Saturday, November 15, 2014

VIP: Starry Night 2014

I have posted about Van Gogh's Starry Night for a number of years, and in a number of different ways. It is a painting that will always be celebrated, imitated, and gazed upon in my classroom - I call it a Very Important Painting, and it is probably my all-time favorite work of art. I was fortunate enough to experience it once in real life and can still feel the lump in my throat.

This year's first grade "odes to the magical masterpiece" are some of the best we have done, and we've tried many ways - oil pastel, watercolor resist, collage. I think the dark blue construction paper, painted with tempera and collaged with the cozy village, works really well.
Before starting the painting, and after an age-appropriate abbreviated biography of Vincent's life, we discuss the magic of this painting first and then get down to the nitty gritty of foreground, middleground, background - aka space in a landscape. We also answer the question "what is that big mountainy thing in the foreground?" with cypress tree being the answer - a pointy-topped evergreen kind of like a Christmas tree. We made a simple pencil drawing of the 3 parts and placed the moon, wind, and tree, then the students painted along with me as we learned many painting tips including proper brush washing, paintbrush holding, and brush stroking in the Van Gogh style. Songs by Beethoven accompanied us to set the mood of the moonlit night. It really is a wonderful moment in the art room, all those little hands painting away to the melody of Fur Elise... (this is where I am trying to upload an adorable video of a classroom full of highly engaged and well-behaved first graders at work with the song in the background, but Blogger is not cooperating tonight)
The following week we collaged on the little village scene and watched a fun video of the Starry Night built in collapsing dominoes, to wrap things up.

Here is a beautiful work by artist Alex Ruiz which recreates the setting of Vincent's Starry Night.


  1. I love using Starry Night for projects! The kids love the painting and really respond to creating their own inspired version! These are beautiful! :)

  2. Wow! Your kids did a beautiful job! I have never seen the last recreation before, beautiful! One of my students is working on a ceiling tile based on Starry Night and I will have to show her this!

  3. That piece by Alex Ruiz is bringing tears to my eyes! Hope, you did a beautiful job with this project! Kudos!

  4. Its a good post!! Painting lessons for kids are the best way to indulge them in creative activities, where they learn how to implement their imagination on the painting board. They also learn other sharing things in art classes.

  5. Hi there , the starry night looks beautiful . what paints did u use here ? it looks very thick and pretty .

    1. Hi! I use Dick Blick brand student tempera in the bottle. Thanks!

  6. Your students were very inspired by the project! It's beautiful! I will share on FB and Twitter!


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