Thursday, September 26, 2013

African Elephants with Watercolor Sunsets

This "happy accident" created a wonderfully mysterious 'puff of smoke' in the distance.

My Experiment

I apologize for my long pause between blog posts. I've learned over the years that most parents aren't ready to commit to art classes until they have settled into their back-to-school schedules a bit. This is a busy sports time for many families (many of you can I'm sure appreciate this) with practice days for soccer, football, lacrosse. ect..I live across the street from a baseball field, and in the last few hours, I have seen all 3 sports come for practice.

These elephants were inspired by this piece I found via Pinterest. I had my students create the background first using wet-on-wet technique with liquid watercolors. I love watching children have fun with this and am totally game for them to experiment even if it means green in the sky. But of course we discuss what colors will create others. I gave them the option of continuing with watercolor to create their earth or switching to black acrylic to create a silhouette.

Next we got to work on our elephant profiles. These were created on brown grocery bags. I love using these for projects because their recycled quality make them a great base for certain animal skins. The children followed a direct line drawing lesson and traced their pencil work with Sharpie. I gave them brown and gray pastels for the elephant skin since African elephants give themselves dust baths to protect their skin from the sun. I encouraged them to use charcoal to add shadow in some of the major folds and wrinkles, as well as add definition. (We looked at real elephants so the kids could see just how wonderfully wrinkled these animals are.) They had the option of adding silhouettes of African umbrella trees or other animals or to keep the background as is. This is just a sampling from my K-4th grade groups.

 Age 5 - Beautiful!


  1. These are terrific Mary, nice job kiddos . Tina

  2. Mary, these look fabulous! Love the side profile in the foreground. I was tickled that we were both in elephant mode!

  3. I love these elephants! what a terrific project!!! :)

  4. These turned out fabulous, Mary! What a great art inspiration!

  5. These look fantastic. I have a question, though. Is there any way you could post your instructions for the direct line drawing? I've tried googling for different direct-line instructions but I'm not having too much luck at the moment. Thanks.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this project. I entered two of these from my second grade class for our annual art contest and they won! It was perfect because we were studying South Africa!

  7. Hola! I've been following your site for some time now and finally got the courage
    to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!


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