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What's Good

Episode 2: WHAT'S GOOD "Contrast"


Visit artist Hebru Branley at the studio to explore the concept of color contrast. The science of color and texture is found everywhere we look. Artists use contrasting colors and textures to make their pieces more visually appealing: rough and smooth, light and dark, thick and thin. Kids can explore contrast as a way to understand their world, so get inspired and create colorful artwork with your kids.


The Science of Color and Contrast


Contrast makes the world a brighter, bolder, richer place.  The science of color and texture is found everywhere we look. Artists use contrasting colors, textures, and materials to make their pieces more visually appealing: rough and smooth, light and dark, thick and thin, 2D and 3D. When contrasting items are placed side by side, the qualities of each item are highlighted. A red autumn leaf looks more vivid against a bright blue sky, and a flashlight makes a greater impression in a dark room. Kids can explore contrast as a way to understand their world.


Talk About It

Our conversations with our kids increase their powers of observation and help them ask and answer questions about the world around them.

At home: Exploring opposites is a simple way to introduce the idea of contrast. Heat contrasts with cold. Light contrasts with dark. How many opposites can you find in your home? Think about movements, locations, temperatures, and textures: inside/outside, hot/cold, up/down, upstairs/downstairs, lift/drop, smooth/rough, clean/dirty, light/dark, high/low, heavy/light, long/short, right/left, soft/hard, wet/dry, old/new.

Around town: Explore color contrast by observing the street signs in your neighborhood, town, or city. What color is a stop sign? What about the words on the sign? What about the background and words of a crosswalk sign, a yield sign, or street name signs? Why do you think people chose these colors for the signs? Why do you think street lights flash red and green instead of, say, blue and grey? Why is color contrast important for safety? What other bright colors – and examples of color contrasts -- can you find in the neighborhood?


Investigate It

Mixing colors: Explore how two different colors can combine to make an entirely new color! On a plate, squirt of red, yellow, and blue paint in different areas. What happens when you mix together red and yellow? Yellow and blue? Blue and red?   What other things can we mix together? What about finger paint, food coloring and water, or play dough? Does play dough mix together the same way paint does? Once you mix colors, can you separate the colors again – can you turn green back into yellow and blue? Why or why not?

Toy sorting: Gather up any stuffed animals or dolls you have in your home and explore different ways of sorting them: by size? by number of legs? by color? by who they belong to? You can do a similar activity with blocks, kitchen utensils, shoes, matchbox cars, or any other collection of items you have on hand. Try looking at them closely and sorting them by texture or the materials they are made. Are they fuzzy? Soft? Hard? Plastic? Wood? Metal? You can also sort items by function (such as kitchen tools or art supplies).

Contrast collages: Using multi-colored construction paper, cut out shapes of contrasting color, shape, and size. Use glue to paste them on paper and make a contrast collage. Do you want your picture to be simple or busy? Do you want to create a realistic object, an imaginative scene, or simply a colorful design?You can take these contrast collages to the next level by adding different types of materials to the mix – such as tin foil, magazine clippings, sandpaper, or pasta noodles.

Nature drawing: Go outside with a notebook and crayons or markers. Find something that has a strong color contrast –  such as a red ladybug with black dots, a tree against a blue sky, red fire hydrant on a grey sidewalk, or a white bird on green grass. Find those colors in your crayon box and draw what you see! You can also create your own nature contrasts: Try placing a leaf on the grass, then on the sidewalk, and then on another surface. Where is the leaf most noticeable?

Day vs. night: What does the sky look like in the day? How does it look different at night? Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.  On one side draw or cut out pictures of things you see in the daytime; on the other side, draw or paste night pictures. Talk about ways that contrast can keep us safe at night: streets signs reflect lights, bikes and cars use lights and reflectors, and people sometimes wear light-colored clothes, lights, or reflective vests to help drivers see them in the dark.

Amazing human diversity: Help children appreciate the similarities and differences among the physical characteristics of their friends and family members, including hair color and texture, eye color and skin color. For example, ask, “What color of eyes do you have? What other eye colors have you noticed?” or “How many different hair colors, lengths, and styles can we think of in our family, friends, classmates, and neighbors?” or “In our family, who is the tallest and who is the shortest?”


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