I Can See Clearly Now: Practicing Careful Observation

Lesson Plan


Working in small groups, students will find as many details as possible in Blumenschein’s Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest) using specific words to guide their investigation. They will then select three of their favorite details and write a poem that incorporates all three items.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 45 minute lesson

Standards Area

Visual Arts


Students will be able to:

  • state the name of Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest) and identify that Blumenschein was the artist who painted it;
  • make careful and detailed observations when examining a work of art;
  • work in a small group to accomplish a task; and
  • write a poem that incorporates at least three different objects.


  1. Warm-up: Ask students to write down as many details about their bedroom that they can. When they think they are finished, ask them if there was anything the color blue in their room they forgot to include? Anything black? What about things in their room that they can use to make noise? Soft or hard things?
  2. Show students Blumenschein’s painting Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest). Talk a little bit about the artist, why he chose this subject, and what he values most about the painting.
  3. In small groups, have students use the dodecahedron and write down what they see in the painting for each item listed on one of the sides. To make it more like a game, they can roll the dodecahedron and come up with one item for the side that lands face up. They should try to come up with as many comments or observations as possible for each side. Discuss what they found as a large group, perhaps having them put their favorite ideas on sticky tabs and placing them on a section of the board for each item.
  4. Have each student select three items they identified during the activity and then have them write a poem incorporating all three items. For older students, you can ask them to write a poem that reflects Blumenschein’s love of nature.


  • Lined paper and pencil/pen for each student
  • One dodecahedron for every four students with the following words written on each side: blue, yellow, green, type of plant, color in the clouds, color in the water, location of birds, movement, stillness, love of nature, animals and texture
  • About the Art section on Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)
  • One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Research and Reasoning
    • Writing and Composition
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)

Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)


Ernest Blumenschein

Who Made It?

Ernest Blumenschein (BLOOM-en-shine) was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Dayton, Ohio. He traveled west on an assignment for McClure’s magazine in 1897, and visited northern New Mexico a year later, where he was immediately and profoundly inspired. Speaking of the West, Blumenschein said, “I was receiving the first great unforgettable inspiration of my life…I was seeing [nature] for the first time with my own eyes…Everywhere I looked I saw paintings perfectly organized ready for paint.” For two decades, Blumenschein painted in New Mexico every summer, and taught at the Art Student’s League in New York the rest of the year. In 1919 he moved with his family to Taos, devoting himself full time to painting. Along with a man named Bert Phillips, Blumenschein founded the Taos Society of Artists, which was active from 1915–26. The purpose of the Taos Society was to promote, exhibit, and sell its members’ art. It was made up of a group of artists who saw the West as a place of peaceful isolation, and felt a sincere connection to the local landscape, local color, and the mix of Hispanic, Indian, and Anglo people of Taos. A disagreement about including painters who followed modern art trends ultimately brought the Taos Society to an end.

What Inspired It?

An avid fisherman, Blumenschein visited Eagle’s Nest Lake many times in the 1920s and 1930s. He appreciated the rhythm and harmony of New Mexico’s colors and land forms and wanted to capture his first impression—what he called a “jolt” from nature—to communicate the power and fullness of his experience of the scene. He created small sketches on-site to remind himself of his original emotional reaction. He would transfer the sketch to canvas, taking great care not to change the proportions, shapes, or angles for fear of losing the power of his first impression. It then took him several months to paint in every detail.


Large Blocks of Color
Large Blocks of Color

The picture has four basic layers from bottom to top: land, water, hills, and sky.

Variety in the Water
Variety in the Water

Within the larger masses, a good deal of variation can be found. Look for the variety of textures, colors, and shapes on the water. These variations give the water a sense of movement.


Dark edges help emphasize curvy shapes.


Blumenschein used short, visible brushstrokes to create texture, rhythm, and pattern in several places. You can find patterns of both spots and lines in the lower left corner, plus the artist’s tiny initials.


A flock of ducks sweeps diagonally across the painting, almost from corner to corner. Up close you can see that some are still swimming, some are just taking off, and some are much farther away than others.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.