color syllabus

Jamie Bollenbach/ Introduction to Color Syllabus 

Jamie Bollenbach   Studio Location 1148 NW Leary, #22 

Highline email:

Highline  Community College.  Art 105

Office Hours and location Bldg 16-room 170 OR Building 16 Faculty Offices

 12:30 -1:15 PM  T-TH,  6:30-7:15 PM MW

If you would like to schedule an office hours appointment, please email me, or sign up during class.



For untold millennia, artists have used color to represent the world as it is seen, and as a powerful form of symbolic expression.   Our emotional, intellectual and spiritual associations with different colors, and with the artistic use of colors, can profoundly move us, change our mood, or create a particular emotional state.

This course will give students an essential foundation for the effective uses of color in the creation of visual artworks and designs.  The principles involved apply to everything from traditional painting to computer graphics to industrial design to culinary presentation, and will give students a good working knowledge of how to employ color in many types of expression.



The course will cover these color principles and vocabulary through lecture and studio assignments, as well as other related topics.   I encourage you to spend some time with the works of artists through history, looking at how they used these principles in their own artwork.

Color Wheel

Value (Black to White scale- the range of grays)

Intensity or Saturation (the scale between neutral gray and the most intense color)

Hue (Commonly “color.”  The actual place of the color in the color spectrum – or along the color wheel – yellow, red, blue, etc.)


Atmospheric Perspective

Additive and Subtractive Color

Complements; Split Complements and Triads


Achromatic and Chromatic Color

Long and Short Colors

Simultaneous Contrast

Color Temperature



As a studio class, the class-work is focused on design experiments using essential principles of color use, and the homework is a direct extension of your in-class experiments. Generally, you are expected to produce color experiments and artworks with consistent effort and creativity. 

The most successful students in studio art classes start with the class assignments and go beyond them on their own initiative: trying their own ideas out, experimenting, working hard to understand the principles in new contexts.  Creativity comes to people who do not give up, who learn to thrive on challenges and uncertainty.  

Attendance in class is essential to success, because of the working time it takes to build these skills through direct experience.   

Extra help is available- you can set up an appointment during office hours for more detailed guidance, or feel free to come and talk with me anytime.  


Note: ESL students

Please let me know if you need any help to understand a topic we cover in class.  I am very happy to go over the class material with you.



Be certain to come to class with necessary art materials.  The costs for the materials in this class are  much less than the costs of textbooks for most classes.  Most or all of these items are available in the campus bookstore.



- Small set of acrylic, tempera or watercolor paints and brush.

- Wet media paper pad. ( A paper pad suitable for paint – Bristol Board pads work well.)

- A selection of color magazines for cutting.

- Digital or disposable traditional camera and access to creating hard copies of images.

- Disposable X-Acto style knife (any paper cutting knife with a single sharp point and replaceable blades. ).



24” Ruler

Access to Photoshop, GIMP, or other related basic computer graphics applications (depending on familiarity.)

Masking or Blue Masking Tape

Large Drawing Board with clips (At least 18” by 24”)

Small Sketch Book of your choice, for studies.

Pencil sharpener (tip: make it a good one)





Section 1

Introductory Discussion and Topics:  BASIC ATTRIBUTES OF COLOR:  Value. Hue. Intensity

Studio Assignments

A.      Introduction  

B.      Color Matching Experiments

C.   Color Conversions to Value

D.   Color Chart by Value and Intensity

Out of Class Assignment (s)  Photographic Studies. Value studies.  


Section 2


Studio Assignments-

A.     Using related colors, complements and split complements.

B.     Simultaneous Contrast Experiments.

C.   Warm and Cool Colors.  Complex neutrals and darks.

Out of Class Assignment: Master Copy In Full Color.  


Section 3


Studio Assignments-

A.  Word/Color Associations

            B.  Mood/Color Associations

C.  Creating Specific Mood Effects - Experiments.

D.  Poetic Expression in Color

Out of Class Assignment (s):   Concept and Color associations.

         Experiments with expressive content.  


Section 4:


Studio Assignments-

A.   Atmospheric Perspective. 

B.    Spatial Experiments.

C.    Color Temperature in Observed Light

Out of Class Assignment (s):   Personal Project for Mid-Term


Section  5.


