Watercolor Fish with Pointillism

Last weekend’s teacher work­shop at Palace Art was a huge suc­cess! It’s encour­ag­ing to know that so many teach­ers are eager to expand their art skills so they can share the ben­e­fits of Art with their stu­dents! For this work­shop we focused on water­color, so I thought I would share a few of the amaz­ing paint­ings these teachers-turned-students pro­duced. (Scroll down for the les­son plan if you’d like to try this project your­self!)

Fish Painting with Pointillism


  • 9x12 white construction paper
  • Black chisel tip marker
  • Prang OVL-8 Water­col­ors & brush
  • Q-tips (at least 7 per stu­dent)
  • Con­tain­ers for water
  • Pho­tos or line draw­ings of var­i­ous types of fish for visual reference
  • Exam­ples of the paint­ings of artist Georges Seu­rat (You can find these in many art books as well as online.)

1. Explain what “Pointil­lism” is and talk about the work of Georges Seu­rat. Show exam­ples of his paint­ings. Pro­vide sev­eral visual ref­er­ences of inter­est­ing fish shapes for stu­dents to draw.
2. Lightly sketch the out­line of a fish, fill­ing most of your paper. Include shapes within the fish to paint with dif­fere
nt col­ors. Add a few other ele­ments to illus­trate the fish’s habi­tat, such as kelp, rocks, shells, etc. Keep in mind that your shapes need to be large enough to be painted with a Q-tip!
3. Trace over your pen­cil lines with a black, chisel tip marker to cre­ate a bold “col­or­ing book” style drawin
4. Add a dro
p of water to each of the col­ors in your paint set to moisten them (you will not be using the black).
Dip each of your 7 Q-tips in water and lay them along the lid of your paint set, each one rest­ing in it’s own color (see photo at left).
6. Now fill in each sec­tion of your draw­ing with dots of color by dip­ping your Q-tip in the paint and then press­ing it onto your paper. Cover each area with a “light sprin­kling” of dots at first. Then go back and fill in with more dots as needed. You can “mix” col­ors by com­bin­ing dots of dif­fer­ent col­ors within the same sec­tion. Try to let the first color dry before adding the next color, to keep your Q-tips clean!

Encour­age students to take their time and work care­fully, plac­ing one dot of color on their paper at a time. You don’t have to dip the Q-tip in the paint for every dot. Mak­ing sev­eral “dots per dip” will yield a lighter, more trans­par­ent color. This project usu­ally takes one ses­sion for draw­ing and one ses­sion for paint­ing, but my “teacher-students” got through it in half the time!

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5 Responses to Watercolor Fish with Pointillism

  1. Cindy Lee Jones October 5, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

    Great great project! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Char January 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    I recently fin­ished this project with my 5th graders and they were amaz­ing!!! I loved that I didn’t even have to use water­color paper. It did take way longer than 2 class period, but was well worth the effort. Thanks for a fab­u­lous blog with won­der­ful projects!

  3. Anonymous February 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    it was bril­liant!
    pointil­lism was my class’ favourite type of art, they even wanted to do it again after we fin­si­hed!
    They all looked so pretty!

  4. Gabriela Himstedt November 1, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    Hello every­body,

    What age group the class is suitable?


    • Cheryl Trowbridge November 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

      I’ve usu­ally done this les­son with 4th graders, but it really depends on your class and whether you do it early in the school year or in the spring. Younger kids could do well with it if you cut the paper smaller… it really just comes down to hav­ing the patience to make all those lit­tle dots! :)

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