Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Week 3: Van Gogh sunflowers

A common theme among art projects is Van Gogh's series of paintings of sunflowers. Being the end of summer, and contining the "basics" theme for September,  I had the kids "paint" a still life of sunflowers.  Instead of paint (which honestly is hard to do with 19 kids and 30 minutes and little prep/cleanup space) I had them use oil pastel. It was also school picture day, so I wanted to do something that was a tad bit less messy for all these beautifully dressed kids. If I had honestly remembered the school pictures when I made the schedule weeks ago, I might have chosen a completely mess-free project. But the kids did good, and I hope the parents did not scream when they saw them!

I tried to emphasize cool vs. warm colors, as well as getting the kids to use their eyes and draw what they saw, not what they think a vase of sunflowers look like. As in Van Gogh's painting, I had three different looking sunflowers in the vase. One had a dark center, one was all fluffy and the other was tight and all yellow.

The kids, for the most part, did a good job of actually looking at the flowers, and many did a great job of interpreting the vase and an imaginary background!

Here are some of the 3rd-4th graders work:

Here are some of the the Kindergarten-2nd graders. What was enlightening about this young group was the difference between a 5 year-old and a 7 year-old. The young ones really don't get the concept of a still life and drawing from life: they just draw pink flowers and some squiggly lines. The second graders really look and count the flowers and use the "right" colors.  All that progression in just 2 years!


First graders:

Second graders:


  1. That's so great you are doing this, Dennis! Right up your alley (and down your street, right?)
    Interesting to see the difference between 5 & 7 year olds interpretation of the same assignment.

  2. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  3. Thanks Alisha. I am glad that some other people on the web can get some benefit. I know that I get benefit from other's blogs!

  4. I'm back to teaching after taking a 9 year break to have children and I'm SO thrilled to have found your site! I'll be using your projects throughout the year. I teach 3/4 at San Luis Obispo Christian School and I know the kids will love these projects. THANK YOU!

  5. Hi Gwyneth and Mom-thanks for finding me. School starts this week, and one of my tasks is to figure out what we are going to do. Part of this blog is for my own "memory" so I can look back and recycle the "best of" from the last three years. The trouble is that with mult-grade rooms, I can't just re-use every year since the kids will have already done it.