California Landscape Mural
Grades: 4, 5
Related Subjects: History - Social Science, Visual & Performing Arts
Medium: Drawing, Painting
Class time required: 1 X 90 minute session
Author: Museum of Photographic Arts
Download an editable Lesson Plan
File Type: RTF (Choose Save-As when dialogue box appears)
This one-session lesson deals with the visual art standards of using complementary colors and contrast successfully in an artwork. In this lesson, students will create a collaborative mural of a landscape.
- Oil pastels
- Baby wipes (if sink is not available)
- White butcher paper on long roll (cut to size)
- White construction paper 12x18 or larger
- One piece each of blue, orange, and yellow construction paper (for demonstration purposes)
- Color wheels: No Color, Full Color (PDF's)
- Masking tape (to tape butcher paper down to floor)
- Glue, glue stick, and/or paste
- Push-pins to hang the mural
- Photos or transparencies of local murals
- Strong hairspray or matte fixative
- Glossary terms: complementary colors, contrast, mural, muralist, primary colors, secondary colors, value
- Cut butcher paper to size where mural will be exhibited.
- Print above images onto transparencies.
- There are also many fun online lesson plans where students can make their own color wheels, such as: Hands on Crafts for Kids, Edible Color Wheels, and Sanford Art Adventures
- This lesson was created based on the mural being a temporary piece. You can modify this lesson to make a permanent mural by using ¼” plywood, painting on it, and drilling it into the wall with screws.
- Use images of local murals, such as San Diego’s Chicano Park, or plan a class outing and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s Garden Gallery where native plants and Ed Ruscha’s Brave Men of La Jolla mural can be found.
1. Begin by showing local murals. Ask students the following questions: Where have you seen these before? Why do you think they were created? What do they mean to you? How do some murals change the feeling of the neighborhood? Explain the definition of a mural.
2. Show overheads of artwork from the museum. What do you see in these images? How are these murals different if they are inside a museum?
3. Explain to students they will be creating a mural based on a familiar landscape using complementary colors and contrast. One idea for this landscape would be for the students to depict the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s sculpture garden, the Garden Gallery, and surrounding coastal area.
4. Pass out color wheels to students and have them first identify primary and secondary colors. Have them locate the complementary colors on the color wheel (the opposite color on the color wheel). Hold up the piece of orange construction paper next to the blue construction paper. Ask the students: What do you notice when we put these two colors next to each other? Take away the blue piece of construction paper and replace it with the yellow. Hold up the orange and yellow construction papers. Now ask the students: How does the orange color look to you now? Students should notice the orange and blue combination seems to “pop” while the yellow and orange combination is very similar and mutes the two colors.
5. Explain to the students that one way to show value is to use multiple shades of the same color in a piece of artwork. For example, ask the students to name the many different shades of green they might see in a field of grass.
6. Demonstrate for the students how to use complementary color, contrast, and value in a drawing. For example, draw a plant using complementary colors and contrast (green and red). Then draw the same plant using value (different shades of green).
7. Divide the class into three groups to equally represent the components of a landscape (i.e. landforms, vegetation, and animals/people). Have the students brainstorm with their group on chart paper, making a list of items they could draw for the mural. Students will then draw these items on white construction paper. They will color them with oil pastel, cut them out, and then paste them onto the butcher paper taped to the floor to form a cohesive mural. Remind students to use complementary color and contrast while working on their mural pieces—they do not have to use natural (local) color.
8. When finished, have students use baby wipes for clean up if a sink is not available or if students are having a tough time removing oil pastel from their hands.
9. Hang the mural altogether in the designated space using pushpins or thumbtacks.
10. Have all of the students sign the bottom of the mural (making sure no one writes on anyone’s drawing). Students can also write a short paragraph explaining what the mural is about and how it was created. These paragraphs can be attached to the mural.
History-Social Science: Fourth grade students can complete this project depicting the four California regions.
History-Social Science: Fifth grade students can complete this project depicting the major pre-Columbian settlements.
CA Content Standards
Fourth Grade Visual Arts
1.1 Perceive and describe contrast and emphasis in works of art and in the environment.
1.3 Identify pairs of complementary colors (e.g., yellow/violet; red/green; orange/blue) and discuss how artists use them to communicate an idea or mood.
2.8 Use complementary colors in an original composition to show contrast and emphasis.
Fifth Grade Visual Arts
1.3 Use their knowledge of all the elements of art to describe similarities and differences in works of art and in the environment.
2.5 Assemble a found object sculpture (as assemblage) or a mixed media two-dimensional composition that reflects unity and harmony and communicates a theme.
Fourth Grade History-Social Science
4.1 Students demonstrate an understanding of the physical and human geographic features that define places and regions in California.
Fifth Grade History-Social Science
5.1 Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River.
Braun-Reinitz, Janet and Rochelle Shicoff. The Mural Book: A Practical Guide For Educators. New York: Crystal Productions, 2001.
Roochfort, Desmond. Mexican Muralists: Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.
Chicano Park Murals
Great resource to San Diego’s most famous murals and their history.
Diego Rivera Web Museum
This Web site has images of Rivera’s famous murals.
A list of famous muralists with links to museums and sites where these murals can be found.
The Social and Public Art Resources Center (SPARC)
A Los Angeles-based organization that protects and promotes public works of art. View many of the famous murals found in Los Angeles.
Ancona, George. Murals: walls that sing. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2003.
Capek, Michael. Murals: Cave, Cathedral, to Street (Art Beyond Borders). Minneapolis, Minn: Lerner Publishing Group, 1996.
Moore, Lilian. Mural on Second Avenue, and other city poems. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press, 2005.
Schaefer, A.R. Diego Rivera. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2003.