Students will look at Ostermiller’s sculpture and discuss how large it is compared to real life. They will use their imaginations to identify an animal they would like to meet in gigantic form and explain why.
Intended Age GroupEarly childhood (ages 3-5)
Length of LessonOne 25 minute lesson
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Students will be able to:
- begin to grasp the concept of scale;
- give reasonable answers to hypothetical questions; and
- state an opinion and give a reason for it.
1. Warm-up: Read Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff to the students.
2. Show students the Scottish Angus Cow and Calf sculpture. Ask the students: What animals do you see? What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think of a cow? What might the relationship be between the two animals (mama and calf)? How do you think it would it feel to touch this sculpture? How do you think it would feel to touch cows in real life?
3. Now show students the image of Scottish Angus Cow and Calf with a child standing next to it. Ask students: Are there really cows this big? Discuss with students how big the sculpture is. How does it make them feel knowing how large it is? Where might cows that large live? What might they eat? Would people be scared of them? Why or why not?
4. Instruct students to think of an animal they would like to meet in gigantic form, similar to the way Danny meets the big dinosaur. Have them draw and color a picture of themselves with their larger-than-life animals. Remind them that these animals are huge so they have to draw themselves a lot smaller. Encourage the students to draw a fun picture; they could be playing a game with their animal, eating a snack, swimming, riding a scooter/bike, climbing a tree, etc.
5. After they’re finished, ask each student questions about their drawing such as: Why did you choose your animal? What activity are you and your animal doing? How do you think the size of your animal would affect the activity? Would its size help or make the activity more difficult? What would your parents or friends say if you brought home an animal this huge? Display the drawings around the room as fun reminders of their new imaginary friends.
- One copy of Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
- Paper and colored pencils, crayons, or markers for each student
- About the Art section on Scottish Angus Cow and Calf
- One color copy of the sculpture for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Image of the sculpture with a child standing next to it
- Visual Arts
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Envision and Critique to Reflect
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
As the son of a noted taxidermist in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Dan Ostermiller grew up surrounded by animal forms. By training and working as a taxidermist himself, Ostermiller gained a strong understanding of the body language and anatomy of animals. Technical accuracy became second nature to him and provided him with the foundation to create artwork that is both realistic and expressive. He relocated to Loveland, Colorado, in the 1970s to be near the fine art foundries, where metal is melted and molded. Since then he has created over 312 original sculptures (over 40 at monumental scale, of which our Cow and Calf is the largest), and his studio works on 50 to 100 pieces at any given time.
For Scottish Angus Cow and Calf, Ostermiller began by creating a 30-inch bronze maquette (a small-scale version to use as a model) from photographs of the cows. Once the form of the sculpture was determined, it had to be enlarged to colossal scale. In order to determine the scale needed for the sculpture, Ostermiller moved several trucks around on the ranch and then viewed them from up to a half-mile away. From the bronze maquette, Ostermiller made a plaster version, placed it on a grid, and cut it into thin sections. Each slice was reproduced large-scale in Styrofoam, then matched up on a giant grid on the floor of his studio. The slices were then carved down and smoothed together to recreate the form of the cow. Ostermiller sent molds of the 13 different panels to a foundry in New York to be cast into bronze, and the bronze panels were returned to his Loveland studio unfinished. Because it was winter, Ostermiller wanted to assemble the cow inside. But he knew that once she was put together in the studio, she wouldn’t be able to fit out the door. He had to cut her apart in sections and reassemble her outside. He went through the same process to create the calf.
What Inspired It?
Ostermiller was commissioned to create Scottish Angus Cow and Calf by Leo Hindery, a Colorado ranch owner who wanted to commemorate the cows of his own beloved Scottish Angus herd. Scottish Angus cows are bred for their amiable temperament and Hindery pampered his like pets. The cows loved having their heads scratched and were treated to corrals with water misters to keep them cool. They would even come to Hindery when called. Because his property near Larkspur, Colorado, is difficult to access, Hindery promised that he would donate the piece to a public institution if he ever sold the property.
Ostermiller spent some time meeting and photographing Hindery’s cows and found he especially loved the way they lay out in the pasture. Ostermiller avoids the “natural,” dioramalike poses used in taxidermy. These sculptures are supposed to imitate animals in their habitat, but Ostermiller’s animal poses come from his observations of animals and their behavior in his presence. “Whether or not the [animal] is ever in the position I’m using in my piece is secondary because the sculpture is my interpretation, my idea as to what makes a good design for the animal,” says Ostermiller.
Ostermiller applied chemicals to the bronze to create the black patina, or surface finish.
The whole sculpture is approximately 38 x 22 feet and weighs about 10,000 lbs. (5 tons). The animals are three times life-size, making the cow 13 feet tall. As a joke while making the cow in his Loveland studio, Ostermiller placed his secretary’s desk inside the sculpture.
To Ostermiller, the quality of shapes and design are of the utmost importance for creating expression, character, and charm. Notice, for instance, the roundness of the cow’s belly, folds of skin, and muscle contours. He says, “Information about animal anatomy is critical to sculpting, but for me, exaggeration of form for the sake of aesthetics is the goal.”
Grouping two (or more) animals together is a technique Ostermiller uses to increase the expressiveness of a piece. It allows him to convey intimate involvement and emotional interaction between the subjects and also provides interesting relationships of the forms from different viewpoints.
Ostermiller says, “Surface textures are important to me. Not the details of cat hair, for instance, but lines and serrations left by tools that direct your eye over the surface planes of the sculpture and throughout its compositions.”
Each of Hindery’s cows wore a bright yellow ear tag. Ostermiller’s cows also have ear tags, but their color comes from gold plating.