Underwater Fantasy inspired by Paul Klee

Swiss painter and graphic artist, Paul Klee, is known for his child-like use of line and color.… maybe that’s why kids relate so well to his work!  The influ­ence of Sur­re­al­ism, Expres­sion­ism, and Cubism is eas­ily seen in his art, yet he really had a style all his own.  This project is inspired by his paint­ing, “Fish Magic”, where he com­bines tra­di­tional under­wa­ter imagery with things you wouldn’t expect to see in that set­ting, such as a clock, a vase of flow­ers, and a cubist fig­ure wav­ing hello!


  • 9x12 white con­struc­tion paper
  • black oil pastel
  • Spec­tra “bleed­ing” art tis­sue paper (I used the “bright col­ors” assortment)
  • paint­brush and water
  • news­pa­per to pro­tect your work sur­face, as the color will go right through your paper!

1.  Using a black oil pas­tel, draw an under­wa­ter scene on your paper (no pen­cil first — just go for it!).  Include typ­i­cal under­wa­ter ele­ments like fish, sea­weed and coral.
2.  Now, add some things that you wouldn’t nor­mally find under­wa­ter.… a clock, flow­ers, peo­ple, etc.
3.  Next, lay some squares of “bleed­ing” art tis­sue on your paper, and use a paint brush to apply water over the top of the tis­sue.
4.  Repeat step #3, cov­er­ing as much or as lit­tle of your paper with color as you like.  Use plenty of water so your tis­sue will “bleed”!  (Note that the color will go right through your paper and onto your work sur­face, so be sure to put some news­pa­per under­neath it!)
5. Set aside to dry.  (Tis­sue can be removed as soon as the color bleeds through, but it’s much less messy to wait and remove it after it has dried!)

 Above is the tis­sue as it’s drying.….

.…and here is the fin­ished art­work with the tis­sue removed.  Once the tis­sue has dried, it sim­ply flakes off.  Stu­dents LOVE pick­ing the dry tis­sue pieces off of their artwork!!

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10 Responses to Underwater Fantasy inspired by Paul Klee

  1. Faigie April 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    I really like this activ­ity but would like to know if there was a par­tic­u­lar rea­son you have them add non sea related items to the picture.

  2. TeachKidsArt April 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Good ques­tion, Faigie! This project was inspired by Paul Klee’s paint­ing “Fish Magic”, where he com­bines under­wa­ter images with things like a clock, vase of flow­ers, etc. I’ll add that info to my post.… thanks!!

  3. Kids Art May 2, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    I love this project! It looks like it’s a great way to get kids to learn a lit­tle more about the dif­fer­ent styles used to cre­ate art. Looks like they had a lot of fun doing the project.

  4. Miss May 5, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Lovely project– I like the use of bleed­ing tis­sue paper as opposed to water­colours; a dif­fer­ent alter­na­tive. LOVE Paul Klee!

  5. Jenellee May 14, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Is it nec­es­sary to use oil pas­tels?? Or can I use reg­u­lar crayons??

  6. TeachKidsArt May 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Reg­u­lar crayons will work fine, Jenellee, as long as you press hard so you get a nice dark line for the resist. The oil pas­tels are a lit­tle more for­giv­ing in that way, so that’s why I use them. Some of my kindlers have a very light tough with their crayons! :-)

  7. Jenellee May 20, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Okay, awe­some! I will keep that in mind :) THANK YOU!! I absolutely LOVE your blog by the way :) It’s nice to come to and find ideas espe­cially since I’m not so artsy. Thank you!!!

  8. Howen October 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Just fin­ished a simi­ilar project with 4 th graders. Was really fun. A few acci­den­tally used reg­u­lar mark­ers, which smeared. But over­all a great project.


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