winter tree silhouette landscape using pan watercolors for kids

Winter Tree Silhouette Art Project




I grew up in a rural area of Prince Edward Island where the land is basically flat with just a few hills. Perfect for cross country skiing. My bestie, Leslie and I would snap on our skis and spend hours searching for the smallest of hills to ski down. Often we would ski until dusk when the winter skies turned a blistering pink. Such a glorious contrast to the barren, snow-covered land.

Winter Tree Silhouette art project for kids

It’s not easy describing how desolate and beautiful this landscape can be to an 11-year old So-Cal kid, but by the looks of their artwork, they totally got it.

I must admit. As we embarked on this project, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I was a bit worried that the children might not find the project engaging enough.

I was so wrong.

It was almost as if the children knew that if they finished this piece, they would be proud. Even the most art challenged students created an incredible piece, full of personality and style.

Watch the video tutorial here…

Click the yellow button below to DOWNLOAD the drawing handout for the Winter Tree Silhouette as well as this months January Freebie Pack lessons. Add your name and email and we’ll send it straight to you!

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– 12″ x 9″ 90 lb. watercolor paper

– Pan watercolor paints

– Water

– Small & medium paint brush

– Pencil


Using a pencil, lightly draw TWO lines to divide the paper into three sections:

– background (sky)

– middle ground (snowy fields)

– foreground (shadow/fence)

winter tree silhouette art lesson using pan watercolors

Wet brush and paint WATER over top 1/3 of the paper (background). Don’t scrimp on water!

Dip paint brush into YELLOW paint and paint a half-circle for the setting sun. The wet paper will cause the paint to expand and blur.

Next, dip in ORANGE paint and dab watercolor around yellow sun.

Dip paint brush into RED paint and dab around orange. Do the same for PINK and PURPLE paint until the entire sky is colored.

winter tree silhouette art lesson using pan watercolors


Now that the sunset is painted, have the children paint with watercolors on a dry surface using the wet-on-dry technique. Because the paper is dry, the paint will create clean, crisp edges.

Pick one or two colors from the sunset (yellow, orange, red, pink or purple) and brush color in gentle sweeps over the white blanket of snow.

winter tree silhouette art lesson using pan watercolors

Using a small brush and the black paint from the watercolor tray, paint a line of trees along the horizon line. Using the side of the brush tip makes it easy to line up a good number of tree trunks then you can dab the brush to make the tops of the trees.

Next, begin to paint a row of small vertical lines to create a fence. For extra detail, add tiny “x’s” for the barbed wire.

winter tree silhouette art lesson using pan watercolors


Using the drawing guide, start by painting your lines of the tree to map out the tree’s trunk and main branches.

Paint at least 3 branches: one that extends off the side of the paper, one pointing to the top of the paper and the other branch moving towards the inside of the paper. The style of tree dictates how extreme the angle.

Using the tip of your paint brush and black paint, start at the branch and move brush away, painting a very thin twig.

winter tree silhouette art lesson using pan watercolors

Keep making smaller and smaller branches that extend away from the trunk.

Fill in the trunk with black paint.

The final step in the painting is to add shadows below the forest on the horizon line, below the tree trunk and along the fence line.

Dip paint brush into black paint and make a small puddle on the cover of the watercolor palette. Add a few drops of water to make a light grey paint. Use this light color to add shadows on an angle below the three elements listed above.

winter tree silhouette art lesson using pan watercolors

Have you done this lesson? I’d love to hear how the instructions worked for you or if you tried a new technique.

I created a detailed lesson plan describing the process of introducing and teaching this multiple watercolor technique lesson. It looks rather hard to do but don’t be intimidated. It’s one of those projects that’s totally doable even if you’ve never taught watercolor before.

This lesson can be found in the Sparklers Club Membership. For more information on joining, sign up to our waitlist HERE.

Click the button below to DOWNLOAD the January Freebie Pack. Add your name and email and we’ll send it to you!

Click here to subscribe
Winter tree silhouette example
Winter Tree Silhouette art project for kids
  • Jill

    Stunning! Did you use white watercolor paint, or leave the paper white for the snowy parts?

    • Patty Palmer

      Yes. All the “white” you see is the actual paper.

