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Butterfly Art for Kids with Watercolor & Oil Pastel Resist

Butterfly Art for Kids with Watercolor and Oil Pastel Resist

This butterfly art for kids combines art with science using watercolors & oil pastel resist. Kids learn the concept of symmetry as they create colorful butterflies inspired by photographs or their imagination.

When we lived on the Central Coast of California, over 100,000 Monarch butterflies would migrate there each year from the valley regions west of the Rockies. Then they would make their temporary home in our State Monarch Preserve from November through February. On sunny, warm days, they would fly out of the eucalyptus trees where they clustered, to the delight of onlookers…. what a sight to behold!

It was a tradition for our Kindergarten classes to take a field trip to see these magnificent Monarchs each year. After returning to school, we would paint our own beautiful butterflies in honor of this special event!

Although our focus was on learning about Monarchs, I’d give our Kinders the freedom to create either a Monarch or a colorful butterfly of their own design (most chose the latter). I’d put up lots of visual references for inspiration, pointing out the symmetry of both color and shape in each butterfly.

Here’s how you can make your own butterfly art with watercolor & oil pastel resist:

1. First, fold a 9×12 paper in half (I use heavy weight construction paper) and place it with the fold on the right. (If you’re teaching a large group, it helps to be consistent with your own demo and sample, and the orientation of the paper the students have in front of them…. so choose which side the fold will be on and keep it consistent!) Explain that you will be drawing half of a butterfly on the fold, in order to make it “symmetrical”, or “the same on both sides”.

2. With a black oil pastel, make a small half circle, about half way down on the fold. This will be the butterfly’s head. Be sure to press hard to make it nice and dark.

3. Next, draw half of the body below the head.

4. Now add the wings by drawing a diagonal line from where the head meets the body, up to the corner, then a vertical line most of the way down the side and a horizontal line straight back across to the body. Add a curved line from any point on your horizontal line down to the lower corner and curving back up to the body. (This may sound like a lot for K’s, but if you explain it as they watch you do it, it will make sense to them!)

5. Then add a design with just a few simple shapes on the wings. Don’t forget to add an antenna!

6. Next, open up your paper and fold it back over on top of your drawing and rub really hard with your hand or the back of a spoon. Your design will magically appear on the other side!

7. Your transferred design will be very faint, so now go back over it with your oil pastel , pressing hard to make your lines dark.

8. Finally, paint your butterfly with watercolors. Decide if your butterfly will be in the grass or in the sky. Make sure you use colors that will make your butterfly stand out from its background. Remember to keep your shapes and colors symmetrical from wing to wing and use enough water so that your colors look transparent.

The most challenging part of this lesson is getting students to draw on the fold. I’ve even tried taping the paper down so they can’t turn it! (If they draw on the loose edge instead of the fold, they will end up with two halves of a butterfly instead of one whole one!) I’ve also tried having the paper open when they draw their half butterfly, but most of them got so excited about their drawing that they kept going and drew both sides – which then made it not symmetrical! Your best bet will be to have a small ratio of adults to children (yay! for parent volunteers) and lots of extra paper, just in case!!

I always love how given the same set of instructions, each butterfly comes out different and unique…. the mark of a good art lesson!!

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One Comment

  1. I have done this project with kinders, but I usually save it for later it the year. They turned out amazing last year.