Choirs of Colours: 5: Primary Painting, Sculpture, Drawing Class 1 to 7: A Rudolf Steiner Approach: Nine Color Clans: Class 3: Wet-on-Wet
By Alan Whitehead
Copyright Alan Whitehead & Earthschooling: No Part of this book, post, URL, or book excerpt may be shared with anyone who has not paid for these materials.
Additional note by Kristie Burns of Earthschooling:
Alan speaks in a very symbolic manner in some parts of the book. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with the teacher-students of Steiner himself so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception. Not all of his views will be reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. However, as I read through these passages, I am finding I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not apply to me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss.
Note from Kristie: This lesson is intended to provide the teacher with insight and stories for many different paintings for the third grade wet-on-wet painting block. Using this chapter you can teach the students all they need to know about the Nine Color Clans. You will be given a description of an easy painting the children can paint – the first one being a sea with seaweed flowing under it, the second being a human-shaped reddish form with wings, the third being a sunset, and so on. This story can also be used for the fifth grade Ancient Cultures: Persia block, and the paintings can be done again for review or it can just be left as a story.
The view from the Persian mountain-top primary school was impressive, the broken teeth of a great jagged range stretched both ways into the mid-day haze. The valleys far below and away were bleached, their brightness hurt their eyes.
Especially the eyes of a small group of children waiting for the painting class to begin. They had just come from the darkness of the temple across the courtyard. The ‘schoolroom’ was merely a roof suspended upon carved, white, stone pillars – the floor was tiles and cool to the feet. Hemma, the teacher, began.
“Now children you are nine years old, it’s time to learn about the Nine Color Clans!”
“I hate painting!” said Saqezz, a thin dark-haired girl at the back. Hemma ignored her and went on, “In Class 1 we painted with the Primary Colors – In Class 2 we worked with the seven colors of the ‘sun’ spectrum – and now we have nine colors.”
Hemma paused to line the color bottles up in the right order: crimson (violet-red); scarlet (orange-red); orange; gold yellow (orange-yellow); lemon yellow (green-yellow); green; prussian blue (green-blue); ultramarine (violet-blue0; violet – nine! The bottles stared impassively at the children.
“This is our Color Clan – every one of the nine colors have a different personality, and like your own families, some get on with each other better than others. Over the next three weeks we will find out a great deal about the Who’s Who of the Color Clan.”
Ammeh, the second teacher, came into the room, he was similar in appearance to Hemma, and so he should be – they were twins! He carried a large pottery water vessel from which he poured the precious fluid, clear and cool, into the jars on the children’s painting tables. Ammeh prepared the ‘physical’ aspects of the lesson, including providing a constant supply of clean, white, watercolor paper.
“It must be as white as possible,” he insisted, “after all, it is the sun, or Ahura Mazao – the Being behind the sun, who gives all the colors their existence.”
Hemma prepared the lesson content. Ammeh’s colors were ground from the purest substances to provide the greatest possible transparency. The children worked wet-on-wet as they had done since Class 1.
“Can we just use any color?” enquired Zagros, a blue-eyed boy.
“No, not yet, because we are going to discover the Nine Color Families in the Color Clan first – but at the end of three weeks, there will be a few days of painting when you can use any or all of the nine to show what you have learned. Today we are going to paint with the first combination of the nine – two blues and green.” Hemma handed the three bottles of to Ammeh who proceeded to pour them into the children’s jars.
“What do we paint?” asked Kashmar, a dreamy-eyed brown-haired girl.
“Nothing, I hope,” said Saqqez.
“We’ll call this the ‘cool’ family – to paint in blues and the greens is to take a trip beneath the sea. Of course none of you Iranian children have ever seen the sea, but the next best thing is to take a visit via the medium of these cool colors. Imagine you’ve fallen off a boat and you can’t swim – you sink into the blue-green depths of the ocean; you fear you are doomed! But a beautiful Sea Spirit appears and takes you by the hand. Instead of drowning, you are led on a wonderful undersea journey of swaying seaweed, luminous corals, and slow-dancing fish fantasia; before being returned safely to the boat. In your Temple lesson this morning you learned of this wonderful Guardian Spirit, a guide who accompanies you right through life. Now you can paint it – if you need help, your Guardian Angel is quite near – and so are we.”
Kashmar’s sienna eyes grew wide in pleasure as she moved her brush phlegmatically back and forth – an ebb and flow of blues and greens in the serpentine seaweed.
