February 22, 2018
by Beth Lemon

Lesson plan

Watercolor Wave

Download lesson plan

Students will:

  • Use the watercolor resist technique.
  • Apply shape and scale to a seascape.

This art lesson corresponds to California Visual and Performing Arts Standards:

  • 1.3 Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, the environment, and works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, texture, and space.
  • 2.2 Demonstrate beginning skill in the use of art media, such as oil pastels, watercolors, and tempera.
  • 2.3 Depict the illusion of depth (space) in a work of art, using overlapping shapes, relative size, and placement within the picture.
(5 minutes)
  • Tell students that today we will make an art project inspired by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.
  • Show students "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" on the document camera. Explain that this was Hokusai's most famous print.
  • With "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" still projected, ask students to use their fingers to trace the lines of the wave in the air. Then have them air trace the lines of Mount Fuji in the background.
  • Ask students why Mount Fuji appears small in relation to the wave. Ask students if the angle of the boats suggests a feeling.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that although Hokusai created his art using the woodcut technique, we will be doing a watercolor resist painting inspired by "The Great Wave off Kanagawa".
  • Place your watercolor paper under the document camera.
  • With the white crayon, draw a large, simple wave on the left side of your paper, similar to Hokusai's. Add the outline of boats and Mount Fuji. Add foam on the waves by coloring the tips of the wave all the way in.
  • Show the students they can see the white-on-white crayon by moving the paper in the light or tracing the wax with their finger.
  • Explain that their work does not have to look exactly like Hokusai, but there should be a wave, boats, and a mountain to capture the feeling and scale.
  • Ask students what they think will happen when paint is applied over the crayon. Explain that the wax of the crayon will resist the paint. This is why we use the term watercolor resist.
  • Begin applying paint to show students the watercolor resist technique.
  • Ask students when they might use the big brush instead of the small brush.
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out watercolor paper. Ask students to write their names on the back or bottom corner of the page.
  • Place "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" back on the document camera for students to observe.
  • Draw a wave on your second sheet of paper, narrating your choices. Make your second wave somewhat different than your first to allow for more student creativity.
  • Walk around the room, allowing students to see your crayon drawing up close.
(20 minutes)
  • Instruct students to begin drawing their waves.
  • Walk around the room to observe student work.
  • As students finish the crayon drawing, instruct them to begin painting.

Support: Allow students who are struggling with the drawing to use a light blue or gray crayon.

Enrichment: Encourage adding details within the boat, wave, and Mount Fuji.

  • This lesson can be completed without the use of technology. However, technology—such as a document camera—can be useful in showing Hokusai's artwork and demonstrating the watercolor resist technique.
(5 minutes)
  • Review student work as you walk around the room: Did students use the watercolor resist technique? Did students use scale to make Mount Fuji small in the background?
(10 minutes)
  • Have students perform a gallery walk to view each others' art. Ask students to place their work on their desks and stand up. Instruct students to walk in one direction, slowly, around the room. Instruct students not to talk during this time.
  • Come back together as a class. Ask students for interesting details, shapes, and color choices they saw on the gallery walk.

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