This aquatic ocean art project for children is sure to be a huge hit in your classroom! Pair this fantastic beach side theme with your ocean animals unit study. Best of all this project is simple, and great for students of all ages. Students will build a variety of art skills as they work with mixed media (chalk pastels and glue), and learn to use blending and color hues to create visual interest.
Ocean Art Projects for Kids
It can be difficult to depict the ocean water, but with this exciting technique, your students will be able to create dimensions to really make those waves pop!
Just look at those colors! It make look like a difficult process, but chalk pastels are VERY forgiving and easy to blend. Students of all ages will love working with these fun vibrant colors and our unique glue technique.
Chalk Pastel Tutorial for Kids
Using chalk pastels can be a MESSY project! We’ll provide you with some tips and ideas for keeping the color on the canvas and not on your clothing. Chalk Pastel is NOT my favorite medium because it is so “chalky,” but it can be used to create some amazing colors and designs.
Whale’s Tail Art Project Materials:
- Whale’s Tail Template (Optional)
- Whales Tail Scene Template (Option for Younger Students)
- Round Lid (to make circle for sun)
- Art Paper (I’m using Watercolor Paper)
- Black Glue
- Clear Glue
- Chalk Pastels
The first step is to setup the composition of your paper. Use the Tail template to draw the whales tail near the center of your sheet. Remember you want to leave room below the tail for the ocean waves. Use a circle lid for a template to make the sun behind the tail. You don’t have to put it dead center, in fact, it looks a little more whimsical to place it a bit to the side of the tail.
Next, you’ll want to make your ocean waves. I’ve darkened the photo above so you can see my pencil sketches of the waves. Basically, you’ll want to make a variety of spiral waves and a few “peaks and valleys” to bring them all together. I have waves going in each direction and even a few water drop splashes near the tail.
Now, it’s time to get the glue outlines! I decided to use clear glue to outline my sun. I want the sunset to appear to radiate a bit, so my glue lines are bumpy, uneven, and I’ve made some radiating lines around the sun. Then, I outlined the whale’s tail with black glue.
Here is a closer look at how I’m putting down the black glue over the waves. Sometimes my sketched lines are too close for the glue, that is okay. I’m using my sketch as a guide, it doesn’t have to be exactly over your original lines.
I added some extra details like barnacles on the tail, and some texture on the top. I also went back with some more clear glue to add some texture inside the sun, and some more clear glue inbetween the waves (Pictured below)
It’s time to let your glue dry! This can take a while depending on how thick your glue is, at least a few hours. It’s important that your glue is completely dry before starting the project.
Once your glue is dry, it’s time to start filling in the different sections with chalk pastel. I started with the sun. The sun should go from light yellow in the center to orange at the edges. So, I picked a a few different hues of yellow. I used the lightest yellow in the center of the sun. Because the tail obstructs the exact center, I put a little above and below as pictured. Then, I took a bright yellow and make the next layer around. All layers should be done in a circle shape.
When I laid down my next darkest hue of yellow, you can see that I ran into some of the clear glue. Anywhere the clear glue is, the chalk will not be able to adhere to the page, so it will leave you with white areas. This is fantastic for adding some radiating highlight to the sun!
Continue filling in the sun, with darker and darker yellows. Then add some orange, and finally line the border with red. Once the sun is completely filled in you can take a Q-tip or cotton swap to blend the colors inward so that you don’t have any sharp color changes. You want your sun to gradually go from light yellow to orange.
Once the inside of the sun is filled in, you’ll want to start on the sky a bit. Choose some light pinks and go sound the outside of the sun. Use your lightest pink first, then some medium pink or purple. Use the cotton swab to blend the colors around the sun. (NOTE: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the rest of the sky, so while I thought about that I moved onto the ocean. If you want to keep going on the sky, skip down a few steps, then come back for the ocean)
To start the ocean waves, choose a dark blue/purple color and make triangle shapes at the base of all your waves. We are just setting up some of the darker shadows of the waves. You’ll notice that wherever ther is clear glue that the chalk won’t set.
Now, choose a medium blue and outline the triangles and pull some of the color through the waves. You’ll want to follow the same lines as your glue. So the blue chalk is also swirling and curling like waves.
Repeat this process with lighter blues and even some sea green colors. Continue to fill in the rest of the waves with color. After you get the color down, take the Q-tip and start to blend the colors in the directions of each wave. You might want to “blow” off the remaining chalk as well.
Here is a close up of how my waves look after blending. The white areas are the spots of clear blue. You might notices that some of the chalk is sticking to the black glue. This is easily fixed by dipping a clean Q-tip into water and gently removing the chalk from the glue lines. This will help your picture POP as well.
It’s time to go back and finish out that sunset sky! So after laying down light pink, come back with some medium pink, and then some magenta. Continue to make circular strokes around the sun. See how I’m leaving some random white space in between some of the colors This will help solidify the radiance of the sun, so be sure to leave some white around the layers as you fill in the sky.
After you get your pink hues down, you’ll want to slowly get darker and darker as you get to the edges of your sky. With each color you want to make circluar strokes in the same shape as your sun. I chose the following color order: Purple, Dark Purple, Teal. Then I went back in and added a few strokes of blue to highlight the purle areas and a few strokes of yellow to highlight the link areas.
After you get your colors down, you’ll again want to blend them together. Use a few different Q-tips and blend in the same circle motion around the shape of the sun. Be sure to blend the colors but leave some white areas to add textures and dimension. Remember, we want the sun to look like it’s radiating outward. You might want to leave the tail completely white, because honestly it looks stunning and the contrast is beautiful! I contemplated stopping here, but decided to at least show a tutorial for how to color the tail in case you wanted to keep going too!
So, here is a photograph of how I laid down the colors of the whale’s tail. I used a light grey to color the areas with the barnacles, with a blue edge. Then blue again on the center of the belly. For the top of the tale I used a bit of sea green, and blue in the center. You’ll see that I left some of the borders white. I did this so as I blend I can make the shape look more rounded and 3-D.
After I blend this all in, I went over the remaining areas with the white chalk pastel color. This helped me cover up any mistakes too as some of the white areas had picked up some colored chalk dust from all the other sections of the page.
Did you try this project with your kiddos? Tag us on Instagram with your creations! If you are looking for more Ocean Art Projects for Kids try our