Beyond the Border Art Lesson

Beyond the Border Art Lesson

Beyond the Border Watercolor & India Ink Project

My Beyond The Border project is geared toward middle school art & high school art classes although could be modified to upper elementary art. The placement of the focal point is important in this project, so we used the Rule of Thirds to position the area of emphasis.  Placing the focal point in the Rule of thirds made it more natural for the subject to extend out into the borders.

Prior to starting the project we reviewed Watercolor Painting Techniques and Pen & Ink Techniques.

Beyond the Border Watercolor & India Ink Project

FREE Beyond the Borders Project Lesson Handout PDF 2015 (Click)

(Copyright Michelle C. East-for classroom use ONLY- not to be copied or reproduced for any other reason!)

Beyond the Borders Project Lesson Handout 2015Project Objective:

Create a 2D mixed media art piece that explores the expansion of the main subject matter that is in the inner rectangle branching into  the border around it-going beyond the border. The main subject should remain in color, but everything else turns black & white outside the main rectangle.


  1. Choose on your subject matter (suggestions: butterflies, insects (colorful), birds, sea animals-with flowing fins or tentacles, flowers, candy (spilled candy!).
  2. In your sketchbook, draw a rough sketch of your design. Place your focal point in the Rule of Thirds. (Quiz Grade)
  3. Start with the outside border, then draw an interior rectangle.
  4. Creatively & selectively expand part of your design onto to the outside border.
  5. When you have your final design approved by me, you may begin on the final paper.
  6. Begin LIGHTLY drawing your interior rectangle by measuring 3 1/2” in from each side.
  7. Draw your main subject matter in lightly.
  8. Add your back ground extending ONLY PART of it to the edges of the paper. (visually, I recommend at least 3 sides)
  9. Paint your main subject with watercolors.
  10. Apply India ink to the subject matter (outline & add details) & to the area beyond the border (this part will ONLY be black & white- can use hatching & cross-hatching, stippling or other Pen & Ink Techniques to show value changes & textures).

Here are some beginning examples from my high school art class. They are painting now, then will draw with pen & ink. They are looking so awesome!


Ink and Watercolor Creatures Student Examples:

Teacher Examples:

Teacher Example (unfiinished)

Teacher Example (unfiinished)

Beyond the Border Art Lesson

If you choose to use this lesson (written or photo), please reference back to as this is my original lesson. (Please give credit where credit is due!) This lesson is copyright by Michelle C. East and is not to be reproduced in any way except for classroom use ONLY!)

Let me know how the project goes for you or any alterations/improvements you made in the comments below– I am ALWAYS trying to improve my lessons for the students!! ~Michelle

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  1. I am currently student teaching and will be trying this lesson with my Elementary students!
    3rd- 6th grade) I am tweaking the materials list a bit though because I don’t have access to ink or water color. Wish me luck!

    • Exciting Jessica! What materials are you using instead? I’m always looking to improve & expand projects? It’s important to remember to create the color part first. Thenfor the black & white portion for the project it is VERY important to use some type of permanent ink or markers (like sharpies). If you use regular markers, they will bleed if any water touches them (which is another fun project in its self).The color portion can be done in a variety of mediums-marker, colored pencil, tempera paint or tempera cakes, acrylic paint. I don’t suggest dry or oil pastels because of the smaller surface area to work on, but it could be done. Let us know how it does! I’d love to see some samples from younger students!

  2. Hello, I really like this lesson and I will be doing it with my High School Art Elective course at Rio International School, Brazil.

      • Hi Michelle,
        The lesson went splendidly! The students engaged productively and pushed themselves to create something unique and “beyond the border”. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi, I was wondering what you used for photo references? Anything more you can say about this part of the project I would appreciate. Did students use a grid to help them draw? Were students asked to bring in photos? thank you

    • Hi, We used various resources for photos (old calendar pages, magazines, internet, photo books. We try to make sure they are not copywritten first or that the copyright is expired). If students had a photo from home they wanted to work from, they were allowed to bring it. We also have iPads in my classroom so students could work from those too.

    • Hi Amanda, We have 5 45 minutes classes per week and this project will typically take about 3 weeks from delivery to finish depending on the size of the paper used. Have fun this is one of my favorite projects!

  4. This is a FANTASTIC project and i would like to try it with my Grade 10 art class, all the way up in Manitoba, Canada. But i was wondering, do you have an artist that influenced you in the creation of this lesson, or a watercolour artist you introduced to your students ? I like to attach someone to each project so they are exposed to different artists but i am stumped on a appropriate match for this one.
    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Roberta! I did not have a specific we were studying. I was inspired by a piece of art I saw in a nursing home, but unfortunately there was no artist name anywhere to be found. Our project is very loosely inspired by that piece I saw because it had color on the main subject and a black/white graphic style design around it.