Brilliantly Colored Sea Creatures

Lesson Plan, Grades 9-12, Art, Art History, Science, Painting


Lesson Plan and Artwork by Phyllis M. Annett

Using metallic and matte watercolors on the black art paper, students will paint an underwater scene of a Sea creature to illustrate the brilliant colors found in the oceans of the world.


  • Students will research, study and execute a painting of a Sea Creature of brilliant color using both metallic and matte watercolors on black paper.
  • Students will realize that color in nature serves a purpose essential to the survival of that species.
  • Students will learn that Art, Science and Art History are all intertwined.
  • Students will recognize and practice the Elements and Principles of Design in their own work.

Supplies Needed

Richeson Collegiate Semi-Moist Metallic Watercolors
Richeson Collegiate Semi-Moist Matte Watercolors
Richeson Black Art Paper, 50 pack
Richeson Camel Budget Brush Assortment, set of 60
Jack Richeson’s Tracing Paper & Pads, 50 pack
Saral Transfer Paper, White, 12 foot roll
General’s Layout Pencil, package of 12
*Here are the supplies needed for this lesson plan for reference. Find a convenient carousel of shoppable products for this lesson below.


Standard #2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work
Standard #3: Refine and complete artistic work.
Standard #5: Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
Standard #7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Standard #11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.



Inform the students that they will choose a sea creature as the subject of their underwater watercolor paintings on black art paper.


Demonstrate painting techniques to illustrate the qualities of the metallic and matte watercolors on the black art paper. Note that both the matte and metallic colors can be painted over one another to achieve washes of color and also opaque effects depending on the amount of water loaded in the brush.


Have students use books and the internet to find a specific sea creature with brilliant color. Have them make note of special facts as to how the creature uses its color to survive.


Have students sketch the sea creature on light weight drawing paper.


Instruct students on how to transfer their perfected sketches of the chosen sea creature onto the black art paper using of Saral Transfer paper in white.


Inform students that they can paint backgrounds for their underwater scenes before they transfer their drawings of their sea creatures onto the black art paper. This will help depict habitats as well as make subtle suggestions of other sea creatures or plants to add depth to the composition. This lesson’s painting portrays a Mandarin Dragonet Fish from the waters of Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It was chosen for its brilliant colors and pattern. This fish uses brilliant colors to attract a mate and it possesses not scales but a smooth surface which is sticky and toxic to predators. Its skin also has pigment that reflects light, thus giving it a brilliant color palette. The Mandarin Fish gets it name because its colors and patterns resembles those of the Imperial Robes of the Mandarin people of China.


In this order: Have students choose their subject, draw the subject on lightweight paper, transfer perfected drawings onto the black art paper with the Saral Paper, and lastly paint their underwater scene with the matte and metallic watercolors..


Develop criteria for evaluation and display all work proudly.