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Artistically adaptive animals.

It is amazing that the survival value of animal colors and patterns lies in how the colors adapt animals for their life in a particular environment and for their relationships with other animals.

The colors of certain animals conceal them from predators or allow them to ambush their prey, while the colors of others provide a way for them to signal or warn others of their species.

Camouflage and disguise colors and patterns allow animals to hide from predators. A shorthorn grasshopper, for example, disguises itself as a leaf while a European nightjar can become perfectly camouflaged within its environment to hide.

Many birds have coloring that allows them to be disguised and camouflaged, such as the snowy owl blending in with snow.

After examining numerous birds, reptiles and animals with patterns and different colorations, I asked my students to think about an animal, bird or reptile they would like to draw and how they would color and pattern their animals to show camouflage, adaptations or signaling. Animals change colors to signal other animals, many times changing color to warn an animal in their own species. This is their way of communicating amongst themselves.


After they contemplated the above, the students received 8.5"x 11" white construction paper to draw their choice of animal, bird or reptile. They were to consider background and how that would enhance the depiction of camouflage, signaling or disguise. How can repeated pattern and/or color depict camouflage, signaling or adaptations? I urged the students to be cognizant of the use of line, shape and color when designing these works of art.

Because oil pastels are rich in color and easily blended for gorgeous effects, students used them to color their drawings. The students made blends for a variety of color combinations. They layered colors and also mixed lighter and darker shades and tints of colors.

Our resulting illustrations were fabulous. The students explained how their animal changed colors to adapt, disguise or signal other animals. We had combined a study of science and art successfully in a unit the students would not forget.


* Oil pastels

* 8.5" x 11" white construction paper

* Examples of birds, reptiles and animals with patterns


Elementary students will ...

* acquaint themselves with the design elements and characteristics.

* enrich his or her appreciation of good design and how repeating patterns and colors attain design.

* recognize the differences in lines and shapes as he or she designs with these elements.

* define and give examples of camouflage, disguise and signaling.

* mix many colors and judge differences in hues, values and intensities with oil pastels.

Karen Skophammer teaches art for Manson Northwest Webster in Barnum and Manson, Iowa.
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Author:Skophammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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