Van Gogh “Starry Night” ~ Art Appreciation

We enjoyed another delightful Van Gogh Art Appreciation activity which is suitable for young children and middle schoolers!

Starry Night

I saved the image and used it as a screen saver on our computer.  This is a good way to see the image often during the week.  Also, we could zoom in and really look at his brushstrokes, colours and details full-sized.

Next I traced the Van Gogh Starry Night outline – click the link for your free pdf download.  (Read about how I trace outlines of famous art works here.)   

I used the outline to save the girls time copying the drawing or using a grid, because there is so much detail in the picture and I wanted to spend the lesson time coloring and painting instead.

We used oil pastels.  First the girls coloured only the white and yellow areas on the white outline page with oil pastels.  This was not easy because you can’t see white on white!  And it had to be coloured in little strokes like Van Gogh’s.

Finding and filling all the white and yellow areas

Then we washed the page with black water-colour.  This was to have a dark background between the little strokes and to give a night-time feel to the picture.  The white and yellow moon, stars and windows really stood out!

Washing the page with black water-colour

Now the girls started to fill in areas.  They filled in the rest of the picture with all the blues, greens and other colors, using several different types of oil pastels; some thick and greasy, others with many shades of colours.  We all pressed hard to make thick, short stokes on the paper.  They sat at the computer, zoomed in and really looked to see what colours Van Gogh used.  This took some time, but already they were happy with their art as it began to look more and more like the masterpiece!

The dark greens, blacks and greys of the Cyprus tree

Swirling blues, whites and greys of the sky

All done, in just an hour or so!  They really appreciated how long Van Gogh must have worked on this masterpiece, how many colours he dabbed on the canvas and how these colours created movement and mood.  They loved this lesson!

Van Gogh’s Starry Night by Miss K, 10 years old

Van Gogh’s Starry Night by Miss L 7 years old

Here are some links I used to prepare this lesson:

Pop over to my Art Page for all the other art appreciation lessons.

44 thoughts on “Van Gogh “Starry Night” ~ Art Appreciation

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  18. What a wonderful lesson! We are doing this today and wondering what kind of paper you use? Can you use regular paper even though you’re using water with the wash? We are using water colour paper but having a hard time transferring the black line to the paper as it won’t run through my printer. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!! You are a fabulous artist!!


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  21. thank you for posting all this wonderful information. while we dont home school through the school year, i do like to have “summer home school” learning time. I’m hoping to enrich my children’s love of art this summer, and this blog is a great resource.


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  28. Many thanks for sharing this lesson – I shall be using it tomorrow with my class of 8/9 year olds in a little Christian school in South Wales, UK. I will be doing my own picture alongside the children to encourage them.


  29. I did a series of lessons on Van Gogh a few years ago with my class of 8 year olds. One of the pictures we studied was Starry Night. I had one particularly difficult young man and to get him motivated I sat with him and painted my own version. I thoroughly enjoyed that lesson and was quite impressed with my own artistic abilities.
    I think your idea of using the oil pastels as well as a watercolour wash was brilliant. I shall try that with my son who I’m now homeschooling.
    I love your ideas and creativity. Thanks for sharing.


  30. We’re studying A Starry Night this week, too. When my son saw the painting he said, ‘I can’t paint this!’ So your outline is really going to come in handy; thank you so much! 🙂


  31. I really love the fact you used the basic outline, but had them fill in the details. I loved that you had them use a couple of different mediums and that you had them try to recreate at least the feel of brush strokes. This is a wonderful art project that really teaches attention to detail and appreciate for the work. Excellent job…makes me want to do a unit on Van Gogh…


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