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14. Little Patches Watercolors – Foundations B+

14. Little Patches Watercolors – Foundations B+


Students will work for two weeks to create a square-shaped watercolor painting that is divided into a grid design. Each smaller area in the grid (rectangles and squares), becomes a tiny little painting, drawn and painted in watercolors. This will employ the small glaze technique, and makes it easy since there are no large areas to worry about. Each painting is made from patches: several patches of smaller paintings, and those paintings are smaller patches of color.

Grades 6 – 12

Week of November 6 – 10

1 Hour & 45 Minutes, or two 52-minute sessions

STANDARDS For This Lesson


Copy and paste the text below to send your abbreviated lesson plan with national standards and learning targets to your supervisors and colleagues.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Week of November 6 – 12


Students will work for two weeks to create a square-shaped watercolor painting that is divided into a grid design. Each smaller area in the grid (rectangles and squares), becomes a tiny little painting, drawn and painted in watercolors. This will employ the small glaze technique, and makes it easy since there are no large areas to worry about. Each painting is made from patches: several patches of smaller paintings, and those paintings are smaller patches of color.


Grade six



Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.

Grade seven


Apply methods to overcome creative blocks.

Grade eight


Document early stages of the creative process visually and/or verbally in traditional or new media.

Grade HS Proficient


Use multiple approaches to begin creative endeavors



Students know how to plan for their project.
Students know how to change the frame of their paper.


1. Warmup  (15 minutes)- Pencil sketches of fall gourds

2. Preview (10 min) – Basic watercolor insights

3. Paper Squares(10) – Prepare paper. Show slideshow

4. Explain (5) – Show samples of project

5. Grid (12) – Draw grid layout on watercolor paper

– – – – – –


6. Design (15) – Thumbnail designs, watch DEMO

7. Draw (35) – Create final drawings

8. Clean Up (2) – Everyone helps

Tap the Plus Icon (above right) to open STANDARDS information

Student Work


Don’t worry about rewriting anything. Just spend a few minutes reading the lesson plan and printing out your PDFs. Then check out the READY, SET, GO! section and print your prep-page, which includes checklists and an “at a glance” outline of the lesson so you can stay on track when you’re teaching. Set out the materials from the list on your prep page and you’re ready.

That’s all you need to know. Use your smartphone to Scroll & Teach!

Lesson At A Glance

A brief overview of each step. Buttons jump to each section for detailed information.

15 Minutes – pencil sketches of fall gourds.

10 Min – basic watercolor insights

10 Min – Prepare paper. Show slideshow

5 Min – Show samples of project

12 Min – Draw grid layout on watercolor paper


15 Min – Design thumbnails, watch DEMO

35 Min – Create final drawings

2 Min – Everyone helps

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.



Each section is a different color. Read over once and then you can SCROLL & TEACH using any device you like. It’s designed to work best with your phone.

STEP 1. Warm Up

Students will warm up by drawing fall gourds
15 Minutes


Students know that quick sketching as a warm-up is important


  • 14″ x 17″ Sketch Paper
  • Pencil
  • Pastel
  • Charcoal

All materials are suggestions and may be modified as you see fit. We have tried many items, and these seem to allow the most versatility for the cost.

Usually there are bags of small decorative gourds in the stores this time of year that are not too expensive. Use ambient lighting instead of overheads.

1.1 draw

Students will sketch the gourds in their sketch pads using dry media of their choice.

Early finishers can draw a different still life object or have artist’s choice. Young students can begin a new page, and use the gourd shapes to create funny cartoon faces and/or body shapes.

1.2 display

Show the Pinterest Board for examples of watercolor paintings that use small patches of color instead of large washes. Note how many of the colors will overlap each other in some of the paintings.

Pinterest Gallery – Small Glazes in Watercolors

Tap the icon to the left to open our special Pinboard showing examples of artwork to display to your class. See our Article for making Pinterest work on larger displays. You can also use a laptop or large tablet and gather everyone around like you’re using a book.

Advanced Student Lesson

CREATIONS - tap here to open

Our Creations lessons are for students who have completed the two years of Foundations and are ready to begin using all that they have learned to create new work. These more challenging versions of the same concepts and techniques are easily taught along-side students in the Foundations course. This allows for excellent review, and is encouraging for students to see progress from each viewpoint.

Use the Student Instructions printout below to distribute to your Creations students. Tap the image to open the PDF in a new window.

Watercolor Painting

Overview: Advanced students have a choice of re-doing the grid design like you did 2 years ago, or to move up to a more advanced version of the technique, with the project below.

