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Underwater Hippo Art Lesson

Who doesn’t love hippos? Aren’t they the strangest creature? My second and third grade students agree and we discussed the anatomy of the hippo as we drew their robust bodies. Using a basic oil pastel and watercolor resist, the children turned their drawings into an underwater collage.

This lesson was inspired by the lovely illustrator, Melanie Mikecz. Her Underwater Hippo Print is just one in a collection of adorable and totally inspiring art pieces. 

To start, the children drew a hippo onto a piece of 12″ x 18″ white paper with an oil pastel. After drawing the body, the students drew a water line through the middle of the hippo’s head just below the eyes. Everything above this line was considered the sky and below; the murky water. I provided liquid watercolors so the children could run their brushes over the entire drawing. For a final flourish, children used foam 3-D dots to add fish and birds and tissue paper for water grass.

Lots of techniques in this lesson: directed line drawing, watercolor resist, oil pastel rendering, composition and collage. Whew!

Second and Third grade Hippos….

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  1. just have to say I LOVE hippos so I am planning on trying this one out this year!


    April 15, 2012

  2. I had Ms. Mikecz’s hippo piece pinned and on the back burner for a future art project. Just Love your lesson! I really like the multi-media aspect of these hippo pieces.


    April 16, 2012

  3. I LOVE this mostly because I have never seen an art project with HIPPOS! It’s great!!


    April 17, 2012

  4. What a fun project Patty! I’m teaching it in second grade tomorrow. Thanks!!

    Amanda Elton

    April 25, 2012

  5. I had a brilliant idea for these! I am going to have them do the hippos per your instructions, then I am going to tint my clear acrylic glaze with a little blue and green, then have them glaze from the water line down. Great study in contrasting textures! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Sarah Dougherty

    May 2, 2012

    • Okay…that IS brilliant! Is Mod Podge considered clear acrylic glaze? Wonderful idea.


      May 3, 2012

  6. Hi Patti, just letting you know I am running with your fat hippo lesson plan this Saturday in my kids classes. I always put my spin on it and kids pictures will be posted on my business facebook page at some stage. A great idea with great looking results 🙂

    Mrs Red

    August 8, 2012

  7. Just did this lesson for the second time in two years with my year twos, they love it and it fits perfectly with our wild animal theme!


    May 17, 2013

  8. I just discovered this project and tried the mod podge…it’s awesome! It looks like the hippo is under underwater! I just dropped a few drops of watered down blue water color paint into the mod podge. Could use liquid watercolor too. Thank you for the terrific idea!


    August 6, 2015

  9. I want to know more about the different paper because I want to make the hippos. Thanks

    Sherry DeCrescenzo

    March 26, 2017

    • Can you be more specific, Sherry? Are you referring to the paper I used in the Hippo lesson? It’s Pacon/ Tru Ray sulfite drawing paper that bought through Blick. You can visit my RESOURCES page to see what supplies I use. https://www.deepspacesparkle.com/resources/


      March 27, 2017

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