A.   Natural Systems. 

B.   Studying Existing Systems

C.    Use of Neutrals.

D.   Invention of Color Organization

MID-TERM CRITIQUE.  Special notes:   This will be a review of all your drawings done in the class, and all your at-home artworks. Keep every artwork, either from in-class work or homework, of at least 5 minutes duration..  You will be expected to describe your own work in some detail, and contribute to the review of other students work. Be specific in your criticism  - all work has some merit, all but the most accomplished work can be improved. 

Out of Class Assignment (s)  2nd Copy of a Masterwork; Original and Transformative.


Section 6.


Studio Assignment-

A.      Color Use, Effect in Compositions.

            B.  Using a Hierarchy of Color

            C.   Seattle Art Museum Visit.

Out of Class Assignment (s)  3-6 hours.  TBA


Section 7.


Studio Assignment-

            A. In-CLASS experiments for the final project.

            B.  Advanced analysis of color use in existing artwork.

Out of Class Assignment (s) FINAL Project. Set aside at least 8 clear hours at home over the last two weeks to do preparatory work and create your final project.  




FINAL CRITIQUE.  We will hold two separate sessions.  Special notes:   This will be a review of your FINAL PROJECT, all your artwork done in the class, and all your at-home artwork. Keep every artwork and study you produce of at least 5 minutes duration.. You are also free to include any other personal artworks you have done during this quarter. You will be expected to describe your own work in some detail, and contribute to the review of other students’ work. Be specific in your criticism  - all work has some merit, all but the most accomplished work can be improved. 




Grading in a studio art class is necessarily subjective, but there are common principles behind any successful creative process.  The grading system used is a traditional system common to the fine arts. There will be extensive informal verbal feedback from the instructor and fellow students towards the homework and studio work in group critique sessions , which will normally occur weekly;  you will usually get a good sense of how you are doing.

The instructor will assign decimal grades based on two formal review sessions, the mid-term and final critiques, which are equivalent to major exams.  All of your work during the quarter will be critiqued at that time.  The Mid-term counts for 30% of your grade.  The Final critique at the end of the class will be a review of all of your work during the whole quarter, will include your Final Project, and will constitute 70% of your grade.


Specific grading criteria include: 

1.                          Mastery of artistic concepts.  (Your understanding of value,  proportion, and other technical elements of drawing.)

2.                          Overall quality of work. (This is the most subjective quality-)

3.                          Overall quantity of work.  (Students who spend more time and produce more drawings invariably improve the most. )

4.                          Willingness to Experiment.  (Your willingness to go beyond the assignments and explore new artistic problems and questions on your own – a critical part of creativity.)

5.                          Degree of Progress (Your improvement from the beginning.) 20%


Please note that regular attendance is a practical necessity to perform well in the class – known as “experiential” classes, studio arts require extensive time spent in the class working on specific art problems.  Because of the missed working time in building your skills, missing more than 5 classes will substantially reduce the quality of your work, and your grade will be affected.

Cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are unacceptable at Highline Community College and are subject to disciplinary action. 


The COOKIE Rule.   If your cell phone, laptop, or other electronic gizmo beeps, blinks or plays the Star-Spangled Banner during the class, you are asked to restore your honor with the class by bringing cookies for everyone next time.


SUGGESTED Books for Further Reading:


1. Nita Leland, Exploring Color.  Good introductory guide to practical color use. ISBN-10: 0891348468

2.  Johannes Itten, The Elements of Color   Excellent basic introduction to more serious color theory. ISBN-10: 0471289299

3. John Gage, Color and Meaning: Art, Science and Symbolism  A historical interpretation of color theory.   ISBN-10: 0520226119

4. Josef Albers, The Interaction of Color (Revised)  Gold standard, ambitious reference book for serious painters and designers.          ISBN: 0300018460

5. Johann Goethe : Theory of Colors  Influential 19th Work by the German Romantic Poet.   ISBN-10: 0262570211




Basic Color Theory:


More Advanced Color Theory:


Artists:  Mark Rothko, Olafur Eliasson, Roy Lichtenstein, Hans Hoffman,


Welcome, and I look forward to working with you throughout  the quarter.  Please feel free to email me or ask me questions.


Jamie Bollenbach

 Studio Location 1148 NW Leary, #22


Office Hours and location Bldg 16-room 170 OR Building 16 Faculty Offices



Useful Links:


Jamie Bollenbach 

Main Website


Art History Resources


Seattle Art Museum

Frye Art Museum


University of Washington School of Art


UW Student Opportunities Bulletin Board




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