Level II-Art Lesson 10: Hiding Butterflies
Learning about Symmetry and Background
The lesson is suitable for students in grade 3 through adult.
Art Lesson Description
Two things make a butterfly an interesting art project:
- First, the insect is a perfect introduction to learning to draw mirror images. Whatever you draw on the right-hand wings needs to be mirrored on the left. This makes it a great study in spatial perception. (Students with reversal problems may need extra help.)
- Second, many butterflies are protected by camouflaging colors. This makes the relationship between the butterfly and its background more important than the butterfly itself.
The problems to solve for the artists are these:
- To use the same kinds of lines and the same colors to decorate the butterfly as they did to create the background.
- At the same time, they will need to create a tension between the background and the butterfly, so that the butterfly becomes distinct from the background.
- In this lesson students will draw a butterfly, create a background for the butterfly, and then create a butterfly that wears the camouflage of its surroundings.
This lesson includes both POWERPOINT and VIDEO versions of the lesson plus a downloadable printout of the warmup.
List of Supplies for Each Art Student
- 1 printout of the butterfly warm-up (this comes with the lesson)
- 1 fine tipped permanent black marker
- 11" x 15" watercolor paper
- Paint palette
- Tempera paints or acrylic paints
- Drawing board: (Make your own by cutting an 18" x 24" piece of 1/4" masonite)
- Set of brushes
- Masking tape
- 1 bottle or cup for rinsing brushes
- Black and white paint pens
Suggestions for Cross-Curricular Connections
- Social Studies: Learn why early American colonists gave the monarch butterfly its name.
Learn about the migratory habits of the monarch with these resources:
- Bird, Butterfly, Eel, by James Prosek, is the story of the migratory journey of a bird, butterfly, and eel that begins in the Eastern U.S.
- Butterfly, by Victoria Huseby, is an inviting story of the consecutive stages of the life of a butterfly
- Butterflies and Moths, by Nic Bishop focuses on the tiniest parts of the insect’s body
- Get a Butterfly Garden and watch a painted lady butterfly grow from caterpillar to butterfly.
- Visit a butterfly museum online
- Learn about camouflage in other animals
- Learn about the migratory habits of the monarch with these resources:
- Read Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, by Margarita Engle. A story about butterflies set in medieval Germany.
- Lots of Spots uses poetry to tell about animal camouflage.
- Combine science, art and literature with this book: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science.
- More resources can be found here and here
- Be sure to enjoy information in ArtAchieve's other lesson about camouflage: The Face with Hidden Surprises.
Approximate Lesson Time to Complete the Art Class:
- Introduction and warm-up: 15 minutes
- Drawing the butterfly: 20 minutes
- Painting the butterfly: 45-60 minutes
- Total time: 80-105 minutes