Sailboats skimming over a lake or breezing through ocean waves are colorful parts of summer. In this art activity you’ll make a mixed media, 3-D project with waves and boats that look like you could sail away in to catch the cool summer breezes!
In this post you’ll find:
- Supply list
- Step-by-step directions
- Helpful hints
- Clean-up tips
- Adaptations for various ages
- Variations to extend the activity or make it more challenging
- 6 ways the activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development
- A short kid-friendly devotion
- AND as always pictures of Molly, the Artsy Corgi!
- Sturdy white paper for the waves and for the background paper
- Tempera paint for the waves—blue, green, and purple
- Watercolor paints for the sky on the background paper
- Large brushes
- Colored paper or cardstock for the sailboats
- White glue—glue sticks aren’t strong enough for this project
I’ve divided the directions for this mixed-media activity into 4 parts to make it easier to understand, and because each part needs some drying time. Each part only takes 15 to 20 minutes depending on individuals. Each section takes more time to explain than to do!!
Part A: Creating the ocean waves
- Put largish puddles of blue, green, and purple tempera paint on a paper plate or a plastic tray. Don’t worry if they get mixed.
- With a large, flat brush paint these colors across the paper from one side to the other.
- Don’t try to fill in every little space.
- Don’t clean the brush between colors.
- Do mix colors together on the paper as you add new ones.
- Have fun and paint in a slappy,dappy manner, letting your brush stokes show.
- Set aside to dry. When dry you may need to flatten it under some books.
- When the tempera paint is completely dry, slowly tear across the painting to create jagged strips of ocean waves.
- Don’t tear quickly, make zig zag dips and points like waves.
- Don’t cut these—tearing creates the white edges that look like foam on breaking waves.
Part B: Creating the sky
- Mix up largish puddles of water color paints in whatever sky colors you’d like. I chose a couple blues and a yellow.
- With clean water and a large brush, wet your background paper. Don’t soak it—just give it a light sheen.
- Paint and drop in your sky colors in various places and allow these to mix freely. Move the paper around to let the colors flow into each other.
- Don’t worry about leaving some white–these can be cloudy areas.
- Set aside to dry.
- When dry you may need to flatten it under some books.
Part C: Create the sailboats while the waves and sky dry
- Cut and glue together sailboats of various sizes out of colored paper (look at the pictures for ideas) Cardstock paper is stiffer and will stand up better, but you can use a double layer of colored paper.
- Set aside to dry.
Part D: Putting it all together
- Choose where the ocean will meet the sky and lay a strip of ocean waves across the sky background. Have the white edge of the strip uppermost.
- Do not glue yet.
- Overlap more strips of waves across each other until you reach the bottom of the background paper. Work with these until you have a number of layers of waves and colors, always keeping the torn white edge showing.
- To begin gluing, pick up just the bottom strip and put a line of glue along its bottom edge. Then place it down so its edges are even with the bottom edge of the background paper.
- Pick up the next strip, add a line of glue along its bottom edge, and tuck it under the strip you just glued.
- Repeat this with each strip until you reach the point where you want the sky to show.
- By not gluing down the tops of the waves, you now have waves that stand out and look more real.
- Decide where you want the boats to be and put just a line of glue along the hull. Then tuck the boat down into the waves.
Ahoy there, matey! Now you can enjoy your easy, breezy ocean picture to send to a friend or put up on the fridge!!
- It takes quite a bit of tempera paint for the wild ocean wave paper.
- When you mix your watercolors for the sky, start with a puddle of clean water for each color and add enough pigment to make your colors bright. Remember that watercolors fade as they dry, and when mixed wet-in-wet, they get diluted even more.
- You may want to tilt the boats so they look like they’re riding the waves.
- To give your picture a sense of depth, put larger boats up closer than smaller boats.
- Try curling the flags around a pencil first so they look like they’re flapping in the wind.
Clean up Tips:
- Use an old plastic table cloth under your work.
- Use wax paper under the tempera wave painting and your watercolor background. That way you can paint right over the edges on both sides and not worry about cleanup.
- Use wax paper under the sailboats as you assemble them with glue. They’ll peel right off.
- Have a plastic dish tub handy for all paper trash.
- If using plastic containers for paint, use the brushes to clean these under running water. The containers get clean, and your brushes may only need a little more cleaning.
- But brushes that have had tempera paint need soap and water. Put a little liquid soap in your palm and swirl the brush around. You’ll be amazed how much more paint comes out. Rinse well and dry flat.
Adaptations for various ages
- Once the papers and paints are prepared for the waves and the sky, little ones should only need a little demonstration to be able to enjoy doing these 2 parts.
- Little ones will need more help tearing the waves, making the boats, and assembling the scene, but use your judgement about your children. And remember to let them create as much as possible. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
Variations to extend the activity or make it more challenging
- Instead of watercolor, use blue paper for the background and cut out paper clouds or dab clouds on with white paint and cotton balls.
- Instead of blues for the sky, use blacks (these will be gray to black, depending on how much water is added) to make a stormy sky. Add lightning zigzags with yellow tempera paint or marker when the water color is dry.
- Make different kinds of boats, such as cruise ships, navy ships, tugboats, etc.
- Go online and find directions to make origami sailboats.
- Follow this link to Winslow Homer’s famous painting, Breezing Up, a painting of ocean waves and sailboats and enjoy together. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.30228.html
6 ways the activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development
- Using paint brushes and scissors helps children develop fine motor skills.
- Discussing their own art and/or the painting, Breezing Up, builds vocabulary and social skills.
- Discussing zig zag lines and places you may see these (as in the letters A, K, M, N, R, V, W, Y, and Z) will help young children become more observant of small differences—helpful in learning letters and in reading.
- This art activity also helps children develop visual/spatial skills, which is important in learning to interpret photos, graphs, maps, etc.
- When children make choices in creating art, it enhances problem-solving skills.
- Creating art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes from all those screens.
A short kid-friendly devotion about when Jesus calmed the storm:
Jesus and His disciples were in a fishing boat when a big storm came up.
Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. the disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8: 24-25 NIV)
Then he [Jesus] got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm (Matthew 8:26 NIV).
- Have you ever been in a boat and felt it rocking on the waves? Did you feel a little afraid?
- But we don’t have to be in a boat in a storm to feel afraid. What are some things that make you afraid?
- When Jesus awoke, He spoke to the wind and the waves, and they became completely calm right away! Jesus was with the disciples, AND He was completely in control of the storm!
- God is in control of everything! He holds the sea and the mountains in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 40:12). He is mightier than the waves of the sea! (Psalm 89:9)
- When we’re afraid and call out to Jesus as the disciples did, we can trust that He is always with us to calm our fears and that He is in control of what’s happening. Memorizing this verse may help you remember God loves you, is with you, and He is always in control:
One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Psalm 62:11-12a
These verses may be helpful, too:
- Psalm 139:9-10
- Joshua 1:9
- Psalm 4:8
- Psalm 23:4
- Psalm 62:1-2
- Hebrews 13:6
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that we can always run to You when we’re afraid. We praise You that nothing is outside Your control, and we know You’ll understand and help us, because You love us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Molly, the Artsy Corgi
In this activity we made zig zag lines for the waves. In our last art activity we made lots of circles, and Molly decided to get in on the fun! Here she is sitting in the middle of a hula hoop after some lessons on jumping through it!
And here she is all tired out from jumping through the hoop.
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