Have you read The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson? This book is an adorable tale about a whale that takes a snail around the world on his tail. The snail feels small, and insignificant compared to everything he encounters on his journey around the world, but he ends up being able to help the whale, and he learns that even though he is small, he can still make a big difference. Not only is this a cute story, the illustrations by Axel Scheffler are beautiful! My daugther, and I are huge art fans, and I was really inspired to help my daughter create a work of art based on his illustrations.
In case you are wondering, this is art project was done by my 2.5 year old, with help, and guidance from me. I will tell you all about how we worked together to create this masterpiece. Here are a few pictures of our Snail and the Whale art project.
- Watercolor paper
- Small paintbrushes
- Tempera paint (black, white, blue, brown, yellow, and red)
- Black watercolor paint
- White crayon, or a white oil pastel
- The Snail and the Whale book
- A muffin tin, or something similar to hold your paints
I like to break painting projects into steps since my young artist is only a toddler. First I prepare my daughter’s paper for painting. Then I take her step-by-step through the process of painting her project. I try to let her paint as much as possible by herself, and taking her through step-by-step helps her understand what needs to be done to complete the painting.
Breaking the project down into little sections at a time makes the project easier, and helps keep my daughter focused on painting one thing at a time, rather than painting the whole piece of paper at once. Our art projects aren’t always this structured, so my daughter knows that sometimes she can paint free, and wild, and sometimes she needs to be more careful. I let her freely paint, and explore art materials all the time, so when we want to do a structured project like this, she is up for doing things slow, and careful. If your child is older, this is still a great way to teach them how to break their projects down into smaller steps. Here is how we broke this art project down.
- Use the picture in the book to roughly sketch out the large rock, whale tail, whale head, and lightly sketch the top edge of the water.
- Trace your whale, and rock with a sharpie marker, to make the lines easier to see.
- Draw your lightning with a white crayon.
- If your child is really young or has trouble staying in the lines, you might want to add tape to the border between the water, the sky, and the rock. This is just so they don’t get black paint onto the bottom part of the paper. Make sure you use tape that isn’t going to rip the paper when you remove it. I use washi tape, but I’m sure painters tape will work as well.
- If you want to make it even easier for your child, you could put clear contact paper over the whale tail, and the whale body, so they can paint freely without having to worry about painting over the whale. This step is optional! You just trace the parts you want to cover up onto your contact paper, cut them out, and stick them on top of your drawing. This puts a protective barrier over the spots you don’t want your child to paint just yet. Like I said, this is optional, but it just makes it easier for my daughter since she loves to paint, but is only 2.5!
Have your child paint the sky with black water colors. Instruct them to stay above the tape line, and try not to paint into the rock. No worries if they paint into the rock, or the whale tail though, because the black tempera paint that will be used on the rock, and whale tail will cover up any mistakes.
Paint the rock with black tempera paint. Just tell them to try to stay above the tape, and inside the black lines. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s a jagged rock.
Have your child paint the whale tail with black tempera paint. This is where the sharpie outline comes in handy, because it’s an obvious guide to where the black paint needs to be. Don’t forget to carefully remove the contact paper off the tail first if you used contact paper.
Help your child mix different shades of blue by adding black to make a darker blue, and white to make a lighter blue. We ended up with blue, white, dark blue, and light blue to paint our water. If you’d prefer, you could pre-mix these colors for your child, but I enjoyed teaching my daughter about mixing paint colors. Remove the tape in between the water, and the top half of your painting before moving on to the next step.
Have your child paint the water with different shades of blues and white paint. I helped my daughter with this part, only because she asked. I still let her have free rein on how she painted, as long as she stayed away from the top half of the paper. The water is choppy, and her crazy paint strokes just added to the texture of the water.
Paint the top half of the whale body black, and the bottom half white. If you used contact paper, don’t forget to carefully peel it off before you paint the whale body. To add a little more detail, you can mix a small amount of black paint into the white paint on the whale’s underside to make it look grey, and add faint lines like you see in the book illustration. We just used white on the bottom half of our whale, and it ended up a looking more like a killer whale instead of a hump back whale, but that’s okay since my toddler doesn’t know the difference!
Mix yellow paint with a small drop of brown for the snail body, and brown, yellow, and a small touch of red paint for the snail shell. Then have your child paint a small piece of paper with these two colors.
When your snail paint dries, draw a small snail on top of the paint, cut it out, and glue it to the corner of the whale’s tail. Remember, you want the snail to be really small in comparison to the whale tail! You could also draw your tiny snail on small piece of paper, and then paint it if you would like to. Obviously my snail isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be!
When you’ve completed all eight steps, your painting will be complete. Now you just have to wait for it to dry, and think about where you want to hang it so your child can show off their beautiful masterpiece!
I hope this tutorial gave you ideas on how you can easily create fun art projects with your child. I am all about adapting activities to fit any age range, or ability, and I love to share my tips, and tricks. If you love this book art project, you are in luck, because there will be plenty of projects like this one in the future over here at Create Laugh Learn. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section underneath this post.