This past year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the calligraphy club at a local middle school, and it’s kept me thinking about how to make calligraphy accessible for younger generations. Further, many of our customers often inquire about products that would be suitable for their kids or grandchildren, so I’ve started looking for products that would fit those requests. One that I was excited to find at this year’s International Art Materials Convention was The Wonderful Colorful Wheel of Color by Lynn Koolish, Kerry Graham, and Mary Wruck. As evidenced by the title, this book doesn’t address calligraphy, but it’s an excellent resource for helping children of all ages understand how to mix colors. Since an understanding of color mixing is not only advantageous, but also pretty necessary in the art of calligraphy, this book is a great way to build that foundation. Even for children not quite old enough to tackle the lettering itself, this book provides stellar activities. I decided to test one of the simplest activities with my daughter’s play group (who are all four and five) to see how well they could grasp the contents and how easy it would be for them perform. It turned out to be my favorite activity I’ve tried with them so far!
First, I created a kit for each child. I copied the basic color wheel page from the book onto copy paper, and then I put it on my lightpad and traced it on to a sheet of watercolor paper. I used Sharpies to label each section of the wheel with the first letter of the color(s) it should contain to help make it easier. I also gave each child a Koh-I-Noor watercolor wheel and a size 3 Niji Silverado brush. Finally, I gave each child three crayons-red, blue, and yellow.
First, just to introduce the concept of the color wheel itself and to familiarize the kids with the three colors we’d be using, we started with the photocopied color wheel. The kids used crayons to color each section. It worked somewhat well, but the crayons did not blend well when being used to make the secondary colors. That ended up being okay because it made the switch to watercolor that much more exciting!
Next, we moved to the watercolor wheels and the watercolor paper. To make it as simple as possible, we used just one color at a time. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, and I probably should have started with yellow so that they could easily see the Ys for yellow when painting. However, we boldly began the painting section with red, painting 1/3 of the middle and the two outer sections with red. Next, we added yellow to all of the sections that would need it.
The kids were so excited to see the orange appear when they painted the yellow over the red. It was like magic for their young minds! They are so accustomed to using colors that are already mixed that the idea of creating colors was really thrilling for them. Finally, we added the blue.
Even a few moms wanted to join in and create their own wheels, and it was fun to see how much the adults and kids enjoyed working together on this activity. The learning really came to life for the kids because it was so hands-on. The moms enjoyed revisiting the lessons of simple color mixing.
With summer here, this is a great way to spend an afternoon with the children in your life. As you can see, even those who aren’t old enough to begin learning calligraphic hands can enjoy learning a principle that can be applied to calligraphy when they are older. Further, they can apply it to their art work even now!