Happy Accidents with Watercolors

Grades 3-4

Art 207-04, Group 5

Amber Luther, Jennifer Newbert, Amy Tanti, Amber Spradling





1.      Students will learn the basic characteristics of painting with watercolors.

2.      Students will learn basic color theory using the color wheel and will be able to identify primary and secondary colors.

3.      Students will learn how to mix colors to create new colors.

4.      Students will learn how to improvise and incorporate the unexpected into their artwork.

5.      Students will learn about warm and cool colors and the emotions associated with them.

6.      Students will learn to let go of concerns about making mistakes and will build confidence in their own creativity and artistic ability.


Student Materials:


1.      Watercolor paper                                             4.  Water and containers                                  

2.      Watercolor paints, assorted colors                    5.   Black markers

3.      Paint brushes                                                    6.   Newspaper


Teachers Materials:


1.      Transparency of color wheel

2.      Artwork of previous students




Color Wheel, Color Theory, warm colors, cool colors, primary colors, secondary colors, transparent, opaque




1.      Introduction: Discuss color theory. Introduce examples from group members. Discuss the idea that art is a process and sometimes what we think are mistakes can be changed into ghappy accidentsh.

2.      Cover the desks with newspaper and pass out the materials.

3.      Encourage students to use what they know about color theory to mix colors.

4.      Experiment by blending the paint and allowing it to run on the paper.

5.      Pick up the paper and move it around so that the paint runs in every direction.

6.      After the entire surface of the paper is covered in paint, pick out shapes and patterns that you see.

7.      When the paint is dry, use the marker to enhance the shapes that you see in your painting.

8.      Closure: Hang up the studentsf artwork and discuss the images and shapes that they found in their paintings.


Artistic Development of 3rd and 4th graders:


According to Lowenfeld, children in third and forth grade are leaving the schematic stage and beginning to use art to represent reality. They are transitioning from drawing symbolic pictures to creating more realistic artwork. Human figures are less exaggerated and more attention is given to the details of the clothing and hair. They want to draw realistic figures that have correct proportions. They are also experimenting with drawing figures in action and using different techniques such as overlapping, shading and perspective. Teachers can help to foster this development by giving students opportunities to draw from direct observations of plants, animals, and people. Students in this stage are becoming more concerned with using colors to represent real-life objects. They can also use color to represent emotions and feelings. At this age, students learn about color theory and mixing colors. They may be very critical of their own artwork and they may be apprehensive about making mistakes. We hope that this lesson will encourage students to be creative and help them to understand that not all mistakes are bad.


Characteristics of Painting With Watercolors


Watercolor painting refers to pigments ground in gum and applied with brush and water to a painting surface, usually paper. The term is also given to a work done in this medium. These pigments are ordinarily transparent but can be made opaque by mixing them with whiting. However, transparent watercolor like we will use today is known for having fresh and luminescent qualities. Its transparency is truly what sets it apart from all other heavy painting mediums. An oil painter creates his design by painting one opaque color over another and building as he goes. When he wants white in his design he achieves the effect by adding some opaque white. The water coloristfs approach is quite the opposite. In essence, instead of building up he leaves out. The white in his design comes from the white of the paper and his darkest colors are achieved by using less water. The more water that is added allows the paper to affect the colors more. Red can be made pink if enough water is added.  Because of its unpredictability, watercolor painting is uniquely challenging. An accomplished watercolorist learns to take advantage of the unexpected results of this medium. As practiced by most of its greatest masters, spontaneity is everything. With experience the artist learns to improvise effectively. It is these very qualities of watercolor painting that seem to incorporate the fleeting thoughts of the artist in his design.




When doing this project, make sure that the paint is very wet so that the colors blend nicely.


Peer Criticism/Suggestions:


·        Teachers might want to encourage their students to try to find or embellish on any patterns they may see in their watercolor painting if there arenft any shapes or animals that immediately jump out at them.

·        When discussing the techniques of watercolor painting with the students, teachers should note that this lesson covers the gwet on weth technique and also give a brief overview of the gdry on dryh technique as well so that the children gain an overall better understanding of working with watercolor.


The general feelings from our peers or classmates were that this was a fun lesson plan that fostered a lot of creativity and that would enhance the studentfs understanding of color through the visual stimulation achieved by blending many colors together at a time.




Idea for lesson plan:  http://kinderart.com/painting/happy.shtml


Summary of Artistic Development:  Herberholz, Barbra & Donald Artworks for Elementary Teachers. 2002, 9th ed.

     Toku, Masami. Guidelines for Case Study Research, 2003.


Overview of Characteristics of Watercolor painting:  Excerpted from:  Springfield Art Museum