Friday, June 19, 2015

DIY "Cave Paintings" (a Lesson on Lascaux)

I have been fascinated by the caves at Lascaux, France, since I learned about them in one of my very first college art history classes. I wanted to see if my sons would find them equally fascinating.

They did.

Before we made our own "cave paintings," we read a great book that familiarized my sons with the discovery of the caves. The story is so appealing to kids because it was, in fact, some young boys that stumbled on these historic caves and discovered their paintings and engravings, which were made by some of the earliest humans.

Art has a long rich history. Cave paintings show us its very origin.

Our Artist Recreation
Of course, we don't have a cave wall to use as our medium, so I grabbed a roll of brown packaging paper (like what you'd wrap a package in to mail) that was collecting dust in our basement. I cut a large piece.

I crinkled it to give it more of a stone effect and swiped on a few areas of brown and white acrylic paint in an attempt to replicate the look of cave walls.

Then my sons used taupe, brown, black, and white oil pastels and some stencils I'd made. To make your own stencils, print my free template onto office paper, overlay sheets of transparency paper (think thick clear report covers), and using an exacto craft knife, carefully cut away the animals shapes.

The boys were able to position the stencils anywhere they chose and even flip them to make the mirror image for variety. Holding the stencil steady (and tightly), they ran the oil pastel along the inner edge of the stencil to make an outline of a bull, deer and her fawn, bird, and human hunter (complete with bow and arrow).

This required patience and determination for our 5-year-old, but since the real paintings didn't have crisp lines, even his wavering hand seemed to add to the authenticity.

When we were done, he told me all about what our "cave painting" was illustrating!

More Books
In the evening, the boys read two other great books to extend the learning even further. My husband read The First Drawing to our 5-year-old. It is a wildly imaginative tale of a child who invented art by drawing in caves. It starts "Imagine ... you were born before the invention of drawing, more than thirty thousand years ago." This makes the cave painters very relatable to kids!

My 9-year-old read Discovery in the Cave on his own. While the reading level was much lower than he's used to, he was fascinated by the small maps that detailed all of the different areas in the caves of Lascaux. It contained enough unique information from the book we read before our art activity to keep him interested. 


  1. Wow, that sounds like so much fun and so educational. Not sure how you feel about letting your kids watch TV, but we have the whole series of Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? (under $10 on Amazon). The very first episode features the Lascaux Caves. I'll always remember them, because the clue the detectives find calls them the "Let's Go" caves.

  2. Excellent activity! We have 2 natural history museums near us where you can walk through caves with drawings of things they found in actually caves from the area. It's really amazing to see how people would communicate before cell phones :)

  3. This is great -- we are beginning our history of art study. I also learned there are some caves near where we live in England. I might try to take the kids there.

  4. Thank you for this helpful info and templates.

  5. a beautiful activity ... thank you