Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Master Artist- Vincent Van Gough

Vincent Van Gough is not listed as an artist on the Chain of Christianity by StoneBridge. However, I did share some things about him and covered his style.

Leading Idea: 

Everyone is given gifts and talents by our Creator.
Each of us have a choice to use those gifts and talents to glorify God.

Biblical Principle:

The Principle of Individuality

1 Peter 4:10 "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." KJV

This lesson focuses on Van Gough's Post-Impressionist period.


There are many paintings of Vincent Van Gough's that you can print out to share with your students. However, use caution because not all of them are paintings that glorify our Creator. I love Starry Night (below) and you can go here to gain a brief understanding of his Starry Night paintings.

Starry Night

Vincent Van Gough's Background:
  • He lived March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890.
  • He was a Dutch Post-Impressionist Painter.
  • His art is known for its vivid colors and emotional impact.
  • His Grandfather and father were both preachers. 
  • He was an art dealer, but didn't like how art was treated as a commodity, it was obvious to the customers and his employment was terminated.
  • He returned to England for unpaid work and took a position as a supply teacher in a small boarding school.
  • He was a Methodist Minister's Assistant.- because he wished to preach the Gospel everywhere.
  • He worked in a book shop and would either doodle in the back of the shop or translate passages from the Bible into English, French and German.
  • He attempted to become a pastor but failed the entrance examination.
  • He took a temporary position as a missionary and saw it fitting to live like those he preached to and share in their hardships. He ended up being dismissed by church authorities for "undermining the dignity of the priesthood."
  • At this point in his life, he became interested in the people and scenes around him. His brother Theo encouraged him to become an artist. After giving it a try, Vincent finally found his vocation as an artist.
  • Van Gough did not choose to always glorify God with his paintings. We need to take great care to use art to glorify God.
  • It's important to honor God with our gifts and talents. 
  • Van Gough was not famous during his lifetime but he continued to express his individuality through his talent in painting despite the opinions of people. (Stewardship of his talent.)
  • We learned through our study about his Starry Night paintings, that Vincent may have attempted to live out 1 Peter 4:10 in the creation of some of his art.

People are unique and creative. Given this, everyone's imagination will be different and there is beauty in that! Today, you get to practice this by doing a twist on one of Van Gough's sunflowers.

    Sunflower, c. 1888
       Van Gough

My Interpretation of Sunflower, c.1888
If you share this lesson with others, please acknowledge the source, it's not cool to do otherwise.

Kids ranging from 3 years to 11 years did this project. Older kids may prefer to skip the hand prints and paint what they see.

Poster Board- cut it in half width-wise and paint on the dull side.
Tempera paint- yellow, blue and white
Oil Pastels- (white, greens, reds, orange, browns.)
Brown Packaging Paper
Sponge brushes
Plastic plate or Ziploc Bag to use as a pallet
2" Paint Brush
Black tissue paper (optional)
*Let your students know that Impressionists painted with vivid colors. They also painted with fast strokes because they were trying to capture the lighting before it changed.
Step 1:
Apply yellow tempera paint to your child's hand with the sponge brush.

Step 2:
With fingers spread apart, "stamp" your child's hand onto the brown packaging paper (most of the flowers we did had 6-8 hand prints)

Step 3:
While the hand prints dry, use the blue and white tempera paint to mix different blues for the sky background. Apply the blues to the backside (the dull side) of the poster board. Have your child pay attention to the swirls in the background and have him/her try to paint swirly strokes with the paint brush.

Step 4:
If the hand prints aren't dry yet, take the handy dandy hair dryer and dry them the rest of the way. :) It's one of my favorite artist tips! Then cut the hand prints out- be sure to go between the fingers because those are the flower petals.

Step 5: 
Have your child observe the placement of Van Gough's sunflowers. The hand prints make up the dominate sunflower. Have him/her glue the hand prints onto the "canvas."  They will do this in two layers (bottom and top layers). The hand print fingers will likely go over the top corner edges of the poster board and that's okay- they'll be trimmed once the glue dries.
(If the sky isn't dried yet, pull out the hair dryer again and speed up the process.)

Step 6:
Now pull out those oil pastels. *Keep in mind that these may stain. So, take care.* The oil pastels will be used to create the stem to the dominate sunflower- which is the focal point of the piece. They will also be used to paint on the other sunflowers. 

Step 7: 
Use the white oil pastel to go in over, here and there, the blue swirls in the sky to add texture and highlights to the swirls.

Step 8:
Use the reds, orange, and browns to create the circles and swirls in the center of the dominate sunflower. Take care not to tear the palms of the hand prints. If the palms are glued down all the way, they may lift up when applying the oil pastels.

Optional Step:

Step 9:
Tear little pieces of black tissue paper and scrunch them up. These can be glued as "sunflower seeds" in the darker area of the center of the dominate sunflower.

What some of the kids did!

3 years old

 6 years old

 7 years old
(She preferred to trace her hands onto the canvas and then paint them in with oil pastels.) 

 9 year old

10 year old
(He preferred to paint directly onto the canvas with the oil pastels.) 


  • Have your student record the Biblical Principle and selected background information about Van Gough. File it in their Notebook.
  • You can take a picture of their masterpiece and scrapbook it onto their notes for their Notebook.

*As their own personal art collection builds, you can create one of those photobooks and fill it with their art from the school year. :) Create a Photo Book. Starting at Just $9.99. Try it!

This lesson content is © 2011 Principled Academy Home School. All rights reserved.
Permission is granted for educational purposes only- but not for profit. Thank You.


  1. Excellent post. I love the art work.

    1. Thanks, Gina! It was a fun project and a neat keepsake. I enjoy looking at how much smaller their hands were a few years ago. :)

  2. I LOVE this! Van Gough is the first on our list for an artist study and I am so thankful to find this post. Now I'm off to check out all your artist study posts! Featuring on this coming Thursday's Hearts for Home blog hop. Thanks!


    1. Oh yay! I'm so glad this artist study suits you! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, Tanya!