Watercolor Project

Select a single subject matter for a small patches (glazes) technique. This doesn’t need to be in a grid, but will be a regular painting. It should have small areas of color and shape, and not have any large background areas (such as a sky, a wall, or a table). A close up is good for this.

The subject should “float” on the white paper. Flowers, still life, or small intricate architecture works well. There is a reference sheet to print below, if you need it.

Once the subject is chosen, 3 to 6 thumbnails should be drawn for composing the work. Create an obvious emphasis – the Most Important Spot.

Choices: Frame shape & orientation, Natural vs expressive colors, realism vs expressionism. These are up to you to choose how you want, but the work should retain the small shapes so that it is painted using many small patches of watercolors. There will be several weeks to design, draw, and paint the work.


Tap images to open Creations Student Instructions and Reference Materials in new windows

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 2. Preview Watercolors

Students will look at examples of the project
10 Minutes


Students know how to plan for their project.

2.1 teach

Let students shade their drawings or doodle while you explain how to use watercolors. 

Introduce watercolors and the techniques we’ll be using, by reading the teach talk.

Next week we have an Art Instructor exclusive. Our “secret” to teaching watercolor that helps students understand the profound difference between working with other paints and working with watercolors. By simply moving the brush sideways, and not touching the paper, you achieve 3 things that are traditionally taught, but very difficult to get students to understand, much less actually do.

  1. The light touch needed to PULL the paint instead of push it.
  2. The need to have enough watercolor to create a BUBBLE of watery paint.
  3. A warning for when you’re running out of paint and need more.

There is a slide show and a video demo for the follow up lesson. This week is planning and drawing only.


To learn more about why kids can shade while you talk, Please read our “Doodle Brain” Article by clicking the button. (opens in a new tab/window).

“Watercolor paper is different from other papers. It has a special coating that makes the watercolor paint sit up on the surface for a minute before slowly soaking in. This is what makes the distinct look of watercolor. Working on normal paper isn’t good. The paint will soak in immediately, ruin the paper, and it will streak very badly.

Watercolor paper will wrinkle when wet, like other papers though. There are several ways to keep that from happening, but today we’re using only one technique we call, little patches.

Today, we are using thick paper, and we’re only making small areas, or patches, of color so that the paper does not get soaked all at once.

The acrylic colors you have can be mixed with water and made into a student version of watercolors. It’s much cheaper to use our acrylics to learn some new techniques. If you find that you love watercolors, then you can purchase a real set later.

  • Watercolor is SEE THROUGH! you work from light colors first and add more layers, getting darker until you finish with the darkest and the details.
  • Your pencil drawing can become part of the art. You can even do some shading, and details, and it will show through the paint to some degree.
  • One of the most important things about watercolor is that you must think of it as water instead of paint. It has to be see-through and watery. Mix a lot of water into the paint and mix it thoroughly so that there are no chunks and it is not thick at all. Just like water, if you tap watercolor it should ripple on the surface.
  • The other most imporant thing, and this is THE very most important, is to not actually let your brush touch the paper. I know that sounds weird! We’ll learn more about this next week.”
Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 3. Paper

Students will get their papers ready for painting.
10 Minutes


Students know how to change the frame of their paper.


  • 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper
  • 2B Pencil
  • Scissors
  • White Eraser

3.1 prep

Demonstrate making the square piece of watercolor paper and a scrap for testing.

After you do the steps, have students follow along with these same steps.

  1. Pull one sheet of Watercolor paper out of the pad, pulling from the open corner and at an angle.
  2. Set paper on table in bathtub position.
  3. Set the pad on top of the paper, perpendicular to it, and line it up at the top and left edges. Do not let it move.
  4. Use a 2B pencil to carefully make a line on the paper using the right edge of the pad as a straight edge.
  5. Put the pad away, and use scissors to cut the leftover strip off of the right side of the paper.

This scrap is important to save, so have students write “TESTING” on the top, and their name, and keep it for next week. It can be saved by placing into the watercolor pad at the very back, between the papers and the cardboard.


Keep any scraps and “learner” watercolor papers because even the back of used paper is good for testing. Watercolor does NOT show it’s accurate color until it’s on paper.

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 4. Explain

Students will observe examples of the project
5 Minutes


Students know how to plan their artwork.


  • Tablet or TV to show past project examples

4.1 discuss

Explain how to choose a subject, and show examples of past projects by other students.

