Studying Van Gogh

The Artist Who Sparked His Interest :: Vincent Van Gogh

Recently, my youngest son is fascinated with art. He likes looking at paintings, talking about them and learning about the artists. He is drawing more, working through the “hard” parts and developing a growth mindset. 

In fact, after visiting the Morse Museum he returned to the hotel room, set himself up in front of the window and declared he was “doing art.” He didn’t end up drawing anything, but he did have an awesome view of the setting sun. I think that counts as observational skill-building!

I’d like to take credit for his interest, but Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings caught his eye. In November, we learned about Van Gogh; his life and paintings were fascinating and we gobbled up as many books about him as possible (Mike Venezia’s artist series is a favorite around here). However, I think the artist concept truly hit home when we started making our own impressionist art.  After learning about Van Gogh, we made oil pastel drawings of Starry Night.

a child's drawing of Van Gogh's Starry Night

C’s (age 7) recreation of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.

a child's depiction of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

R’s (age 10.5) recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

oil pastel recreation of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.

Liz’s recreation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night (using only 12 oil pastels).

Studying Master Artists

We’ve always taken the kids to museums and read books about artists. Last year, we studied Monet; a few of his paintings were on display at our local museum. For our family, it makes the experience much more valuable if the kids know something about the topic ahead of time. This is especially true for my older, more active child. If he is truly interested, he can wander in a museum for hours. If not, we’re done in thirty minutes!

For this project, we’ve been studying the “masters” with a guided curriculum. I purchased the first set of ‘Meet the Masters‘ lessons. So far, we’ve completed three out of five artists (Van Gogh, Monet, Cassat, Picasso, Mondrian), and the kids look forward to listening and learning new techniques. It has taken our art and art appreciation to the next level with just the right combination of art history and hands-on application. And no, I do not get paid to say that. We just like the curriculum.

I’m not too worried about stifling their creativity with a formal curriculum. We don’t follow it completely, but it does teach them techniques to apply to other art work. I see the value in copying master artists; my kids pay attention to the details and start to internalize the lessons of light, value and color. Then, they get to apply those same skills to their own art. Since they are confident in their skills, they are willing to spend more time drawing and experimenting. Thankfully, that means more art time for me too.