Most of the time when I talk (let’s be real: gush) about art here at Strawberry Moon, I’m talking about art history. 16th, 18th, 19th century. But today, we’re going for something a little more hands on with a kids’ art lesson inspired by van Gogh. One of my many part-time jobs is as a volunteer art teacher at a local private elementary school. We have about 15 students from K-8th grade and I’m always amazed how much they really do pick up from an art history class geared towards their interests.
Van Gogh is always a favorite with kids and adults alike and this project is no different. The kids loved it and the result is some of my favorite pieces from the year. See below the cut for instructions and more examples or, just sign up for my free e-newsletter and you’ll receive the complete e-book straight to your email including the read-along lesson, instructions and examples!
Objectives: Learn about Van Gogh and his Post-Impressionist painting style and learn how to paint with a “palette knife”
You Will Need:
Tubes of blue, yellow, black and white acrylic paints
Black construction paper
Small paintbrushesPaper towels for cleaning knives between colors
(Note: You can certainly use classroom water-based paints which are cleaner and more affordable but the result isn’t quite the same as the paint is a bit too thin for the knives.)
- Have students read the lesson aloud in class, during which they will learn about van Gogh’s life and his paintings.
- Look at paintings by van Gogh, including Starry Night which is included on the lesson page, and discuss the elements of his technique, including short, choppy brushstrokes and rich blues and yellows.
- Pass out palette knives and plates of paint. Demonstrate how to use the broad, flat side of the knife to draw paint across the paper rather than the edge. For smaller details, demonstrate how to use the tip just as you would use a brush. Students can use brushes to mix their paint if they would like to use some green or tint any of their colors. (See the last image as a great example of this, inspired by van Gogh’s Rain.)
- Orient the paper to the landscape position. Sketch a village scene in the lower portion of the paper, including houses and buildings, churches, trees and a mountain (they might want to include something specific in the foreground such as a large tree or a church steeple, as in the original painting, Starry Night.)
- Apply the paint with plastic knives, scraping it across the paper. Brushes may be used for small details but the majority of the painting should be done with knives.
- For the sky, apply yellow and white paint in swirls to represent the moon and stars.