Lesson #5: Adding color to create balance, dominance, and unity

Part of the unit: Creating a Standing Mobile |


How can color be used to create visual balance, dominance, and unity in a standing mobile?
Students will be able to:
Discuss how Calder used color to create balance, dominance, and unity.
Experiment with color by filling in two sketches of their standing mobile.
Students will understand that:
Color is an important element when creating balance, dominance and unity.
Artists make color studies to explore different solutions to artistic challenges.

6x9 drawing paper, pencils, erasers, crayons or colored pencils


Digital projector, laptop computer with internet accress, images of Calder's Little Spider, Myxomatose 1953, and Red Petals, a Joan Miro and Mondrian artwork that features primary colors


Display Calder's Little Spider, Myxomatose 1953, and Red Petals

We've experimented with physically balancing a stabile and a mobile.  When we look at Calder's work, we also become aware of visual balance. 

  • How does Calder use color to create balance in Myxomatose? (he uses one large red shape to balance several smaller black shapes)
  • How did Calder create dominance in this work?  (the large red shape atrracts more attention than the smaller darker shapes)
  • How did he create balance in Little Spider? (the colors of the small shapes on the left balance the large black shape on the right)
  • Why do you think he painted the entire mobile section red in Red Petals? (the red unifies the small shapes and reads as one larger area to balance the large black base)
  • Notice the color Calder uses (black, white, yetllow, red - and sometimes blue). What might have influenced him to use those colors? (Display a work by Joan Miro and Mondrian that use primary colors and explain that he was influenced by the work of these painters)



Explain that Calder's works will be used as inspiration for adding color to our sculptures.  Before painting, we will experiment with using color to create balance, dominance, and unity by coloring a sketch of our sculptures.  Today you will make a small thumbnail sketch of your finished standing mobile and will trace it to make one additional copy.  The teacher should demonstrate how to make a small sketch of a student work and then how to trace it using tracing paper, a light table, a xerox machine, or by taping the sketch to a window and tracing over it.

Students will use 6x9 paper to make a small sketch of their sculpure.  They will then trace it to make one additional copy.

Using crayons or colored pencils, and using only black, white, and the primary colors, students will color their sketches two different ways to experiment with balance, dominance, and unity.

Each student should select his favorite colored sketch and post it at the front of the room or on a large central table for all to see.  The teacher should conduct a critique asking students to select sketches that demonstrate how color was used to achieve:

  • balance
  • dominance
  • unity