Baptism art activities

Written by jennifer spirko
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Baptism art activities
The Christian rite of baptism offers opportunities for children's art activities. (Kerze image by e-b-i from

The rite of baptism is central to Christian life, representing the cleansing of the human soul. Indeed, as set forth in a 1439 papal decree, "Holy baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments because it is the gate of spiritual life" ("The Decree to the Armenians," Council of Florence). Make baptism the subject of art projects to give as gifts to the newly baptised or as part of religious education lessons.

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Medium: water

The most directly symbolic artistic medium for baptism art is watercolour, because water is the means of the cleansing in the ritual. Watercolours are inexpensive and easy to find, and because they are so popular, even young children may already have experience using them. Unlike many other techniques, watercolour painting permits addition of layers, and the paint's relative transparency lets artists usefully outline shapes. Subjects with special meaning for baptism might include a cross, a dove or a scallop shell. Older and more adept painters can create more complex scenes inspired by Biblical stories, such as Christ's own baptism, or portraits of the person being baptised.

Baptism art activities
Watercolours are a symbolic choice for baptism paintings. (watercolour palettes and brush image by egal from

Technique: salt

Ancients used salt to seal covenants, and in some religious traditions salt is placed in a baby's mouth at baptism; it also is used in certain Catholic purification rituals. "Salt" provides the root word of "salvation." Salt also can add a beautiful, textural element to watercolour paintings. Sprinkle salt onto a wet watercolour, and when the painting dries, brush away the salt to reveal a webbing of speckles. Use this technique to embellish any watercolour painting; even very young children can do it. A simple blue wash, with salt, becomes an interesting and lovely representation of cleansing water.

Baptism art activities
Salt not only is a Christiam symbol, but also a watercolour painting technique. (Salt image by lefebvre_jonathan from

Subject: seashell

Scallop shells often are seen as motifs on baptismal fonts and vessels; this type of seashell is another symbol of baptism. Its simple, graceful lines make it a good subject for art, adaptable to different levels of expertise. You can also use real or model shells as part of the artwork. Paint directly onto the inner, smooth surface of the shell, creating a cross or other symbol, and embellish the edges with paint. When painting onto either a real or moulded ceramic shell use acrylic paint, not watercolours. With a drill and small bit designed for use on tile or ceramics, you can even put a hole into the top of the shell to create wearable art.

Baptism art activities
The scallop is a beautiful symbol of baptism that lends itself to art projects. (scallop shell lt. orange image by Carpenter from

Art History: the masters

Because baptism is so important in Christianity, it has long been a subject of Christian art and remains so today. The baptism of Jesus Christ, in particular, is a favourite; art and culture websites have some examples, including works by Leonardo da Vinci. Even young students can study this artistic tradition. Ask them their opinions about how and why the different artists chose to depict the same scene. You can assign older, more adept students to copy these masterpieces, and then create their own versions of the famous scene being depicted.

A graffiti baptismal cross attests to the enduring popularity of baptism as a subject of art, classic and streetwise.
A graffiti baptismal cross attests to the enduring popularity of baptism as a subject of art, classic and streetwise. (superposition de croix image by rachid amrous-spleen from

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