Head up to the top of the page (using the little gray arrow icon to the lower right), and use the “Student Work” section to display past examples.

“We are going to use a grid, and make a lot of small pictures, or patches, to create a neat looking painting that is made up of several small, simple paintings stuck together in various sizes. You are the artist, and that means you can do absolutely ANYTHING you want, as long as it is very simple in each small area AND something that parents will be very happy to see.

This project is your choice; Artists’ Choice.

What should you do? This can be hard to figure out, but you can take a few minutes to plan your ideas. You can draw something you see in the room, in some or all of the areas, such as the gourds we drew, or a flower.

One great idea is to make this about your favorite food, or favorite thing you like to paint.

You can zoom in on an item too, so it’s not as complex. You could add some simple shapes, like stars, clouds, hearts, or raindrops to a few of the smallest areas. You could make cartoons, or butterflies, or trees, or could even use one big picture that is cut up into differently painted pieces like a puzzle. This door (*pictured below) with a portrait is a good example of the puzzle idea.

Start thinking of things you’d like to do on your patch painting. You can draw from memory, your imagination, the things you see around the room, or from photos and books. We’ll invent, design, and draw this week, and paint in watercolors next week. If you still don’t finish, we have an artists choice day, the week afterwards, so you can continue the project until you are done.

Start thinking of things you’d like to do on your patch painting. The best way to get started is to make a list of 5 possibilities, and then stop. Choose from those 5.

You can draw from memory, your imagination, the things you see around the room, or from photos and books. We’ll take 2 (3 for teens/adults) weeks for this project.”

Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 5. Draw the Grid

Students plan out and draw a grid on their paper
12 Minutes


Students know how to plan and draw a grid design.


  • 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper
  • 2B Pencil
  • White Eraser
  • Rulers

5.1 print


How to make Grids

Print enough for each student to have one of their own.


1 Page – Opens in new window

5.2 design

6-12 (delete this line):

Use the PDF and follow the instructions to design and draw your grid on the square sheet of watercolor paper.

The border is 1/2″ all around. Use a 2B pencil and draw the grid EXTREMELY light so that erasing does not damage the paper surface and the pencil completely disappears where you erase.

Students can choose their own design from the samples shown.

If you have rulers, that’s great. If not, just let them use the printed measuring marks on the PDF. Note that the printed ruler is not quite long enough for the last mark. Moving the “ruler” is necessary for the 5th (last) mark on each side, or it can be measured 1/2″ from the edge.

5.3 Teach

While they work, help them make their grids, and explain the Most Important Spot.

“The grid is like a tile floor, and there is not an important spot on it yet. Most really nice looking paintings have a most important spot, or what artists refer to as visual emphasis. People don’t enjoy art as much without emphasis, since they don’t know where to look. Without emphasis, artwork can become a pattern, looking like wallpaper.

You could make one square red, and all the others greens and blues, so that the red square would become the most important spot, but that is a very simple solution. Another way to have a most important spot is to make it bigger. That’s why we have all of these layouts with a large 2 x 2 square. Whatever you decide to put in that big square will become the most important thing on your painting.”

Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase


This is the end of part one if you are dividing into two, 52-minute sessions.

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 6. Design

Students create thumbnail sketches to practice their ideas
15 Minutes


Students know how to design and plan their artwork


  • 14″ x 17″ Sketch Paper
  • 2B Pencil
  • White Eraser

6.1 sketch

Students will create thumbnail sketches of their ideas.

“We do very small drawings to figure out our basic overall idea because you can draw a tiny thumbnail extremely fast. You can actually draw as fast as you can think, so it’s the only way to make a plan, or design. If you slow down to draw details, your design mind can’t move forward, so that part of your brain just quits working. You stop making creative decisions.

After you get a good idea of your design, you can refine the way you want it look. Make a rough sketch that’s about the same size as the artwork or a bit smaller. Hand-draw a practice grid and make some rough sketches in the grid areas to figure out how you want to do it. Erase as needed to change and improve your ideas and images.

Have fun! Ask for help when you need it.”

Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase


 If you have magazines or books (appropriate for children to look through), these can be places for you students to find inspiration

Thumbnail Sketches (tap any image to open viewer)

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 7. Draw

Students will draw their final designs onto their watercolor paper
35 Minutes


Students know how to draw a design.


  • Watercolor paper with pencil grid
  • 2B Pencil
  • 4B Pencil
  • Kneaded Eraser
  • White Eraser

7.1 draw

Once all thumbnail sketches are complete, Students will start drawing the final images onto their watercolor paper.

