Vincent Van Gogh is a great artist to introduce 1st graders to because so many of them are already familiar with the Starry Night! We took a look at Vincent Van Gogh’s impressionistic artwork and studied his use of brushstroke. I try to make this art lesson all about experimenting with brushstroke (creating dash-like lines) and filling the whole page. I asked 1st graders to squint their eyes and examine all the teeny tiny brush marks that make up all of the sections of the painting. We had a fun time getting lost in the little details and following the movement of the lines.
We took at a look at Van Gogh’s painting of his room (which I also have a poster of in my classroom.) I asked 1st graders to use their imagination and pretend that Van Gogh was sitting in the chair beside his window and peering out into the night sky. What a beautiful sky he saw!
I asked 1st graders if they looked out of their bedroom windows and took a photograph of the night sky, would it look exactly like Van Gogh’s painting? Children shook their heads no. I explained to the children that the rolling stars, glowing stars, and blowing wind was something that Van Gogh FELT when he looked out at the sky, and that’s why he painted it on paper. At that point, I gave each table paint, paper, paintbrushes, and the instructions to paint their own beautiful Starry Nights from their imaginations. I encouraged children to experiment with lines, shapes, colors, and brush movement.
When these skies were complete, children placed them in the drying rack to dry. At the beginning of our next class, I showed 1st graders this video I made of last year’s group creating their Starry Nights. This helped children realize how we would be drawing and building our cities on top of our dried compositions.
We started off by drawing various shapes that make up a city scape on the board. Children volunteered tall rectangles, squares, half-circle domes, organic tree shapes, and triangles. Next, 1st graders used their pencils to sketch out their cities starting at the bottom of the paper. I walked around the room to make sure children were filling their page and making their buildings various shapes and sizes.
Next, I took a moment to discuss shadows and silhouettes and stressed the importance of pressing down hard with oil pastels to create solid black shapes of buildings. I walked around the room as children filled their buildings in and pressed with their fingers.