Butterfly Painting Art Lesson

Butterfly Painting Art Lesson



A trip to the local Monarch Butterfly Preserve is an annual field trip for our kinders. After they returned, a butterfly art lesson reinforced all they learned about these beautiful creatures.

I posted pictures of Monarchs (and a few other colorful varieties) on the white board and spoke to the children about butterfly body parts. I photocopied a few detailed pictures of butterflies, so the children could identify the scale of the wings compared to the size of the bodies. I found some old miniature popsicle sticks in my art cupboard  and although I have never noticed or used them before, I figured they would be a perfect starting point for the children’s drawings.

The kinders traced around this little stick just to get an idea of how big to draw the body (not too big!). Then, through observation, the children drew the top wings and then the bottom. They noticed how the bottom wings appear to start from the middle of the top wing and not the body itself. After studying the photographs in more detail, children used their knowledge of symmetry to create patterns on both sides of the wing. They did AMAZING.

I placed trays of tempera cakes on each table. Although I love the ease of tempera cake, I’m starting to feel that the cakes leave too much of a chalky film and are not nearly as vibrant as liquid tempera. Does anyone else feel that way? So for the background, I pulled out my handy tubs of tempera paint and offered them to use.

Children dew their butterfly painting with black oil pastel and used the tempera to paint the butterflies. I didn’t give any instruction for the background other than talking about using a contrasting color. For the final details, black paint was used to trace over all oil pastel lines.

Didn’t they do a wonderful job on their butterfly paintings?

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What do you think?

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  • J. Cooper

    I have the same problem with some of the brands of the “biggie” tempera cakes. The colors are dull and don’t mix well. However, Prang tempera cakes are better quailty then the others. The only complaint I have about them is that while the paint is vibrant and mixes really well, the trays often show up with cracks in the corners or just outright broken. I order the Prang tempera cakes, but keep newspaper underneath them on the tables in case they leak. They are a little pricey so the first year I just bought one per table, then next year two per table, and just kept adding until I now have one per kid. I haven’t had to buy a new tray in five years though. Despite being small, they do really last.

  • Monika

    Thee are beautiful! I will sure try them with my little homeschoolers!!! Thank you for this post!

  • Danielle Mandeville

    These betterflies look AMAZING! My class is studying butterflies right now (they just made their chrysalis!) so a butterfly art project is definitely needed! I will be doing this ASAP 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Patty

      One of my Kinder class photographed their butterflies and assembled them into a collage for an auction project. It was truly beautiful.

  • Debbie

    I notice you have students sketch with oil pastels…can black crayon be used instead?

    • Patty

      Yes and no. I do love the intensity of oil pastels and the thickness really comes in handy. But mainly the reason for using oil pastels is to not use pencils (to small).

  • Kelli

    LOVE your site!
    Do you have any suggestions for keeping tempera mold-free? When I keep tempera in tubs, it usually starts to mold. What kind of tempera do you use??

    • Patty

      Yes, that happens to me as well. You can either buy a liquid preservative at a drug store or use Crayola tempera paints. Molding and odors usually only happen when I use brands that are NOT crayola.

  • Nat

    Try the Koh-in-Oor vibrant paint towers – they have so much pigment that the children will not have to use much paint and the colours are amazing

    • Julie

      Are these paints watercolor only or are they available in tempera? They look great!

      • Patty Palmer

        These are puck tempera paints.

  • Bunty

    They look adorable…I’m doing an art workshop for 2- 6 year olds as a fundraiser I’d like to have kids do these on bags…. So what can I use for outlines and paints…I have some acrylics that say they can be used on fabric . What about the outlines ? Sharpies ?

    • Patty Palmer

      I don’t know how well Sharpies would look on fabric…they might bleed. Try fabric paint that comes in containers. You can squeeze the bottle to outline the butterflies.

  • charri hart

    Dear Patty,
    I have a blog http://flutterbybye.blogspot.com where I write encouraging posts. I always use an appropriate butterfly picture for each post. Today I would like to publish a post about the gift of creativity and would like to ask if I may use the butterfly picture at the top of this blog post. I will give the credit for it to you and link to your blog. I will greatly appreciate it.
    Kind regards,

  • matilde

    It seems to fun for the kindergarten students

  • Lavinia

    I agree with the chalky film! It’s not really something I prefer. Thanks for posting!

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