Exploring Colour: Blue

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In 1957 Minimalist artist Yves Klein held an exhibition of paintings with one thing in common. All the paintings were canvases the same colour of blue. The blue paint used was very carefully mixed to a very particular hue of blue. Klein patented the recipe, and gave it a name: International Klein Blue. Klein wanted his audience to have a unique viewing experience. The process reveals something about colour and how it bought and sold.

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The colour was based on a shade of Ultramarine. In the middle ages the only way to make this intense pigment was using the mineral Lapis Lazuli that could only be mined at the time in Afganistan. The rarity of the mineral meant that ultramarine was extremely expensive. In European Renaissance paintings, it was often reserved for the clothing of central figures, particularly the Virgin Mary, as can be seen in this painting by Titian.

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Task 1

You will need:newspapers or magazines, glue, scissors

Make a mosaic collage of cuttings of blue printed matter. Be on the look out for them and start a collection. you could use different tones of blue to bring out different shapes in your mosaic.

Task 2

You will need:pencils, paper, blue objects for still life, a strong light source

Produce a still life that is made of objects that are blue. This is designed to force you to choose unusual objects. Choose a strong light source to light your scene. If you choose to use color, think how you will mix the different hues and shades of blue in your scene.


The process of underglaze blue transfer printing onto porcelain was introduced by the Spode Ceramics works and lead to the increase in popularity of English ceramics in the 18th Century. A number of designs were based on Chinese porcelain that was popular in France and England. One plate design the ‘Willow’ was based on a Japanese fairytale known as the the green willow.

Task 3

You will need:pencils, paper

Draw a design for a Spode plate. Like the original Spode pattern, us your design to tell a story. Think how you could use different parts of the picture to tell different parts of your story.

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John Constable was a painter who drew strongly on the natural landscape as the subject of his paintings. The sky was very important to Constable as a way to set the mood and drawing. Constable drew on accurate meteorological science to inform his drawings of clouds. Painting on the spot was very important. He said “no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other.”

Task 4

You will need:pencils, paper, colours if you have them

Wait for a clear sky day. Choose a viewpoint and draw the sky scape you see. It can be a view out of a window or a view you see whilst in a garden or park. Come back to the same view point on a different day and draw again. Repeat until you have a series. What is different? (for example cloud formations, birds, planes) what stays the same? (for example buildings, trees, window frames)