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Playing with Color


A new family tour is on the cutting edge of an old-fashioned approach to art: looking closely.

Explore Modern Art: CoColor for Families is designed for parents and kids to experience the city’s art and culture together. In that way, it’s like the other best-selling Paris Muse family tours. But the similarities stop there, because this innovative program uses a unique educational method called CoColor, the brainchild of Paris-based artist Rosy Lamb. And Rosy’s new tour takes place in a modern art museum, beloved by Parisians, but not on the usual tourist circuit.

Rosy’s goal with CoColor is to inspire people— of any age and skill level—to enjoy a more intuitive experience of color.  As it turns out, playing with color can be a ton of fun when you’re not relying on all those old theories we were taught in schools.

Artist and CoColor creator Rosy Lamb in her Paris studio

We felt that way on a recent visit to Rosy’s studio in the Paris neighborhood of Montparnasse. Her bright and airy loft shimmers with all kinds of brilliant color, from the sun’s reflections to the vivid palettes in her stunning paintings and sculptures. When Rosy talks about her experiences as a working artist mixing pigments for her art over the years, you get a sense of her passion as an educator, too. This, and her playful sense of discovery, is what inspired Rosy to create a new kind of artist-led activity-based tour, so that even visitors with little to no art-making experience can feel engaged by what artists do everyday. 

Rosy shows us a very simple starter activity that kids on her tour—even as young as 6 years old—can do easily. Using just three pencils and a piece of paper, we’re amazed to see how many color combinations we can make by mixing small patches of pencil lines. Green, after all, is not just green; there’s an infinite variety to the hue. Push a little harder down on the pencil, as Rosy suggests, and the vivid green color we’ve created becomes even more saturated. 

Color mixing at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM Paris)


“People tend to see colors as separate things—some we like and others we don’t—rather than as a spectrum of related hues that come together to make up everything we see,” Rosy tells us. Her teaching is grounded in the idea that seeing and creating those many colors are natural abilities we all have. Yet so many of us spend a majority of our time on screens, that we seem to be losing the sense of pleasure that comes from observing the play of colors in the “real” world around us. 

The activities Rosy has designed are perfect for the city’s Museum of Modern Art (also known as the MAM Paris) since its galleries are filled with art by some of the greatest colorists of the 20th century. Families and their artist-guide begin CoColor with perhaps the most famous of those artists: Henri Matisse. MAM has a serene space where two of the first versions of a mural Matisse painted in the 1930s are installed. (The final version of The Dance hangs at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia). Kids and their parents start their 2-hour visit to MAM Paris here, looking closely at all the color choices Matisse made, and remade, as he changed his mind from the first to second version of the painted mural.  

Moving with the Matisse dancers at the MAM Paris

Are kids really ready to look that deeply at Matisse’s colors, we wonder? This was an artist, after all, who famously waxed poetic about a “certain blue” entering your soul, or a “certain red” having an effect on blood pressure. Rosy assures us that her kid visitors are more than just keeping up: “Recently, I had two 9-year-old twins on a tour, and they were instantly captivated by the Matisse murals. They pointed out how the dancers’ bodies in the two murals looked different because of the colors of the backgrounds around them, even though all the bodies were a similar gray.” These kids didn’t have any unique special training in art. They were just trusting their eyes, and happily sharing what they saw. Her tour is also about building kids’ confidence through cooperation, by inviting families to use the skills they’ve just learned in one activity to approach the next one together. [Some examples of kids’ creations made during those activities are here].

Playing color games with modern masters: Robert Delaunay, Rhythm No. 1, 1938

It’s an old cliché that a goal for modern artists, including Matisse, was to rekindle the joy they felt in childhood, when we all tend to see the world with fresher eyes.  It’s not an accident that when these painters exhibited their new work publicly, it was often met with ridicule, a variation of the “my kid could do that!” complaint about modern or abstract art. “CoColor helps me to reconnect with my inner child,” Rosy tells us, “and it’s incredibly rewarding seeing parents and their kids reconnect with each other, as we do these museum activities together.”  Visiting museums, after all, shouldn’t be a solemn duty we do as reverent tourists.  It can be a place where we’re reminded of some of life’s most basic pleasures. We just need to slow down a bit to “listen” to what our eyes can see.

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