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Sailboat Monotype Art Lesson

I have an artist friend, Karyn Walsh, who specializes in monotypes. Our kids used to sail together in Santa Barbara and as we watched their races from shore, Karyn would tell me about her art and the process of creating a monotype. Ultimately, it was the element of surprise and the texture that appealed to her.  After doing this art lesson with my students, I finally understood what she meant.

Karyn describes what a monotype is.

For this project (which I’ve seen other art teachers do), I selected the standard sailboat partly because that’s what Karyn often did and because sailboats are an easily recognized shape, no matter how you draw it!

This is what we did:

Fold a 12′ x 18″ white paper in half to create a horizon line. Paint bottom half an ocean color.

Using a small brush dipped in light blue paint, draw an outline of one or two sailboats. Do not paint yet. Paint the sky first.

After the sky is painted, fill in the details on the sailboats. If a white sail is desired, make sure to use white paint. The idea here is to leave the painting of the sailboats last so when you fold the top paper over onto the bottom paper, the wet paint transfers onto the ocean. Hopefully, the ocean paint will be dry enough as to not create too much of a mess on the sky.

This was a great lesson in many ways. First of all, it was quick. Most kids finished within the 45-minute time frame. You can see that I offered the opportunity to outline the sailboats with black paint. Some kids did, some didn’t. Personal choice. The important part of the project is making sure the kids follow the painting order: ocean, sky and then sailboat. Sometime the reflection “worked” and other times it didn’t. Either way, it was so fun watching the anticipation on the kid’s faces as they unpeeled the folded paper.

I experimented painting the sky and ocean with watercolor paints. The w/c paints dried quickly and the results were great, but to be honest, I wanted to keep the supply list simple. I was feeling seriously lazy that day.

Third Grade Monotype Sailboats:

Monet's Impressionism Reflection Sailboats



  1. WoW !! Another great idea. We must do this project to 😉

    Thanks again for all those great lessons

    Have a great day
    Claudia Ü


    March 11, 2011

  2. Going to try this! I love the results!


    March 16, 2011

  3. Love your ideas-have just finished the waterfront houses and now want to try this

    aussie klc

    March 17, 2011

  4. I am doing this project today w my daughter’s 2nd grade class. It’s her birthday and making art seemed a great way to celebrate!

    AS Novus

    April 5, 2011

  5. Awesome idea. I will use this for an end of the year project!


    May 9, 2011

  6. We did this project in my 2nd-3rd grade homeschool co-op art class last week. We did a warm-colored watercolor sky and cool watercolor sea, then painted the boats with tempera. The best part was the gasp of surprise when we opened up the first few prints…the kids were amazed at the “reflection!” Thanks so much for all the great ideas!


    May 18, 2011

  7. What a great project! I’ve never done it this way before! I love it and will try it!


    May 18, 2011

  8. Tried this in a first grade classroom. I used trapezoid and right triangle templates to help the students with their boats. The kids loved seeing the “reflection” of their boats in the water. Turned out great!


    May 24, 2011

  9. This is a must try lesson! I am going to follow your plan for an opening lesson this fall. I am so excited to see their reaction about the monoprint part.


    August 26, 2011

  10. I love this web site. I use many of your projects and coordinate them with writing activities. Our displays in the hallway are always awesome because of the art work. I am using this idea for our end of the year writing. We are going to call it Sailing Into Summer; Reflections on Third Grade.
    This web site is great for my kids too because I pull it up on my Smart Board so the kids can see “how to” and what the finished product will look like. Thanks for all of your great ideas!!!!


    April 22, 2012

    • I SO want a smart board!!!


      April 23, 2012

  11. Cant wait to try this with a sunset! Can’t tell you how grateful I am for your site! I have always thought about art as having to look perfect and real and as I get older and actually better… I love letting go and can’t wait to teach my children to feel this beauty and freedom. And they will learn to draw and paint perfection all the while. I want it to be about the experience. You are amazing!


    May 9, 2014

  12. Questions: What type of paint did you use for this project? Thank you, Becky


    August 20, 2015

    • Liquid tempera paint 🙂

      Patty Palmer

      August 20, 2015

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