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Starry Night: take 3.


Students will ...

* recreate van Gogh's swirling brushstrokes.

* use geometric shapes to create houses.

* create cypress trees with curving edges.


* 12" x 18" dark blue construction paper

* Yellow and white tempera paint, mixed

* Paint brushes

* Star stickers (three per student)

* 3-inch yellow construction paper squares

* 1-inch assorted construction squares

* Construction paper rectangles and triangles, assorted sizes and colors

* 4" x 9" dark green construction paper

* White glue

* Scissors

* Poster of The Starry Night

I have always been fascinated with the life and works of Vincent van Gogh and how he created such magnificent artworks while living such a tragic life. One of my favorite paintings is The Starry Night, in which we can truly see the world through his eyes with blazing stars overlooking a quiet village on a somber night.

I use The Starry Night as inspiration for three grade-level projects: kindergarten paper collages, third-grade fiber collages and fifth-grade computer drawings. These grade levels are flexible, though, and the projects can be adapted according to students' skill levels.

I got the idea for this lesson from the cover project of a D.B.A.E. art book, Discovering Great Artists, by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (Bright Ring Publishing, Inc., 1996), which includes biographical information with a variety of elementary lesson ideas.

TAKE ONE: Kindergarten Paper Collages When introducing The Starry Night to younger students, I usually ask them to describe what they see in the painting and how it makes them feel. You will get a variety of responses and a wonderful discussion will ensue. Point out his use of contrasting colors and bold brushstrokes. Even younger students can recognize the obvious definition of foreground, middle ground and background in this print. Students will enjoy talking about the swirling clouds and stars in the sky.

This project will take two 30- to 40-minute classes, so during the first class students will complete the collage portion. Using a 4" x 9" green rectangle for a cypress tree, demonstrate how to cut a triangle and the edges in a curved manner. Explain that it should be larger on the bottom and come to a point on the top, leaving a straight edge only on the bottom. The scraps may be used for additional branches. You will get quite a variety of trees but they will all be interesting. Glue them onto one side of the blue background at the bottom.

Show students how to combine rectangles and triangles to create houses. Glue on the 1-inch squares for the windows or cut in half for doors and chimneys. Usually, three to four houses are sufficient. For the moon, cut the 3-inch yellow square into a circle by curving the corners and make a scoop out of the center. Even if students' skills are low they will be able to make a moon-like shape this way. Glue the moon into the sky opposite the cypress tree. You can have them use black markers to add curling branches in the trees and windowpanes. Place three star stickers in the sky, spaced apart.

The second session, students will paint the sky. Review the process they used last session and focus on van Gogh's sky. To start, you might want to have kindergartners practice painting broken lines on a white paper that you have copied with three stars drawn on it. You can even make some broken lines for them to follow. Then, using the broken-line brushstrokes, students will make swirls around the stars and the moon simulating van Gogh's swirling sky. Don't let them overdo it. Young artists sometimes don't know when to stop because they love working with paints.

Students will want to other students' projects so you might want to display them with the original The Starry Night print and perhaps some of van Gogh's other famous works such as his sunflowers, irises and self-portraits--one of which is featured as this month's Clip & Save Art Print (see page 34). From now on, the children will look at the night sky with a new appreciation.


Students will ...

* recreate a famous artwork using fiber-arts techniques.

* use applique and running and blanket stitches in an artwork.


* 9" x 12" dark blue or black burlap

* 2" x 3" assorted felt pieces

* 9" x 3" dark green felt

* 2-inch yellow felt squares

* Tacky[R] glue

* Scissors

* Sequins

* Yarn and needles

* Scrap paper and paper towels

* Poster of The Starry Night and other Vincent van Gogh prints

TAKE TWO: Third-Grade Fiber Collages In our school, by the time students are in third grade, they've been exposed to the works of Vincent van Gogh several times. At this age, I share with them more details of his short and tragic life story, as well as several different prints of his artworks. Students become inspired by his bold brushstrokes, use of color and expressive faces.

