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


  • 9×12 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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7 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! :)

  5. Kristi Stephens February 22, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    Thank you for this fun project! Completed this with my kids today – 10, 8, and 5. They did a great job and really enjoyed it!

    • Cheryl Trowbridge February 22, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

      So glad everyone enjoyed it, Kristi! Thanks for your feedback!!