The next day the two red bottles and again green were standing separate from the Clan.
“Now green is very calm or passive, and the two reds of course are active,” said Hemma when Ammeh finished handing out the paper.
“My Mum and Dad are like that!” said Zagros, “Dad is so calm, but Mum gets really excited – especially if there is a <beautiful bird outside our window>. It’s funny, they wear those colors too, but the opposite – Dad likes red cloaks and turbans, and Mum…what do we paint? We learned about the Spirits of Fire in Temple this morning.”
“Exactly,” said Hemma, “you all know that you have fire in your blood – you are Warmth Beings Imagine that your body up and disappears, leaving only this human-shaped warmth substance – a substance you could, by magic, see. Your Fire Spirit would be winged – fire yearns to rise up into heaven.”
“But why green?” asked a puzzled Kashmar.
“Because fire would remain relatively inactive without its opposite, or complementary color, green. And the red gives life to green.”
The children painted happily (except Saqqez) for some time, and then Zagros looked up and said, “The green makes the red redder – and vice versa. Why is that?”
“Opposites always compliment,” said Ammeh mysteriously, “that’s why we call the complementary ‘families’, of which red and green are one , the Yin Yang colors – a term from wise and far away Cathay I understand. We’ll be painting another complementary set tomorrow – blue and orange.”
Hemma stood silently watching the children paint, they were trying to capture the ‘personality’ of the sunset they had seen the previous evening. They had learned earlier in ‘Cosmology’ that the Spirits of Personality invest Man and the world with ‘difference’ – every aspect of nature expresses a unique personality – no two sunsets are the same, and no two paintings of the same sunset are the same. The Achai are very busy members of the Nine Choirs of Angels indeed!
The interplay of the two blue and orange created a kind of spiritual yearning in the souls of children – a vacillation between the profound and the joyful – the soul and the senses.
Today you learned about our greatest god, Ahura Mazdao – the Being Behind the Sun. You have his colors in front of you, the colors of the Spirits of Form – two yellows and violet. These lofty Beings formed your bodies and the very earth you stand upon. Their creative laws are expressed in maximum expansion and contradiction, just as you find in yellow and violet.
So today we paint that great Eloha, Ormuzd, in his struggle against Ahriman, the Lord of Darkness (he was an Elhoa too). In the whole spectrum, yellow and violet express light and dark most powerfully of all – after all, this is the essences of our Persian Civilization.
As they were cleaning up after the lesson, a slim girl with clear hazel eyes separated out from the ‘clan’ bottles, the Family of Light – the two yellows and orange. She moved them around with the facility of a conjurer, deft and sure, and then she turned to Ammeh who was washing out the color jars and said, “I want to paint with these tomorrow.” Then she darted out to play.
And paint with them they did – the paper, already a rectangle of unsullied light, took on the vibrancy only those colors can give. Little Teh, for that was the hazel-eyed child’s name – expressed this with sanguine vivacity.
Earlier the children had practiced their new movement play in the Temple and had invoked the blessings of the Spirits of Motion. Teh shined in this as always with a wonderful capacity for both supple and subtle body expression. And it showed in her painting, she looked up and said, “My Dynamis looks like a golden bird.”
“It does indeed,” answered Hemma walking over, “and what’s wrong with that?” The Spirits of Motion inspire the flight of birds – and the gallop of horses – and even the slow slide of the snail. Bird’s flight is the nearest we can observe in nature to the movement of the gods. It’s a beautiful picture you’ve created, remember, flight is really light with the ‘f’ of initiative tacked on the front of it to get airborne. There will be a different feeling tomorrow when we paint with three secondaries, green, orange, and purple.”
“These colors make me feel peaceful,” said Ammeh to Hemma.
“I’m not surprised,” replied his sister as she helped a child remove a nasty blotch from the wing of the sphinxlike figure, a Being of Harmony Zagros was struggling with.
“These colors are the ‘shadow’ colors, or colors of the soul. Red, blue, and yellow, the three primaries, represent the outer world, which is transformed inwardly through their respective complementary, green, orange, and violet. These secondaries create a feeling of inner quietude. Look, you and I are the noisiest people in the class, the children are at peace with these colors, let’s enjoy it.
This enjoyment was short-lived, because the next day the class was painting with the ‘power’ colors themselves – two reds and orange. The Fire Family.
“Hooray!” yelled Zebedee, “At least my favorite colors – what do we paint? Let’s go!” His face gleamed with choleric enthusiasm.
