Bug Paintings






It is sometimes required that I visit a classroom to conduct an art class. Last year, my first grade students were treated to such a visit. I say “treated” because art is usually conducted in my art room but because of standardized testing rules at my school (no movement between classes), it was easier for me to walk to their classroom than vice-versa.  I needed a lesson that didn’t require too much prep but I really wanted to do a bug paintings lesson. I opted to use pan or puck tempera. They are perfect for stacking, sharing, and setting out.


The kids sat on the carpet while I showed them the different parts of a bug and how one might attempt to draw such bugs. For first graders I like to add as much whimsy as possible because that’s what 1st graders are good at.

We started with eyes, added a head, mid-body line and then the body and finally some crazy legs. The kids drew with a Sharpie, but you could use a black oil pastel, black paint and crayon or even a pencil (but that’s my least favorite option and here’s why). I used 12″ x 18″ white sulphite paper.

After the drawing was complete (about 20 minutes), I placed trays of tempera cakes on each table and allowed the children to paint as much or as little of their bug. The drawing is really amazing on its own, so if you opt to leave it as a line drawing (without color), it would be a great option to place the cut-out bug on a colored sheet of paper.

Another option would be to color with crayons, oil pastels or markers. The choices are unlimited!

Here’s what my first graders did….


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  • Hannah

    These are fun! Have you considered letting your first graders draw bugs from their own observation rather than directing them? I do quite a lot of observational drawing with very young children (4-6 yrs), working from the life, or from photographs, and always try to encourage them to “draw what you see”. I start by pointing out some of the key shapes, forms and details they should pay attention to, but then I let the children interpret the subject in their own way. My “Beetle Detail” project a few years ago was inspired by biologist Alex Wild’s incredible photos of beetles, and the resulting drawings blew me away with their intricacy and accuracy. http://hannahsartclub.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/beetle-detail-observational-drawing-autumn-2010/

    • Patty Palmer

      Yes, I love observational drawings. I usually do one a year with my first graders. I only have them for 15 classes so I divvy up the techniques.Love your insects! Thanks for sharing.

      • Janet

        I put out plastic insects and other critters for them to look at as they draw. (This has led to impromptu discussions about insects/non-insects.)

    • Jenny Stevens

      thank you!!! I was beginning to think art education was no longer-everyone has students do the same thing these days! So disheartening!

  • Cathy

    What is pan or puck tempera?

    • Patty Palmer

      Both…I use both names for the puck tempera (cake/puck/pan). Is pan tempera different? Thanks for clarifying!

  • ctlee5@att.net

    I recently purchased the Line + Color + Fun lesson plan pack and I have tried all of them. I just finished the bug drawings with my 3rd graders and they loved it! We used Neon colored markers to fill in their patterns and the kids were so proud of their work! It was a great lesson! Thanks so much!!!!!

    • Marie

      Is there instructions on how to complete these bug drawings? I can’t seem to find any and art isn’t my thing so a step by step guide would be amazing. Thanks

      • Bethany

        Hi Marie! There is written instructions to follow along with in the blog, but no step by step instructions are available for this lesson. We have a Insects, Snakes and Crawly things but it is only available inside The Sparklers’ Club Membership. The Sparklers’ Club is an affordable and flexible pay as you go monthly membership—perfect for anyone who teaches art to students aged K-6. To join the Sparklers’ Club waitlist and learn more about The Sparklers’ Club click here: https://deepspacesparkle.lpages.co/the-sparklers-club-waitlist/

  • Carla Daly

    Love the bug Paintings and the beautiful website, great to see the work you are doing with the young artists Patty.

  • sital

    Hi the bug lesson plan was really interesting and creative.
    I would like to know if you used any familiar artist for this lesson plan.

    • Patty Palmer

      No artist inspiration, just creepy crawly bugs!

  • AMiller@wfisd.net

    This is a great bug art project

  • Lalaine D. Reyes

    Awesome projects children will surely enjoy.

  • nancy.walker

    Where can I find a copy of the drawing guide you used in the top image?

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