shadows throughout, before finishing with the light areas. It’s a fast and easy method that yields awesome results!




Week 34: Freaky Flowers

In this lesson we’ll do several things backwards! Students begin by making their paper gray with charcoal, and then “drawing” light lines using a kneaded eraser. After a fun table-poster, they will draw flowers in pencil, and then use oil pastels – to do the background and leave the flowers white. Finally they’ll finish in the flowers too.


Week 34: Finish & Color
Grades 3-5 have color games and project finishing time. Early finishers enjoy Artists’ Choice.
Grades 6-12 has everyone working to finish their mid-tone still life painting, and then if there is time, move into the last color journal of the year – neutrals. Some students will be finished with the journal before class is over, so there is also an exercise for early finishers.

KidsART is for grades 1 & 2

Foundations has two versions: grades 3 – 5 and grades 6 – 12

Working to make the art classroom more rewarding for teachers and their students.

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