“We paint the Wheels of Fire,” said Hemma firmly.
“Like the Thrones we learned about in the temple? The beings who help us establish our great Persian civilization?”
“Yes, those are the ones,” confirmed Ammeh, “The Spirits of Will are perceived as great wheels of spinning fire. Every red blood corpuscle in our bodies, with its life-sustaining energy, is a microcosm of this principle.”
The harmony of the previous day stood in stark contrast to the energy in the ether as the children experienced the raw power of the Will colors. So different from the middle scale they were to paint the next day.
Hemma had carefully placed the ‘mid-scale’ Color Family of blue, green and yellow before the children. The air tingled with an anxiety no-one could explain. Even Saqqez was silently alert.
“These colors represent the Cosmos of Wisdom, they express the remarkable intelligence bestowed upon all nature. The dominant colors of which are these – sky and sea are blue; the plant’s blanket of plant life is green – and the radiant Ahura Mazdao blesses all with yellow light.”
We have this wonderful planetary home, spinning in space by virtue of the unrelenting activity of the Spirits of Wisdom, the Cherubim. They straddle the heavens on divine quadrant, ordering the four-fold functioning of world and Man.”
The great ceremonial bull, resting in the shade of the courtyard, raised his massive head querulously. He was a living symbol of the Soul Body of Ancient Persia. The air seemed to crackle with expectancy. Hemma stopped speaking to watch; the bull stood up, the children were tense.
The great bovine turned and stared across the courtyard, lowering his head and sweeping the air with his huge, curving horns, each of which could seat four children.
Nobody really saw where the Lion came from, his tawny coat blended so perfectly with the omnipresent dust.
But with an amazingly swift dash for such a large animal, he was upon the bull – wisely attacking from the rear. His stained claws fastened into the, at first terrified bovine – another second and <the bull would fall>.
The lion was a very large male, but he was old – and just a shade too slow – the bull turned his head with unexpected speed, his blue/black horns scything backward and down onto his attacker in an arc of destruction. The lion limped away, terribly wounded, he melted into the harsh rock-scape – vultures circle high above in anticipation.
“The Cherubim,” continued Hemma turning back to address the class, his manner a study of benignity or Spirits of Wisdom as you were taught in Temple, are represented on earth by the Four Archetypes – and we have just seen three of them. The Winged Bull is a symbol of the metabolic forces of Man; The Winged Lion, the rhythmic system; the raptor the head.
“You said there were four,” said a still highly flushed Zagros.
“The fourth is the Winged Man, or limb being; and that’s what, or who we will paint today. An image of Man in a State of Balance, containing the essence of the other three.”
The children must have been well disciplined indeed to continue painting after such a dramatic event, but life goes on. After she had finished her Winged Archetype, a thing girl with dark eyes walked over to the nine paint bottles standing patiently at attention. She pondered the Color Clan for some time before carefully removing three – red, blue, and violet.
“I would like to paint with this family tomorrow,” said Saqqez.
“And why is that?” asked Ammeh, curiously.
“Because these colors make me feel, well, kind of sad – and happy at the same time.”
“Then we shall – you have selected the ‘dark’ color family – the colors of inner life – melancholy colors really. But in their mystery, they are veils over the gateway to the Spirit. And that gateway has ‘Love’ written above it, and love is the mission of this whole earth incarnation. S/he who enters here, abandon all – hatred.”
The next morning the children’s Temple (or Main) Lesson was on the highest of the cosmological high – the Seraphim, Spirits of Love. They learned of these highest of divinity’s endless struggle to illumine the gloom in the halls of the Lord of Darkness – the cocoon of the earth. They learned to see their fellow travelers in evolution – the animals, worthy of affection and protection – and they had their first lessons in the Love-thy-Neighbor syllabus.
In the afternoon they painted the Hosts of Seraphim, hovering over the frowning mountain tops, ministering to the suffering world below, a ministration in hues of rose, blue, and violet – the light of the Spirit in the darkness of the soul. The highest Beings of the First Hierarchy shone with ineffable splendor, six-winged and majestic – but ultimately accessible to every human denizen on this shrouded planet.
The ‘classroom’ was almost empty, the paintings finished. Well almost finished – one child was still painting; she applied the last tincture of violet to the translucent robes of one of her Spirits of Love. Hemma and Ammeh stood watching her, she carefully washed her brush one last time, then she looked up, her dark gray eyes intense, “I love painting,” said Saqqez.
WOULD YOU LIKE MORE PAINTING LESSONS?
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