March 30th marks the 159th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh's birth. Although he only lived to be 37 years old, and received little professional recognition during his life, his prolific contributions to the Impressionist movement gave him a well-earned place in art history.
Utilizing a dynamic blend of art techniques, Van Gogh created over 2000 works of art during the last decade of his life. His oil paintings are some of the most highly prized and priced works of art around the world. His use of bold color, imaginatively representing the scenes and figures of his life, make him not only a fan favorite, but also a great creative inspiration for people of all ages.
Van Gogh’s Style and Art Techniques
After sharing a slideshow presentation, or reprints of Van Gogh’s works, your class can compare and analyze the paintings to discover common themes. In unearthing these common themes, they will be able to identify the artist’s style and techniques.
Some possible answers or common themes include:
- Use of bold colors
- Everyday scenes and subjects
- Attention to light
- Coarse textural brushstrokes
Connecting Van Gogh's Style to Life
Using varied art media to create self-portraits is a wonderful way to explore Van Gogh’s style.
Torn paper in primary colors can be glued to a construction paper background to craft a rich portrait. This project is also a fantastic way to explore warm and cool colors. My class also loved painting their likeness on mirror foil using paints of varying consistency. My favorite paint mixtures for such projects are:
- Paint #1: Equal parts glue (liquid white glue such as Elmer’s works best) and tempera paint. This creates a finger-paint consistency.
- Paint #2: Equal parts glue and shaving cream with a drop of desired food color. This mixture creates a poster, puffy-paint consistency.
Scenes from Life
Creating a playground scene using melting crayons gives young artists the chance to employ Van Gogh’s technique in representing scenes from their own lives. In order to keep the crayon tips melting, I provide heated rocks on which they can rub their crayons in between “brushstrokes.” As an added bonus, their warm rock, when cooled, will be a beautiful paperweight.
Priming the Imagination Through Art
Taking his work into other art forms, your class can extend their analysis of Van Gogh’s works by choosing a piece to focus on, and then create a poem, short story, or song to express the meaning or inspiration they drew from the piece.
Birthday Art and Research
Each class member can design a birthday card inspired by the artist, writing a question related to Van Gogh, his artwork, his style and techniques, or the Impressionist movement. Completed cards can then be exchanged for a peer to research the query and provide a response on a sticky note.
Van Gogh Resources and Activities:
Van Gogh Printable Kids Biography
In a single sheet, this biography presents a straightforward account of Van Gogh’s life and work. While appropriate for later elementary and intermediate reading levels, it does touch on the circumstances of Van Gogh’s death which not all classrooms may choose to present or detail.
Van Gogh Flowers Art Lesson
Oil pastel flowers blossom from the colorful steps of this lesson. Designed for third graders, it could easily be adapted for a wide range of grade and ability levels, giving all budding artists the chance to create their own interpretation of Van Gogh’s flowers.
Starry Night Ornaments
Drawing inspiration from the impasto technique of swirling colors allows crafters of all ages to design an incredibly unique keepsake. Beginning with a simple foam ball the ornament or keepsake is developed by adhering drying modeling clay creatively around the entire sphere. The lesson includes illustrated examples as well as suggested product use.