A Watercolor “ValenDine”

My 5 & 6 year old (Kindergarten/1st grade split) students learned about American pop artist, Jim Dine (b. 1935).  After viewing one of Jim Dine’s paintings, Imogen, I had them recreate a similar watercolor painting of their own while keeping true to Jim’s style.  This makes for a great Valentine project that both students and parents love.

Jim Dine’s Imogen

First, I discussed primary colors, secondary colors and complimentary colors with them.

Primary colors: Red, Blue, Yellow.  Their job is to mix together and make the other colors of the rainbow.

Secondary colors: Green, Purple, Orange. They are made by mixing 2 primary colors together.  (Red + Blue = Purple, Red + Yellow = Orange, Blue + Yellow = Green)

Complimentary colors:

Red & Green, Blue & Orange, Yellow & Purple

When explaining the purpose of complimentary colors, I say that “their job is to help make each other really stand out or POP when you put them side by side/next to each other.”  I also say that “every color has a best friend, and when they hang out side by side, they help each other look really bright and very pretty together.”  You have to be clear that they are NOT to be mixed together because that will only make an icky brownish color.

I had my students draw a large heart on a piece of watercolor paper.  Then, they used red, orange and yellow to fill it in how they chose.  The one rule is to make sure that “each color gets a turn touching the edge/outline of the heart.”

Miss Misty’s artists at work

The background is made up of the other colors of the rainbow (blue, purple and green).  The rule for the background is to “make sure that the colors of the heart get to touch their complimentary color.”  For example, wherever you see orange in the heart, its complimentary color (blue) must touch its entire edge/outline.  They must “be neighbors.”  Wherever you see red in the heart, green is “right next door” to it in the background.  Where there is yellow in the heart, purple is “right next door” to it in the background.

A few example artworks from Miss Misty’s students

It’s important to watch how the little artist holds a paintbrush (“like a pencil”) and how they stroke the brush to the paper (“like you’re sweeping with a broom, NOT like you color with a crayon”).  They should also learn how to properly dip their brush into the paint (don’t “dunk” or “scoop” it) and then immediately wipe the excess paint on the rim of the paint tray so that their brush won’t be too “drippy” and leave “puddles” on their artwork.


-Pencil (to draw the heart before painting)

-Watercolor paper

-Watercolor paints and paintbrush


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  1. These hearts are absolutely striking! I want to try this technique for spring butterflies. Even though the original shapes of the hearts that the kids drew are part of the charm, I’m thinking I will use a template to draw the butterfly outline on the paper. My questions:
    Would you have the kids draw the butterflies? Of course I would be modelling and we could practice…
    I would love to try and do the project whole group (22 kindergartners – I am a general ed teacher), but I’m not sure I can handle it. Is this how you did it? I have an aide and we could set up 2 stations with the others doing “centers” of something else. Do you have a recommendation or tips for the organization?
    Do you think the colors will look as beautiful for butterflies?
    Thanks for sharing this gorgeous project!

  2. I might never do this particular project, but thank you are describing the teaching language you used! I learnt so much about how to teach painting to little ones from reading this post!

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