I like to introduce our fibers unit and explain what is meant by a "fiber." Then I explain how we will be using weaving, applique and stitching techniques with fabrics, yarns and even papers. Next, I show students how we can use all three techniques to create a likeness of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night. Display a poster of this painting and have the students talk about the feelings they get when they look at it. Discuss his painting techniques and how foreground, middle ground and background are well defined.

To begin the project, students will be using applique techniques with Tacky glue and felt. They can cut the 2" x 3" felt pieces in half or in triangles to create a variety of house sizes and rooftops. Scraps can be used to make windows, doors and chimneys. The cypress tree is cut from 9" x 3" green felt. Cut a circle from the 2-inch yellow felt and cut a scoop out of the center for the moon. Glue the houses, tree, moon and three sequins onto the sky, spaced out to leave room for stitching. I always demonstrate how to use glue properly, outlining the edges with a "squiggle" in the center.

The second session, students will complete the appliqur process and begin stitching. Demonstrate how to thread a needle and tie a knot. Show them how to make running and blanket stitches. With yellow yarn, students will use the running stitch around the sequin-stars and moon to represent the swirling brushstrokes. They can also make mountains with green yarn and a running stitch.

Finally, they will use the blanket stitch all around the edges to keep the burlap from unraveling. As an extra, I let the students use glitter glue to add branches in the tree and a few extra details, such as smoke from the chimneys. Remind them to go easy on the glitter glue--it's just an accent.

These projects were truly amazing with their bright felt and bold stitching. Vincent might have been pleased to see such a take on his painting!


Students will ..

* use a computer drawing program to recreate Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night.

* experiment with drawing, painting and fill-tools in a computer drawing program.

* One computer for every two students (or as available)

* Computer drawing program such as Kid Pix[R] Deluxe

* Poster of The Starry Night and other van Gogh prints

Joan Sterling teaches art at Hickory Woods Elementary School in Novi, Mich.

TAKE THREE: Fifth-Grade Computer Pictures The third project involves technology. We recently added a technology strand to our curriculum and have been working hard on a compilation of lessons using drawing programs, digital cameras and photo manipulation. Van Gogh's The Starry Night lends itself quite well to a drawing and painting adaptation.

It would be preferable to work in a computer lab where there are one or two students per computer. If this is not available, you can demonstrate on one computer and then have students take turns completing the assignment.

Give the students some background about Vincent van Gogh's life. After discussing biographical information, focus on several of his works of art, especially The Starry Night. Ask students why they think he painted the sky in the manner he did. What do they notice, like or dislike about the painting? They will usually talk about the contrasting colors, the bold brushstrokes and the serene village. Point out the definition of foreground, middle ground and background.

Use a simple computer drawing and painting program such as Kid Pix Deluxe. You may want to spend one class session allowing students to experiment with the program first. When you feel they are ready, demonstrate how to use the drawing tools to create several horizontal lines for the mountains and foothills. Tell students it is important the lines touch the edges and other lines for "fill" purposes later.

Using the geometric shape tools, draw the houses with rooftops. They can be filled now or later. Use the freeform drawing tool to create the cypress tree and bushes. Then use the "fill" tool to fill in the background, middle ground and foreground.

Fill the houses and add doors, windows and chimneys if desired. Solids, gradients or textures can be used for variety. Using the painting tools, add a moon, several stars, and branches in the tree. Then, "paint" the dotted line strokes around the moon and stars for the swirling sky effect.

Students can use their imaginations and experiment with a variety of drawing and painting tools. Each version is unique and captures the essence of Vincent's The Starry Night in the 21st century.

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890) was born in in Groot-Zundert, Holland, the pastor and oldest of six children. Before becoming an artist he first for an art dealer. He then became a preacher in a poor coal-mining town, where he gave away his own food to the poor.

His brother Theo, an art dealer, encouraged him to pursue his art. Finally, at the age of 27 he moved to Arles in the south of France and began painting. He was often hungry, poor and ill, suffering from seizures and depression. At one point, in a state of dementia, he cut off his ear. His life came to a tragic end when, at the age of 37, he committed suicide. While he only sold one painting in his lifetime, he has made a lasting mark on the world through his amazing artworks.
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Author:Sterling, Joan
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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