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Color Theory with Impressionists Course Review by Rheea Hermoso-Prudente

Marissa Raimonde
Yellow Spot: Sun

Color Theory with the Impressionists by Yellow Spot: Sun is a self-paced online art course that combines art history, art appreciation, and art techniques. While self-paced, the lessons are laid out, so you can cover the entire course in four weeks, doing a short lesson daily. Each week tackles one impressionist painter: Georges Seurat, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh.

Each week’s lessons follow the same pattern. On the first day, a concept is introduced via a video, and then the students (I say ‘students’ because while this course is for elementary and middle grade kids, adults like myself can learn a lot) do a practical sketchbook exercise that drives home the concept. Day 2 is devoted to a critique of the featured artist’s work, and a quick read about his life. There is also another sketchbook exercise. Day 3 focuses on an art technique, and a sketchbook exercise to practice the technique. Day 4 is a bigger project using the technique learned the previous day. Finally, Day 5 is the final project of the week—creating art in the style of the impressionists.   

As you go through the lessons, items are checked off the lesson plan. Your progress is recorded and displayed on your dashboard—as a percentage of the entire course, and as an actual count of the tasks accomplished versus the total number of tasks. You will need to click the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of the lesson window so that your progress can be recorded.

Altogether, there are 16 videos for the entire course, as well as 20 sketchbook exercises, and four major painting projects in the style of the impressionists. The color theory concept tackled in the course are: the color wheel, and primary and secondary colors; tints and shades; warm and cool colors; and complimentary colors. The practical techniques taught are: stippling, shading, blending and cross-hatching.

Before you start the course, you’ll need to go through the introduction segment. I wouldn’t recommend skipping this part because this is where you will find the list of all the art supplies that you will need for the course, plus a helpful video on how to gather and organize your supplies.  You can also find and download the Color Theory Notebook that you will use throughout the entire course. All the sketchbook exercises are in this notebook, as well as the artists’ bios, a sampling of their artworks for critique, and other useful facts about impressionism and art techniques.

A note about the notebook. I had a copy printed and spiral-bound for each of my girls at our local print shop. In hindsight, I should have asked for thicker, better quality paper instead of the cheapest option. The artists’ featured paintings will look better, and since all the sketchbook exercises are done in it, higher quality paper will make the exercises more enjoyable (not to mention better looking). I also should have gone with Marissa’s recommendation to print certain pages on card stock because you’d be using paint on them. I think that these for-paint pages should not only be printed on cardstock, but also not be included in the binding. It will be impossible to close the notebook and put it away without waiting for the paint to dry first. We obviously learned this the hard way. Of course, you could always opt to print your selected sketchbook pages and view the rest of the lessons online. Just make sure to save yourself the heartache and print on sturdy cardstock.

Another helpful video found in the Introduction is one that gives pointers on how to critique artwork properly. This is particularly useful for those who have never done an art appreciation class before (or those who never listened in class). Finally, the video entitled “Beautiful Oops” encourages students to not be afraid of making mistakes or being perfect. Marissa emphasizes that our goal shouldn’t be perfection but the process of creating art. 

Personally, I loved this course. I like how it combines a bit of art history, appreciation and techniques in the lessons; it saves me the trouble of piecing together the lessons myself. I also like how Marissa presents the lessons. She speaks clearly, her spiel is simple enough without talking down to the kids, and she is very encouraging. The videos are quite clear and in focus, although the background music can sometimes be distracting. 

The Color Theory Notebook was wonderful, although I wish it had more substantial info on the artists, and that there could be a summary of the lessons written down, so we don’t have to watch the video over and over in case we missed something. Still, it has more than 40 pages, and makes for a great portfolio when the kids finish all the projects.

My kids, ages 11 and 7, were able to do the course on their own, after I ran through a couple of lessons with them. I was quite pleased with their projects (this course uses acrylic paint for the four major impressionist-inspired projects), and so were they.  I did allow them to deviate from the major projects that were taught in the lessons. For example, they did not want to paint umbrellas for the shading project during Renoir week; the thought of umbrellas did not excite them at all. They asked if they could do their own paintings inspired by Renoir’s paintings. That would involve a bit more research on their end, and a bit more exposure to Renoir’s work, so I figured it would be win-win. In the end, one of them chose “Two Sisters” and the other “The Skiff,” so it turned out well.

I tried to do the lessons daily, so we could finish the course in the prescribed four weeks, but we really couldn’t fit in Art daily. So we doubled or tripled the lessons in a day, and took about two weeks for each artist. The course was still OK done this way.

There are several more courses available on Yellow Spot: Sun, individually sold, or in a bundle. She also offers free lessons on the website. Overall, we liked course, and it would be wonderful to do more.

-Product review by Rheea Hermoso-Prudente, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2018