Paper with red and blue paint lays on top of a newspaper. A brush is laid across the paper.

Create a complementary colors suncatcher inspired by Pat Steir: Color Wheel.

[time] 30–40 minutes
[skill level] beginner
[topic] complementary colors

Pat Steir Color Wheel at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2018–19 Oil on canvas 30 paintings, each 108 × 84 inches Photo: Lee Stalsworth. Courtesy of Pat Steir and Lévy Gorvy
Color Wheel is a series of 30 paintings created by artist Pat Steir just for the Hirshhorn Museum. Inspired by the Museum’s round shape, the artist created a series of paintings that make an immersive color wheel. Museum visitors must journey all the way around to experience all the colors.

Goethe's colour wheel

Goethe’s famous colour wheel, created in 1809, was used to illustrate the chapter “Allegorical, symbolic, and mystical use of colour” in his seminal work Farbenlehre (1810) {{PD-US}}

Take a look at a color wheel. Find the colors on opposite sides (for example, red and green). These are complementary colors. Steir uses complementary colors to create each painting: One color covers the entire surface and the other creates a gesture that drips down the canvas.

Watch the artist at work.
What do you see?


Craft materials. paper, crayons, newspaper, a small amount of oil, and a brush.

  1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need paper, crayons, newspaper, a small amount of oil, and a brush for this project.
  2. Choose your colors: Work in complementary colors like Pat Steir or choose colors you like.
  3. Create your composition. You can mimic Pat Steir’s paintings, or work in your own style.

Coloring suncatcher with brush

  1. Work in layers. Layer the paper to create variations in the color. Experiment with using different amounts of pressure to create lighter or darker marks.
  2. Gently apply the oil. Put some newspaper down, and then brush a thin layer of oil over your creation.
  3. Blot dry, then hang on a window. Let the sun shine through in complementary colors!

Hand holding up a crafted suncatcher