  • 1220holomah@gmail.com

    I purchased this great art lesson and was amazed at my children’s work! Oh so wonderful! And they LOVED it. I have a small group of kids (2nd – 5th grade) who meet in my garage every other Saturday for two hours. This was their first time painting without first drawing. They did a magnificent job! One student wrote on her artist statement that this artwork meant that she could do anything that she put her mind to do. She also said that it first looked very difficult, but that it was really easy! Then she wrote a brief story about the relationship of the glistening sun and the beautiful tree, how they became special friends and together could do whatever they wanted to do! Thank you! Thank you for your great lessons! I am not an artist but your lessons have shown me that I can do whatever I want to do! We all are happy campers! We are the ” CAN” bunch!

    • Patty Palmer

      Thank you SO much for sharing this! Truthfully, when I did this lesson with my 4th graders, I was unsure if the process would be too hard. There wasn’t one kid who didn’t love it. They were so proud of themselves!

  • 1220holomah@gmail.com

    Just to add, I used all of your suggestions and elaborated on the concepts of perspective, silhouette, horizon line etc. I created a power point of the lesson and used it with my computer, projector and large screen to teach my children. This, along with my prototype art work works very well. It is a lot of work to create the power point lessons, but it is very effective. I also use a large blackboard for directed drawing even though the steps for drawing are in the power point. Many times the children want to go back to a slide for clarity. This method saves me from doing a lot of printing, I can present so, so many examples of art for their observation. I really am perfectly thrilled at this experience, not only for my kids, but for me! The “I CAN” bunch!

  • 1220holomah@gmail.com

    Patty, do you have any other painting lessons where the children paint without first drawing?

    • Patty Palmer

      Usually they draw something even if it’s abstract art. But making painted paper is a project that doesn’t require drawing, as is my Jackson Pollock painting with Kinders.
      Are you looking to do a non-objective painting?

      • 1220holomah@gmail.com

        Jackson Pollock would be great. I had planned for them to experience his style in a manner that he created it – with big paper! I want to let the kids be outside in the spring/summer on my huge driveway. Fun huh? In an attempt to answer my own question, I remembered the images/shapes of Stonehenge in England. Painting a wondrous sunset with the silhouettes of Stonehenge in the front reminds me of Winter Silhouette. The story is fascinating as well. I want to work on this. What do you think? Incidentally, I love how you teach teachers who are not art teachers. Thanks so much!

        • Patty Palmer

          Oooh…Stonehenge Starry Silhouette would be an AWESOME lesson! A must-do!

  • 1220holomah@gmail.com

    Thanks so much Patty for your encouragement. I’m working on the lesson right now. I am experiencing a stay in the hospital so I have tons of time to plan! I did three lessons on Van Gogh, a Black History Lesson on The Migration Series by Jacob Laurence. And now I am fascinated with Stonehenge! I create all of my lessons in the power point format and I project them on a screen in my garage. It is time consuming in the creation time, but I get to give the kids great information which we review from time to time. When I do Stonehenge, I’ll let you know. Thanks again for teaching non artists to teach art to children! I am having SO much fun!

  • Christy

    Wow! I love this is beautiful! What grade would you recommend it for?

    • Patty

      Like I mentioned, I did this project with my 4th grade class. It was perfect for them. The lesson isn’t as hard as you might think so most 9 or 10 year olds will be successful.

  • Karen

    The winter tree project is beautiful and amazing. Could easily be done as an adult class too. I love your detailed instructions and that you chose such interesting subject matter. Getting kids to put more branches on their winter tree is a great idea; since they usually don’t put enough. Thank you, once again, Patty! <3

  • Elizabeth Cannon Dibb

    I’m really looking forward to using this with my students. Thank you.

  • Sam

    At myassignmenthelp, our panel of expert writers are attentive towards every detail or different assignments, in order to produce quality content covering all the required aspects that help the student master the course.

  • Shireen

    I love your art.

  • Tanya Mladenovic

    hi, I’m having trouble downloading the January freebie handouts. have been trying for a while and nothing happens. any suggestions?

    • Hannah

      Hi Tanya contact us at support@deepspacesparkle.com we can send it to you directly instead of the automated email 🙂

      -Hannah (Team Sparkle)

  • Jordana

    it looked really cool

  • jillianmonshausen

    I have tried requesting the download multiple times but never receive it. I also checked my spam folder and it was not there. Any other way to receive the drawing guides?

  • Hazel Nichol

    looks great, need some art projects for current home schooling

  • Donna

    My kids loved doing this project. We found it hard to find the right paints so we improvised using different types of paints to which they experimented with.

  • Sue

    They turn out beautiful and the students loved painting the scene.

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