First Grade Art Lesson
Adapted with permission for use at George Kelly Elementary
from a lesson for Duniway Elementary by Michelle Smit
Principle: Abstract Art
Concept: Van Gogh suggested motion and direction in his paintings through the use of dramatic strokes of color.
Objective: Students will recreate Van Gogh's "Starry Night" using cut construction paper and gold paint.
Supplies: 1 11x14 inch sheet blue construction paper per student, construction paper scraps cut from various colors of paper (dark cool colors (black, purple, gray, blue) for houses, small scraps of bright warm colors for windows (yellow, orange, pink) ), scissors, glue, gold tempera paint, small dixie cups to hold the paint, and paint brushes
Pre-Class Prep: Make sure there are enough paper scraps in the colors you'll need.
Set-Up: Distribute paper, scissors, glue, paper towels, paint and brush to each student.
Art Appreciation Lesson: Summarize for the kids information about the interesting life of Vincent Van Gogh (great information here and here). Familiarize yourself with this beforehand so you can use your own words. Another idea is to read the kids a story about Van Gogh - like the biography in the Smart About Art series (book in the school art cabinet). This is a great way, if time permits, to give the kids a vivid glimpse into Van Gogh's life. Or, perhaps see if your teacher would mind reading it to the class the week before your lesson.
Power Point Presentation (slideshare link here):
1. This is a picture Van Gogh made of himself. What do you think - was he happy? Sad? Look how swirly he made the paint on the surface of the picture.
2. This is one of his most famous pictures, Starry Night. How does this make you feel? What do you think the weather feels like on this night? Do you notice how Van Gogh painted wind? Can you close your eyes, and imagine what wind, or cold, LOOKS like?
3. Van Gogh sometimes felt very, very sad and did strange things. He painted this picture of himself after he cut off his ear and mailed it to a woman he admired. This was a very bad idea!
4. Here is a picture of his bedroom that he painted. Would you like to live in this room?
5. Vincent Van Gogh painted this picture for his brother, Theo, and his wife after they had a little baby.
6. Van Gogh was worried that he was not a very good artist. In fact, he only sold one painting during his whole entire life. So he spent a lot of time practicing drawing. These are hands. He drew them over and over.
7. Here's another painting Van Gogh made of himself. Look at how he made his background - blue slashes of color. Does it make the picture feel calm? Busy? Do you like it?
8. If you look closely at this picture, you can see how much paint Van Gogh used to paint.
Go back to slide #2, Starry Night.
Talk about the shapes in the sky and the way they represent motion. Show the children how to cut the paper scraps into the shape of little houses, churches, and buildings.
Do a quick demonstration of the instructions below, so the kids understand what they are supposed to do. (But don't be TOO detailed, because you don't want the kids to feel like they are supposed to copy you. Remember that the process of the art experience, rather than making one specific product, is the great thing about art for kids.)
Have students create the Starry Night village scene using shapes cut from the paper scraps. When they are ready, have them glue the shapes in a row along the lower edge of the dark background paper. Think houses, churches, trees, etc.
When they are completely finished gluing, have students paint stars in the night sky using the gold paint. For a Van Gogh style, they may paint dots of concentric circles around the stars, then add a second ring of dotted brush strokes around the first ring, moving out from the star into the sky. The stars will begin to look like their sparkles are spilling light into the night sky. Make as many rings around the stars and moon as desired.