Today we’re painting an owl using a “smoosh technique”. This project was designed to accompany the picture book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, but you can absolutely do this without reading the book. Or, do the craft first and then read the book. Make an afternoon of it!

Art with kids can be hard! We’re always looking for fresh techniques to keep them engaged and passionate about projects, but we want to keep the mess to a manageable level and provide a decent chance for a successful result. That’s a lot of boxes to check and this one checks them all! Keep reading for a great, easy, art project.

You Only Need A Few Supplies

The supplies we'll need for our painting.  Paint and paper.
  • Paper
    • You’re going to want to use a nice thick paper for this one.  If you use thinner paper, it will pucker and bleed through.
  • Paint
    • Use something that you can easily put circles on your paper with.  I used puff paint because it has a narrow tip. I used different shades of brown because I wanted to paint a barn owl. I also used some white and a little black to make owl eyes.
  • Paint Pens
    • To paint on eyes!
  • Orange Cardstock
    • Just a small triangle to make our owl’s beak.

Step 1: Fold Your Watercolor Paper

Folding watercolor paper in half on the long side.

Take your thick paper and fold it in half along the long side. You’ll make what looks like a book or greeting card. Unfold the paper to reveal your crease.

Step 2: Use The Liquid Paint To Make Circles

One one side of the crease, use your paint to make circles. It’s important that you only put circles on one side of the crease or you won’t have blank paper to take the paint when we smoosh!

A funky tropical bird in shades of blue and orange.

Keep adding circles in different sizes and colors. I used a variety of brown and neutral colors to match the owl in the book, but kids can use whatever colors they’d like! I made this funky blue and orange owl and it might be my favorite!

If possible, leave a bit of room near the crease and the edges of the paper. It’s not the end of the world if paint gets on these areas, it just makes things a little messier.

Step 3: Fold The Paper In Half Again & SMOOSH!

Paper folded in half with a pair of hands pressing down on it.

Fold the paper along the crease, enclosing the paint in the middle of the paper.

Now’s the time to smoosh! Have kids run their hands all over the paper. They should be able to feel the paint moving under their hands as they press down and move their hands. If there was paint near the edges of the paper, it will leak out at this point, so it’s probably a good idea to have surface protection down and to have kids wear clothing protection.

Step 4: Open Your Paper And See The Magic!

A variety of orange, brown, and black colors in a modern art-esque puddle on the paper.

The circles have turned into a face! Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t look like an owl yet, we’re not done! Even if it doesn’t look like an owl, I bet it looks COOL!

Now’s the time to be patient! It’s probably going to take a couple days for this to dry. Especially if you used a lot of paint (and honestly, who among us didn’t?). Set it aside for the weekend and come back Monday.

Step 5: Add Features To Finish Painting Your Owl

Use your paint pens to add eyes to the owl. Practice has taught me that I prefer huge eyes on my owls, but you do you.

Start with a white paint pen to make the iris and then glue on the beak while you wait for the white paint to dry.

The beak is simply a triangle cut out of orange cardstock. Any size, any color, this owl is your own!

Once the iris is dry, come back with a black paint pen and add in the pupil. And that’s it! You have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind owl painting!

The best part about this project is the variation you end up with! I used the same technique on both of these and virtually the same colors and look how different they are! It’s so fun to see what happens when you open the page!

If you’re looking for more activities to accompany picture books, check back often, I post a new art or science project every week, always inspired by a fabulous picture book!

In the meantime, here are a few other art projects to check out:

Leaf Painting With Leaf Man

Making A Piggy Bank With Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday

Making A Kokolesh With When The Shadbush Blooms

This project was adapted from Glued To My Crafts. Check out her fun blog!