Art Lesson Plan: C. M. Russell Art: Western Sunsets

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn about different artists.
  2. Imitate work of different artists
  3. Review primary colours.
  4. Review secondary colours by showing students the colour wheel and how these colours are seen together in sunsets.


  1. Tempura or watercolour paints in sunset colours (purple red, orange, yellow)
  2. For each student: jar of water, paintbrush, sheet of white paper, sheet of black paper, scissors, pencil, glue
  3. towels and bin/sink of soapy water for cleanup
  4. write-up on Russell for the bulletin board when the art is displayed: “C. M. Russell 1864-1926 Impressionism. He was an American painter and sculptor who loved cowboys and the Wild West. He travelled to Montana when he was 16, and it became his home. He lived with Indian tribes, worked as a hunter and a cowboy, then quit to work as an artist. He loved the wild West.”
  5. colour wheel to use in discussion of sunsets with class
  6. pictures of cactus, cowboys, horses, barns, trees that can be cut out and traced or copied
  7. title for bulletin board, on paper: “Western Sunsets by Grades 1 and 2, inspired by C. M. Russell”.


  1. Have students observe a sunset to see where the sky is darkest, and lightest. Notice how the clouds reflect the light. Talk about it. Check out where the reds and oranges are on the colour wheel. Look at the neighbouring colours. Have you ever seen purples and yellows in sunsets?
  2. Dampen paper with water for soft, blended sunsets…dry paper makes for a bolder sunset. Then paint with dark colours above and lighter ones below, or whatever your class has decided. Fill the entire page with sunset. Let dry.
  3. With your black paper, use pencil to draw the silhouette of mountains, trees, horses, barn, cowboy on a horse, cactus. Use cutouts from magazines to trace if you wish. Simple is better. Leave a silhouette strip of paper to go across the entire bottom of the sunset picture for the ground. There should be a ground or mountains with the silhouettes of the other objects attached to it and coming out of the ground. The black paper will be on the bottom of the sunset sheet, on top of it, letting the sunset scene show above it and between the object silhouettes.
  4. Cut out the silhouette and glue it to the sunset sheet when it’s dry.
  5. Post the western sunsets on the bulletin board with the writeup of Charles Marion Russell, your objectives (listed above) for parents to see, as well as a title “Western Sunsets by Grades 1 and 2, inspired by C. M. Russell”. What beautiful masterpieces!

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