Rocky Seascapes

Lesson adapted from Art Makes U Smart


Students will use their knowledge of weathering, erosion, and other geographic features that play a role in rock formation to create a rocky watercolor seascape.


NGSS: 4-ESS2-1
Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Explore and invent art-making techniques and approaches.


  1. Start by showing students an example of a rock formation, such as the Dyrhólaey Arch in Iceland (pictured below). Show students where this is located on a map.
  2. Give students time to research interesting rock formations and their locations around the world. Have students share their research with the class. Consider having students put a pin in a large map where they find interesting rock formations and look for geographic features of that region.
  3. Encourage students to consider the forces of nature that might have aided in the formations. Now is a great time for a discussion about weathering, erosion, plate tectonics, etc.
  4. After your discussion, look back at the images of rock formations students found, and have them look for inspiration for their artwork. Explain they will be using various art making techniques to create their own rocky seascape.
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Part One: Colored Pencil & Watercolor Background Page

Step 01

Step 1

On a sheet of mixed media or watercolor paper, use colored pencils to create three sections (beach, ocean, and sky) by laying down a few lines of various colors for each area. For the beach use a combination of yellow, gold, and peach or orange. For the ocean, include purple and green in shades of blue. When coloring the sky, leave some areas white for clouds. You do not need to fill the whole scene, as this is just an underlay for the watercolor.

Step 02

Step 2

Next, watercolor over the colored pencil, starting with the beach and working your way up the page. Play with the amount of water added to make colors more vibrant or more light and airy. Also, consider using wet on wet or wet on dry watercolor techniques to create variances in the colors and how much they blend. Set this paper aside to dry.

Part Two: Tissue Paper Page

Step 03

Step 3-4

Select the colors of tissue paper you'd like to use for your rock formation. Tear these into strips, approximately one inch wide, varying lengths.

Step 04

Next, use a watered down glue mixture to glue the strips of tissue paper to a second sheet of mixed media or watercolor paper. If your tissue tears or wrinkles while you do this that’s okay because it will add character, texture, and variety to your rocks. Set this paper aside to dry.

Part Three: Cutting out your Rock Formation

Step 05

Look back at the rock formations students researched from the engagement section of this lesson. Use these images for inspiration for the shape of the rock formation in the following steps.

Step 06

Turn your dried tissue paper page over, and draw your rock formation with a pencil, keeping in mind the shape will be mirrored when you flip it over to see the tissue paper side. Also, make sure to draw a large rock formation! You can always cut it down smaller later. Remember, volcanic sea rock is usually very jagged, so try to mimic jagged edges instead of smooth lines. Cut out your rock formation.

Part Four: Putting it all Together

Step 07

Step 7

Lay out your rock formation on the watercolor seascape you painted in part one. Decide if you want your rock formation to be on the beach, coming out of the ocean water, or if you want to create a view looking out from a sea cave, like in the second example here.

Step 08

Step 8

Glue your tissue paper rock formation to the watercolor seascape, and mount your finished artwork on a sheet of black construction paper.

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