Desert habitat paintings

Each year our third graders study habitats (also known as biomes) in the science lab, in the General Ed classroom, and in the art room. These colorful watercolor paintings are our contribution to the habitat unit.

We began by looking at All about Deserts (Question & Answer Books)by John Sanders and Patti Boyd.


The book was full of fun facts and charming illustrations. We looked carefully at the desert landscape illustrations and identified foreground, middle ground and background. I emphasized that to create a sense of depth, items in the foreground should appear larger and more detailed while items in the background should appear smaller. I modeled several simple line drawings so they could get the hang of it.

We used just three materials: sulphite drawing paper, black crayons, and pan watercolor. We created the black crayon drawing on day one and painted it on day two.

Third grade results:


I am happy to report that this project was highly successful with the third graders.




About Rina Vinetz

Hi there! I'm Rina. I teach K-6 art to 400 students at a public school near San Diego, California. I love teaching art and sharing with other art teachers. Thanks for visiting!

6 thoughts on “Desert habitat paintings

  1. Love all the color! So many times kids think of deserts as dry and brown…with camels and an occasional lizard. These are beautiful!

    • Rina Vinetz

      Hi Charmaine. So glad you like the project. Kids could choose a night sky, sunny sky or sunset. That really helped bring color and life to the paintings.

  2. Love the desert landscapes and the color schemes your kids chose!

    • Rina Vinetz

      Hi Hope. Students are so creative. I used Prang pan watercolor , took out the black and popped in magenta. Plus some old Crayola pans. They turned out great!

  3. Kathy Olson

    Beautiful, Rina! I might try watercolor next time. I’ve been doing tempera in the background, middleground, foreground and then oil pastel for the plants and animals.

    • Rina Vinetz

      Hi Kathy

      I’m all for what ever is beautiful, quick and neat :) tempera would be beautiful too.

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