“Painting A River That Connects Us Through the Seasons”:

A lesson in seeing color in Nature’s seasons, and painting with an analogous color scheme.

-Janimarie Lester DeRose


Painting the Summer Scene

I introduced the lesson by showing the children images of nature in the different seasons, focusing on the different colors present. They pointed out which color was dominant by squinting their eyes to look at the image. I then mixed the color wheel from the primary colors red, yellow, and blue, and we introduced the analogous colors…red/orange, red/purple, yellow/green, yellow/orange, blue/purple, blue/green.

We had nine preschool age children, but you could do this project with as little as four.

When you are ready to paint:

First, make sure to number the back of the canvases and place students names on the back.


Preparing the Canvases

Using Acrylics, paint your “river” connecting all the primed canvases, including wrapping over the edges of the canvas.

Let dry and apply a second coat for durability. (I like to keep the river graphically simple, with only one color to tie all the students work together in a cohesive manner.)

Assign each student a season and analogous color scheme for example:

Canvas one: Winter/ Blue and Purple paint

Canvas two: Spring/ Yellow and Green paint

Canvas Three: Summer/ Red and Purple paint

Canvas Four: Fall/ Orange and Yellow paint

Note: The reason to strictly stick with analogous colors is that many young painters mix the paints so much that they muddy the colors. Using analogous colors prevents the completely brown canvas! It’s also a great new vocab word and way to review the color wheel.


Painting with Analogous Colors

You will need to let all the students canvases dry and then touch up the blue river threading through the canvases.

Display as a complete collaborative piece. I like to have each student sign their canvas where it is visible to the viewer.

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Finished product

Later in the year, you could add collage images of the flora and fauna found in the local watershed. This would help stretch resources as canvases can be pricey!