Mark Rothko Elementary Art Lesson Pre-K to 6th Grade


Josey’s Art School


Studying Art with the Masters


Robin Norgren, M.A.

This Lesson:

Mark Rothko

 No. 6 Violet, Green and Red”



-Rothko did not have much money where he was a boy. He thought he would become an engineer or an attorney—careers at which he would make some money. But In 1923, his second year of college, Rothko left Yale and started classes at an Art school.

-Rothko’s early paintings were of real-life objects such as people, buildings, and landscapes.

-Rothko decided that simple shapes were the best for showing complicated feelings. The large, simple shapes allow you to feel instead of think when you look at Rothko’s paintings.

-Beginning in the late 1950s, Rothko used much darker color. He overlapped colors until the canvas was covered with deep reds, blues, blacks. He was painting sadder, angrier moods than before.



 Materials needed

Pencil (to write the child’s name on the back of the work)

Black pen

8.5x11 or 9x12 white cardstock/precut poster board/watercolor paper– something with a bit more stability to it than copy paper in order to withstand the amount of paint and glue your students will be using.  You will need enough for each participant to use as the base for his/her artwork

This is a lesson that can be adapted in many ways depending on the age and skill level of your classroom. 

Watercolor paint

Household sponges cut into rectangles

Paintbrushes and water bowls

Acrylic paint (or Tempura paint)

Baby wipes


Length of Time/Duration of project:

30 minutes

Prep work:  Gather the materials. Draw the dividing lines for the project if you feel this might be a distracting part of the project.  This should take no more than about 20 -30 minutes


  1. Take your piece of paper that you are using as the base for the project and write the child’s name on the back of the paper or let them write their names on their own.



  1. Place your paper long and tall.  Draw a SLIGHTLY squiggly line towards the bottom of the page and then 3 more with the smallest space at the top.


3.   Paint the top quadrant with a blue-sky scene using blue watercolor paint.