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Tempera paint comes in two mediums, liquid tempera, which is similar to acrylic, and block tempera, which is similar to solid watercolours. Giving students the opportunity to work with block tempera and watercolour paper lets them see how the same base paint material can be used in a variety of ways and how it works differently on different paper. Flowers make the perfect subject for still life watercolour paintings as they vary in colour, shape and texture.


Have a collection of real or fake flowers that students can look at during class. These flowers will be displayed in a manner that all students can see them. This may mean that multiple still life examples need be set up, or that desks will need to be made into a circle with the still life in the centre.


Note:  Have the example image of Molly Lamb Bobak’s painting Cosmos on display for the class to refer to as an example of watercolour still life.

  1. The class will discuss the fact that in this painting the subject does not cover the entire page, but is rather placed on the page in the top centre. The teacher will ask if the students like the way it is displayed. Do they think the flowers look realistic? Or like a cartoon drawing? Why or why not?
  2. Following the short discussion, students will be told that they are going to do their own watercolour still life painting. Set up art materials before class.
  3. After the initial discussion period, students will also be given their paint tray. Ideally students will try to paint true to life colours, how ever, some students may have problems with this, and if this is the case, as long as they attempt to paint the subject accurately, they can alter the original colour.
  4. The plain paper can also be distributed at this time by a student who is waiting his/her turn to get their paint. The plain paper is for a trial of the paint, as it moves quite differently then liquid tempera paint. Have students practice moving the paint around on the paper and see how it flows differently.
  5. Students will now be instructed to begin painting. Due to the nature of this assignment, most students will complete at least one painting. Students will be told to pay attention to how the colours mix. They will bleed very easily if it is still wet, however, if left to dry,  they will not.
  6. Students will practice bleeding the colours and trying to keep them separate. Notice what effect happens if they use paper towel to soak up some of the damp areas, and what happens if it dries naturally. (This paint will dry much more quickly compared to other paints).
  7. After they have done approximately 2 paintings on regular paint paper, they will move on to watercolour paper.
  8. Students will be told that watercolour paper acts differently compared to plain paper, and does not bleed as much. Instruct students to try and pay attention to how different it is as there will be a discussion about it later.
  9. Students will begin their floral painting at this time. If they want to, they can draw it LIGHTLY with pencil as watercolour can be transparent and if they draw darkly with pencil, it will show through.
  10. Their wet drawings  will  be put aside to dry flat as if they are hung while wet the paint will drip and bleed. After all the paintings are complete and dry (probably the next day) students will hang their work up in the classroom or hallway.
  11. Students  will  be encouraged to discuss their peers’ work as it helps develop confidence and pride in their work. They will talk about their favourite part of the painting, and this will help them to notice unique differences that happen even when all students paint the same subject.

Tips and Tricks

Block Tempera can be used instead of watercolour paint. Just be sure to add a lot of water to the blocks or the paint gets too thick. While teaching, walk around the room and pour a small amount of water onto each block to prevent it from drying out. This should be done by the teacher as students may spill the water and paint.

For an added fun effect, students can sprinkle a bit of salt on the WET watercolour paint and watch the effect it gives. The salt will soak up the paint to create a unique effect from the dye it leaves behind. The salt can be brushed off after the painting is completely dry.

Dripping will occur if the paints are tilted or held up. This may be an effect some students desire, and if that is the case allow them to experiment with this method.