Monday, October 7, 2013

Art Class for Kids: Van Gogh

Twice a month, both Zahavah and Adrian "attend an art class" together. Given by no other than myself,  I strive to keep the class focused on one artist and I usually try to link this artist to the theme we are exploring that week. As a result, this week, we explored Vincent Van Gogh's Self-Portraits to fit in with our "All About Me" thematic. It was our first "Art class" and the children were definitely excited to see what we were going to be doing. 

Prior to the beginning of the class (given in a different room of our home), I had prepared different corners for the class: a cozy corner with pillows and books featuring Van Gogh, a Museum corner (with paintings by Van Gogh "taped" to the wall), and a creative corner (with tables, chairs and supplies). The only thing missing was indeed, the children! :)

Van Gogh Book Selection
A few books we had or borrowed for our class about Van Gogh

We started the class in the cozy corner where I invited the children to sit on a cushion after they had had a few minutes to look around. We read together the first page of Vincent's Colors (the book itself is written by Van Gogh himself with additions by The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Although very short, it still gave us a look at Van Gogh's life. With our giant wall map, Adrian showed us where Van Gogh was born and later on lived and even pointed us the flags accompanying those nations. 

Van Gogh Self-Portrait Home Gallery
The  "Van Gogh Self-Portrait Museum"

Rather than looking at all the paintings in the books put out on the shelf next to the floor pillows, I told the children we'd visit a Van Gogh Museum filled with paintings he had painted himself. While in the "museum" (where all my selected self-portraits were at the kids' eye level), I asked the kids if they noticed anything similar about the painting. For example:

-"What are the paintings about? A man? Yes. A man called Van Gogh." I explained what a self-portrait was and even showed a real picture of young Van Gogh to compare with the paintings. "How are the paintings the same? Different?", I asked. "Were the colors used always the same for each paintings? How about the brush techniques? Did Van Gogh use some stronger brush strokes on some, some dabs on others but more of a swirl motion on certain? How's Van Gogh's expression?"

Self-portraits selected for our Museum (See them all at Arty Factory):
Van Gogh with Pipe 1886
Van Gogh with Bandaged Ear 1887
Van Gogh in a Felt Hat 1887
Van Gogh 1887 (pointillism in that one)
Van Gogh : Saint-Remy 1889
Van Gogh 1887 (some Impressionism influence seen here)

Van Gogh Influences
Matching Van Gogh Self-Portrais and Artists/Techniques that Influenced Van Gogh

Once our tour of the Museum was completed, we went back to the cozy corner. I handed each child two paintings by two different artists. Each of these artists had an influence on Van Gogh and had possibly influenced the outcome of the self-portraits put up in our Gallery. We looked at each painting for a minute and I explained that fact to the children. I explained how influence can show through someone's work via colors and techniques and we then ventured, paintings in hand, to match these to the self-portraits they could have influence. Adrian loved that.

Paintings used for matching activity: 
Horses, Cattle and a Farm Hand by Anton Mauve / Van Gogh with Pipe 1886
When Will you Marry Me? by Paul Gauguin / Van Gogh with Bandaged Ear 1887
 Eiffel Tower by Georges Seurat / Van Gogh 1887 (pointillism in that one)
Recolte des Foins a Eragny by Camille Pisarro / Van Gogh in a Felt Hat 1887

Self-Portrait by Tot and K
The Children's Rendition of a Self-Portrait "a la Van Gogh"

Once the matchings were done, it was time for the children to let themselves BE influenced by Van Gogh. Using chalk pastels, it was their turn to draw their own self-portraits, borrowing some technique or colors from Van Gogh and of course, letting their own creativity flow as well.

At the end of the class, I invited the children to answer a few simple questions such as: "Did you do your best today with your drawing?", "Did you use some swirls, dots, big lines or popping colors in your self-portrait like our artist liked to do?", "What is a self-portrait anyway?" and "Can you tell me the name of the artist we talked about today?".

Overall, the first art class was very much liked. I found both my children looking through the Van Gogh books later that week and wanting to read them. Our next class should focus on Cezanne and his famous apple work...

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  1. Thank you for such a thorough explanation of how you introduced Van Gogh. I have yet to introduce artists to my kids so these are a great help :)

    1. You're welcome! I tried really hard to find a good art appreciation program for my kids but I couldn't find a local one and couldn't purchase one either so I ended up creating my own! :) Stay tuned for more...

  2. What a fantastic idea! I love having them match artist influence cards!

    1. Thank you. Simply tried to keep things interesting and interactive a bit during "Class". It added a bit more vocabulary too. Will probably always try to add something like that to our classes. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. What a fun unit! Our kids love our study of great artists =) Love your little museum you created!

    Thanks for linking up to TGIF! I hope to see you linked up again later today.

    Have a great weekend,
    Beth =)

    1. Thank you Beth! I love putting these classes together. The kids love them too. We create art a lot but I sometimes feel like we forget about the masters nowadays. I hope these classes help keep them "alive"... :)

  4. Great idea for learning about art.

    Just letting you know I've featured this on The Sunday Showcase this week:

    1. Thank you! It's always very flattering to be featured! I'm glad you like the post and I hope yours readers will enjoy it too! :)