Van Gogh Art Lessons for Kids

Written by diane steinbach Google
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Van Gogh Art Lessons for Kids
Kids get excited about learning when art is incorporated into the lesson plan. (girl hands-up image by Jane September from

The complexities of famous artist Vincent Van Gogh's personality, health and lifestyle may be too difficult to absorb for young students, but viewers of any age can appreciate Van Gogh's talent and translation of real life to canvas. When you study his distinctive style and colour depth you can teach kid's to apply texture to acrylic paintings and instil the importance of detail and emotion in art making.

Swirl and Thatch It

Show students examples of Van Gogh's swirl style of painting around objects evident in pieces like "Starry Night" and the short stroke style evident in paintings like "Houses at Auvers" and "The Red Vineyard at Arles." Illustrate for kids how to use a brush to create these strokes and set up a simple still life drawing to practice this skill. Use acrylic paints with a heavy application to mimic oil paint texture to show the stroke application.

Van Gogh Art Lessons for Kids
Acrylic paints can be applied thickly to mimic oil paint texture. (red acrylic image by Andrew Brown from

Starry Nights Reviewed

Although much of Van Gogh's style of painting in swirls and haloed objects can be attributed to his health issues including lead poisoning, epilepsy and Thujone poisoning, his swirling echoes of objects in his paintings make his work instantly recognisable. The "Starry Night" painting is perhaps the best-known example for this style but wasn't his only starry night-inspired painting. Review all of Van Gogh's Starry Night paintings including "Starry Night over the Rhone" and "Café Terrace at Night" and ask children to paint a starry night of their own mimicking Van Gogh's style. You should encourage the kids to paint stars as haloed and in yellow tones while other aspects or focal points in the paintings can be done in the student's own style.

Sunflower Study

Van Gogh mastered translating the beauty and freshness of the sunflower through painting studies of the bloom in vases, laying on tables, from close inspection and a far away glance. Show students a few of his sunflower studies such as "Two Cut Sunflowers" and "Vase with Twelve Sunflowers" and point out how small brushstrokes compose the bloom and surroundings and give the painting a sense of movement and texture. Place a similar vase with two sunflowers in it for students to paint. Encourage them to compose the image in simple terms, pointing out the table line, vase structure and composition of the flower. Study's can be lightly sketched in pencil first on a canvas board before applying acrylic paints.

Van Gogh Art Lessons for Kids
Sunflowers offer both simplicity of form and complex details to challenge young artists. (sunflowers image by Katima from

Computer Enhanced Van Gogh Style

Ideal for an early education computer class, kid's can learn about photo manipulation as well as classic art history all at the same time. When you use a computer program like Photoshop or Sketch Effect you can lead kids through a step-by-step process to turn a photograph into a Van Gogh styled image. Students can use photos they took themselves or teachers may choose to use preselected images whose elements can be more easily isolated and manipulated. Either way kids can see how computer enhancement can add texture and depth of colour in the Van Gogh style to ordinary images.

Van Gogh Art Lessons for Kids
Kids love to play on the computer; specially formatted programs allow for experimentation. (Computer At Home image by Jaimie Duplass from

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