Monday, January 31, 2011

Using Color Cells - In the style of Chuck Close

I was thinking about creating some good projects to teach VALUE....Value is the lightness or darkness of a color.

For most paintings it is usually the one element that can make or break a composition....shadows and highlights are on this value scale.

If you have a painting that just isn't working you might want to test for can do this by making a Value finder as I describe here or taking a black and white photo of your painting to show your values.

In the art world Chuck Close is an contemporary American painter famous for his large black and white paintings of faces....he often uses a color cell technique or color grid.  I find his more abstract work extremely compelling......and this is a good place to start with young kids.(grades 1-3)

For older students you can use the color grid technique and produce more recognizable portraits.

In this project we are limiting our palette and just focusing on value.  You can focus on a single color or just a warm or cool color combination.


- watercolor paper, heavy sketch paper
- ruler
- pencil
- scissors
- disk tempera, liquid tempera, or acrylic
- paintbrush

First off you want to make a I'm making 2x2 inch squares ( just like the inchies in the last post).

Now you don't have to stick with a standard size of can trim off sections to make it more could even combine it with a geometry lesson.

Save the squares you cut off for your next "inchie" project.

Start painting your color cells.  When using watercolor you need to work from light to dark.  With acrylic you work from dark to light.

You just want the kids to place more than one value in each square, 3 would be terrific!

You also want variety in the patterns they make with the color.

A good way to keep momentum going in this project is to keep turning your paper....this helps you from being too symmetrical and can shake up your patterns a bit.

That's it...give color cells a try and we'll try a portrait next time.


  1. I LOVE this!! With such short art periods I am always looking for projects that can broken into small pieces (that combine to make a whole.)

  2. you could use this method as inspiration for quilt designing as well. Thanks for the link to Chuck Close, I'd never heard of him. His work is so interesting!

  3. WONDERFUL!!! Very nice! Thanks for sharing, I'm adding it onto my livebinder

  4. I love Chuck Close, but have never felt I could do a project based on his style with elementary kids until I saw this one. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. same here, I will try it soon, thanks!

  5. ooohhhh.... what a fun idea. Thank you for sharing it. I teach with VSA in Florida and am always on the hunt for art projects I can use in the detention facilites that are no fail projects- and work for middle/ high school boys. I know this would be great!

  6. I love the way these look. It also forces kids to consider each edge of their block-shapes. They need to develop ways to use their values and designs to be successful contrasting their spaces.

  7. Muy buena las técnicas que aplica en sus aulas,yo también soy profesor de arte plástica y muchas de sus técnicas observadas yo también las aplico con mis alumnos, dándome grandes satisfacciones.

  8. I teach kids art at a local art gallery. Your site is very good! Love the instructions, quality of your art, and great, helpful pictures! All the best and thanks!