Charlie Russell Sunset Project

This is a project I have done many times over the last 8 years with many ages. The original idea came from the book "Discovering Great Artists" by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga.(this is a slightly different version) This is one of my favorite books to use for ideas. I love the format and artist bios.

All kids love to learn about Western art. Charlie Russell is a favorite artist of mine to teach because he is from Montana,(where I live), and he was not only a great artist, but a great person. Sometimes when you teach art history based lessons, you have to skip over alot of the artist's life and problems, especially when you are teaching younger kids. Charlie Russell's life is a great story to tell and the kids enjoy learning about this talented and humble man.


1/2 sheet of 12"x15" watercolor paper
white colored pencil
animal templates
black construction paper
glue sticks

 We talk about sunsets and how the sky looks then I have the students mix up pools of yellow, orange, and red on their watercolor tray.  Using a wet in wet technique I have them wet their paper (which I have taped with masking tape to a piece of cardboard about 1/2" all around to make a frame and secure the paper). Then using the three separate colors I have them streak the colors in. While that is drying, the kids pick out what animals or tree, cactus etc. they want in their pictures. We talk about what a silhouette is and why the animals would appear black with the sunset behind them. Using the white pencil they trace around the templates onto the black construction paper ( I don't know where I got these originally, I might have made them from line images and traced them onto card stock). I have elk, deer, two sizes of bears, wolves, coyotes,bison,mountain goats, trees and cactus. After they have cut out the animals,( for very small kids I do the cutting), then they determine what size hill to put them on and cut that out of the black construction paper as well, being careful to fit it on the bottom of the watercolor paper. When the sky is dry I have them glue the animals and hill onto their papers.

I often do this in a two part lesson, where we make a clay snake and paint the sunset in the first lesson and then do the silhouette, and paint the clay snake in the second session. It is a fun way to teach about Charlie Russell as he liked to paint, and do sculptures.