Watercolor Clipper Ships Art Lesson


Winslow Homer Clipper Ship

Clipper ships glide over the ocean at top speeds. The tangle of nets, ropes and sails, however, can make drawing a clipper ship daunting. Breaking down the ship’s parts into basic shapes helps with the drawing efforts.  By the end of the drawing lesson, my students felt empowered with their impressive achievements.

I detailed the drawing steps and watercolor techniques inside a previous workbook inside the shop, but I altered the watercolor steps only slightly; using liquid watercolor for the ocean/sky and pan watercolors for the boat. I liked the combination as using liquid watercolors speeds up the process but the pan watercolors allows for a lesson in mixing. Best of both worlds!

Here are the wonderful results from my fifth grade students…


What do you think?

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  • Pat Stevens


    What a great lesson! Each and every one of the examples you posted is unique and beautiful. I have followed your blog and used many of the projects I purchased from your catalog with great success. You are an inspiration to me!


    • Patty

      Thanks, Pat! I’m so glad the lessons have been helpful.

  • Pam

    Hi, Patty! Thanks for the great idea! I did this with my 4th grade art class and they were so excited because they had gone to Jamestown already this year and could use it for their project.

    They did a wonderful job on the ships after going through the step by step instructions I gave them. A great success!

  • Jeanette

    I’ve tried this lesson with my kindergarteners for the past 2 years and they have all been able to do it!! I was amazed at how beautiful the ships were! They need to know the different types of lines to be successful. (Straight, curved, slanted…) It’s great for following directions! I’d suggest drawing the ships on one day and coloring/painting the ships the next day. We used watercolor pencils and water. It was much easier to explain how watercolors work that way.

  • Melinda

    I love your site! I have already used a lot of your ideas and have bought the portrait booklet. I teach 5th grade and would like to do the clipper ship watercolor lesson. However, it is sold in a packet of lower elementary art ideas (that is too young for my class). Is there a way to buy it separately or to put it in another packet with the intermediate grade level?

    • Patty

      Hi Melinda,
      Thanks! The Tropical Fish painting would be a great fit for your fifth graders in addition to the clipper ships. Sorry, I don’t re-bundle the lessons. Your comments regarding grade levels are good though. I’m trying to do more of this. Thanks!

  • April Duda

    I just started this project 2 days ago and I had to stop by and tell you how much my 6th graders are LOVING it! I had no idea they would be this into it. We talked about the history of clipper ships a little bit and then went through the step by step. They are so into designing their ship, that they aren’t even ‘bugging’ me about painting yet. That is rare! I’m also having them write a story to go along with their ship and they’re even excited to do that!

    Thank you!!

  • Bethany

    We made these ships with a study of Christopher Columbus. Not the same type of ship of course, but it worked out great!


  • Laura Scherbing

    I just want to tell you thank you for making this site. I am teaching a College for Kids program this summer and have used a few things on here!!

    Thanks again,

  • Monica Tatman

    Hi there! I purchased this original lesson years ago, and can’t seem to find it. Where can I find the step by step original version? I’m happy to purchase again.

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