Remind students to take their time and that their pencil will show through when they paint watercolors on top next week. Because of this, it is important to make intentional lines when drawing and practice techniques like hatch shading if they want to shade some in pencil.

If there are lines that students don’t want to have show up, they can draw them very lightly. Remind them of the most important spot and the placement of all their designs.

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 8. Clean Up

Everyone helps
2 Minutes


Students know the importance of cleaning up.


  • Paper Towels
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Sink
  • Waste baskets
  • Well-lit spot for photos
  • Camera or phone-camera

8.1 clean

Students clean up their work area.

  • Wash hands
  • Put art supplies away
  • Wipe tables & toss trash
  • Remove any smocks (last)
  • Check for items on floors and tables

8.2 photo

Try to get photos of your student’s artwork. Find a good spot for quick lighting without highlights or shadows from your hands and device. Ideally in-between two strong lights on each side.

8.3 connect

Make sure you see the kids connect with parents and tell them about the class if you can!


The information you need to make your lesson work



This lesson provides understanding



This lesson shows application and movement


Self Expression

This lesson allows personal freedom


  • Practice and improvement in planning and composition (older students: & using rulers)
  • Understanding emphasis (the most important spot)
  • Accomplishment from seeing a design come together
  • Fulfillment with self-expression in subject and composition


Mis-marked measurements – Kids get in a hurry and make marks in the wrong spots. This will show up with angled lines in the frame and the grid. Help them understand that it’s normal (Norm says, “measure twice, cut once”), and just to erase and try again.

Heavy guide lines – When making the grid, it is more important than ever to create light lines so you can erase to create different shapes in the design.

Free hand straight edges – The frame and all of the grid must be made using a straight edge. Many students will begin to forget this after a couple of lines and start to draw them free-hand.


Straight edge – Any time you need a straight line, a ruler will work, but also another straight object, like the edge of a pad, will work.

Grid –  Any design that is based on a measured unit and repeated in rows and collumns.

Most Important Spot – The ArtSquish word for emphasis, one of the 6 elements of design. Emphasis is very important to good composition in artwork.

Today we are looking at other artists’ work to find inspiration for the lesson. There is a Pinterest Board and also a gallery of other student work on this project.



Have a bunch of amazing supplies ready, and cut a few things apart before-hand in a way that make you look amazing.

Print all of your PDFs from the lesson plan and cut any references apart as needed.

What your room needs

Here are your printable lists and room prep instructions.


Opens in new window



  • Paper towels
  • Scissors
  • Tablet or TV to show past projects
  • Rulers
  • Sink
  • Waste Baskets
  • Well-lit spot for photos
  • Camera or phone-camera



  • 14” x 17” Sketch Paper
  • 11” x 15” Watercolor paper
  • 2B Pencil
  • 4B Pencil
  • White eraser
  • Charcoal
  • Kneaded Eraser


Week 15: Patching up & Charcoal

November 13 – 17

Students will finish the little patches watercolor they began last week. As students finish, they’ll begin work in charcoal, warming up with quick sketches and using several photo references. Oil pastels are introduced to create a black and white mixed media, and then color is added for a monochromatic work. There is an in-depth charcoal demo too. Older students will most likely not get to the charcoal work, since they will enjoy working on their watercolors.

Week 16: Freedom to Express

November 20 – 24

Every artist loves the chance to express, and to choose the medium, the subject, and the style that they work in. Our last week before Thanksgiving allows artists the room to enjoy their work and see what they can do. However, we do have work-flow training, to facilitate creating artwork keepers, as opposed to having play time. Total freedom creates overwhelmed students and/or chaos.

Use this button to view our parent’s blog. Share the link:, with your student’s parents so your they can read about the lesson each week.

About The Author

Dennas Davis

Dennas is the founder of Firstlight Arts Academy in Nashville, and also of The Art Instructor (formerly ArtSquish). He has been designing, painting, illustrating and teaching in various combinations since he learned how to hold a crayon. He is the illustrator of 24 children’s books with over 5 million in print worldwide.
See his paintings at


Never rewrite a lesson plan again. Read ours once, print your PDFs, and use our easy SCROLL & TEACH lesson plan right on your phone (or other device).

We’ve even included a SUBMIT YOUR SUMMARY text. Just copy & paste and you can send to your principal. It’s an abbreviated lesson plan, with standards and learning targets.


Look for the READY, SET, GO! section at the bottom of each page. There’s background info, lists, and a printable Prep Page so you don’t have to write down a thing.