Visual Arts: Watercolor

Lesson Plan: Watercolor Fish Paintings
Grade level: 6‐8
Duration: Nine 45‐minute class periods
Media Type: Watercolor
Subject Integration: Science
National Standards for Visual Arts: (see bottom of page)
Objectives: Students will create their own watercolor painting after studying the works of many local watercolor artists, namely Terry Maciej and Cheng Khee‐Chee.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of watercolor techniques inspired by local watercolor artists, incorporating a variety of textures into a completed painting.
(website for help with writing rubrics)


0 ‐ Little evidence of technique use or incomplete artwork
1 ‐ Some attempt at techniques, but less than three distinguishable textures
2 ‐ Four techniques are clearly used
3 ‐ Above, plus place for visual effect in addition to logical textures to describe surfaces
4 ‐ Above, plus exceptional use of detail and application of technique

Materials and Procedure:

  • watercolor paper 9” x 12” pencil, eraser
  • watercolor paint brushes
  • water containers, water
  • salt
  • masking tape
  • paper towels cut in 1” strips white crayons
  • strips of cardboard, 1” wide and 3” tall

Day 1:
1. Give brief introduction to watercolor painting. Show PlayList video: Terry Maciej (3:38)

Show students a picture of Terry and talk about his website: (making a living as an artist, etc.)

2. Discussion: What do you know about watercolor? Do you know any watercolor artists? Have you ever seen artwork by Terry Maciej or Cheng Khee‐Chee? Have you ever seen the book Old Turtle with illustrations by Cheng Khee‐Chee?

3. Show Cheng Khee‐Chee watercolor video. Ask students to take notes while watching DVD. Students write down 10 things they see/learn by watching Chee create.

Day 2:
Demonstrate six watercolor techniques to students: (resist with crayon, blotting with paper towel strips, printing lines with cardboard strips, salt technique, wet on wet technique, resist with masking tape) Students will create their own sample card of six techniques. Students will later use this card to refer to when creating their final painting.

Day 3:
Students will refer to color pictures of indigenous fish of local region. Students will create their own fish drawings, in pencil first, including at least six fish in their drawing. Students will refer to watercolor technique card always keeping in mind when and how to use various techniques (resist might be good for scales, cardboard strips might be used for creating seaweed, etc.) Students are sure to include background, such as seaweed, sand, rocks, etc. a location: near a shipwreck, net, anchor, boat, fishing line with hook, other sea life, etc.

Day 4:
Students continue to draw.

Day 5:
Students start painting process.

Day 6:
Students continue painting process.

Day 7:
Students finish painting process.

Day 8:
Students outline all shapes with black Sharpie marker to enhance drawing and to make objects more visible.

Day 9:
Students fill out rubric and grade finished work. Teacher also completes rubric for each student work.

Discussion Questions:
What did you learn about watercolor painting that you did not know before? What did you learn about Terry Maciej and Cheng Khee Chee? Which watercolor technique was your favorite? Why? What did you find easy to accomplish within your artwork? What did you find difficult? What would you do different next time?


  • Lake Superior Watercolor Society
  • Cheng Khee‐Chee watercolor DVD
  • Wendy Rouse
  • Brian Minor
  • Mary Beth Downs
  • PIXAR film about creation of Finding Nemo (25:12)


  • Old Turtle by Douglas Wood and Cheng Khee‐Chee
  • Watercolor book by Cheng Khee Chee

Follow‐up activities:

View PIXAR making of Finding Nemo and discuss realistic watercolor fish paintings vs. animated fish drawings/paintings. Discuss how artists study their subject matter carefully. Discuss how PIXAR artists make a living at drawing and creating very ‘real’ animated characters and how their audience is very drawn to each character because they seem so “real”.

National Standards for Visual Arts:

Content Standard #1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Achievement Standard:
Students know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes. Students describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses. Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories. Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Content Standard #2: Using knowledge of structures and functions
Achievement Standard:
Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas. Students describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses. Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.

Content Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Achievement Standard:
Students explore and understand prospective content for works of art. Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

Content Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Achievement Standard:
Students know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures. Students identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places. Students demonstrate how history, culture, and the visual arts can influence each other in making and studying works of art.

Content Standard #5: Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
Achievement Standard:
Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.
Students describe how people's experiences influence the development of specific artworks. Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.

Content Standard #6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Achievement Standard:
Students understand and use similarities and differences between characteristics of the visual arts and other arts disciplines. Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

Funding for this program is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Click here for more information or visit the Minnesota Legacy website.

Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment