Tropical Tree Frogs: Observational Drawing (May 2013)

This drawing project with my four to six year old preschoolers produced some stunning results. The children really impressed me with their concentration, attention to detail and sharp observation skills.

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A very talented 5 1/2 year old made this accurate drawing from the photograph below

The exotic and distinctive appearance of tree frogs, with their brightly coloured skin, bulging eyes, long slender limbs and bulbous fingers and toes, makes them an appealing and fascinating subject-matter for children to draw.

clinging-on_1891797iI printed out some beautiful photographs of different types of tree frogs, including poison dart frogs which are blue with black spots, golden chachi tree frogs, and red-eyed tree frogs, which have vivid green bodies, yellow and blue striped sides, and orange webbed feet.

Some of the photographs showed the frogs in quite complicated ‘poses’, clinging to the stems of leaves and dangling from a twig, but the kids were not discouraged by this – indeed, they relished the challenge of trying to draw exactly what they could see.

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I set aside a whole session (45 minutes) for the children to focus on drawing their frog/s in detail, just using pencil. At first, a few of the kids said they didn’t know where to start, so I encouraged them to begin by drawing the most dominant feature – the frog’s eyes.

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Some children drew their frogs quite quickly, using the photograph as a guide, and then spent time filling the rest of their pictures with imaginative flowers and leaves, while others painstakingly copied every detail of the photograph, drawing carefully to reproduce the shape of the frog’s body, the position of the limbs and the skin markings.

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At the next session, the children used very fine brushes to add colour with gouache paints. It was very challenging to control the brush and the watery paint, keeping the colours within the pencil lines. I demonstrated a few skills first, such as how to remove any excess paint from the brush by pressing the bristles against the side of the water container, and also how to paint with only the tip of the bristles.

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Every child took great care to paint as accurately as they could, and some of them astounded me with their dexterity at such a young age.

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Here are some details from the children’s wonderful frog pictures, alongside the photographs they were drawn from.


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And one child just could not resist sitting her frogs on their own individual lily pads!

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  1. i am really impressed with how much patience you show in training these kids to use art skills that you have broken down into easily understandable steps for the young child. i love the results. it goes to show that kids CAN do real art and not simply copy a prototype of something an adult has made! i LOVE it.

  2. Amazing what you do with the children, truly inspiring and inspired!
    One hopes they can continue with their journey in Art as they grow older.
    You are giving them such a brilliant start.
    Wish I was in your class!

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