Inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

…..the kindergarten classes that I teach art to created a garden of Van Gogh inspired sunflowers

Recently I read the book The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock to the entire school. The book is one of the Blue Spruce nominees for 2017. the-artist-and-me-by-shane-peacock

I liked this book for two reasons. Firstly, because it is written for young children and highlights how the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh was bullied by children and adults alike. It points out that even adults are bullied when they appear different or do things differently. In Van Gogh’s case he suffered from depression and his art was different from the classics that people had come to expect from artists. The students were surprised that such a famous artist was treated so badly. I explained to them that Van Gogh was one of several new artists that had grown tired of traditional painting and wanted to experiment with texture, colour and paint strokes. People had a hard time excepting this new way of painting and in his lifetime Van Gogh only sold one painting.

Secondly, I liked this book because the illustrator tried to use similar colours that Van Gogh used and he reproduced parts of Van Gogh’s work in his illustrations. For example there are a few illustrations of Van Gogh’s famous bedroom and an illustration of the wheat fields that he liked to paint.

I had other books that showed some of Van Gogh’s many paintings. I showed my kindergarten classes the sunflowers that Van Gogh became famous for after he died. In our art period I demonstrated how to paint simple sunflowers using round stamps. Some of the students used paintbrushes to create the petals of the sunflowers. We talked about the different varieties and colours of sunflowers and I gave them yellow, red, orange and white paint that they could mix if they wanted.

On the first day the students painted the centres and the petals of the flowers. On day two they added green leaves and stems. I also gave them the option of adding a blue sky in the background and I showed them how to paint around their flowers. Some of the students also added some ladybugs and other little critters.


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A Garden of Spring Flowers in Paint

….in this part of the world spring is not close at hand

Looking at blogs that originate in Ireland, the United Kingdom, parts of Europe and the west coast of North America I’m amazed to see so many gardens that are already in bloom with beautiful spring flowers. With some luck we may see our first daffodil in late April but most of our flowers won’t appear until May.

To get us in the spring mood I painted some simple made up flowers using watercolours and circle shapes. For the background I used a scraping technique that I learned from Carla Sonheim. Once the paint was dry I added more detail, sometimes with  more paint but mostly with black ink from a Sharpie. I liked the final product so much I adapted it for my students and when I return to school this week I will plaster the walls with their beautiful gardens of flowers. I will share their work with you later this week.


Back Into My Painting Groove

….seems like I need complete solitude to paint

I’ve found in the past that I get my best work done late at night when everyone is in bed. At the cottage it is more difficult to do because the light isn’t good after the sun goes down. Today I found myself all alone at the cottage. My neighbours had left for a few days and I didn’t have a lot of things to pack before I left for home.

I got out my paints and set up my brushes. I had a large canvas that already had the background done. In fact the background had been done for two years and I just wasn’t sure how to finish it. Then I remember hearing these wise words….” it’s only paint”. In other words don’t worry about messing it up, just go for it.

I knew that I wanted to paint pears and I had a vision in my head how I thought it might look. I lightly sketched two pears and then started adding colour. I like to work quickly and I use brushes, rags and my hands. Two hours later I finished my piece and am quite happy with it.


Art Heist – Copying From the Masters

….what are grade 1s, 2s, and 3s capable of?

Back in April my friend, colleague and our school’s music teacher asked me if my students could paint large copies of some famous Canadian paintings that could be used to decorate the back of the stage for our outdoor concert in June. At first I was a little hesitant and reminded her that my students were only 6 to 8 years old. I thought about it for awhile, found a book in the library of Canadian art and then asked my students which paintings they would like to copy. I tried to steer them towards art that had large shapes and simple lines.

My grade two class loved Lawren Harris’ iceberg art and insisted that they could do it. The first grade one class chose Emily Carr’s totem pole and the other grade one class were highly influenced by me and chose the Jack Bush abstract art. My older students, the grade 3s were asked to choose something from the North and they agreed to paint a Ted Harrison piece.

Normally I would encourage students to paint in an artist’s style but for this project we wanted the paintings to be recognizable. I cut out large pieces of heavy paper and taped them to the wall outside each classroom. I made a few marks on the mural paper as a guideline for the students so that they could draw the foreground, middle ground and background. With the Jack Bush painting I divided the paper into sections and the students took turns drawing the lines as I held the ruler. They then labelled each section with the colour and the student who would be filling it in.

The grade 3s impressed me the most with the Ted Harrison painting that they chose. I gave  them the least amount of assistance and they drew all the detail, including the whale without any help from me. It was also the first painting to be finished so I used some of the students from this class to assist the younger students with their paintings.

All four paintings were finished with no time to spare. We reinforced the back with duct tape and then taped them to the stage wall. They were perfect and fit the entire back wall. It was encouraging to hear parents actually naming the pieces or the the painters as they walked down the hall while the students were painting. They even recognized the Jack Bush piece because they had just come back from a field trip where his paintings were being featured. No, the names were not above the paintings during the painting process!

Here they are. You can getter a better idea of the size from the last photo where they are on display at the back of the stage.


Picasso Dogs From the Imaginations of Grade One Students

….thanks to Carla Sonheim’s free on-line kid’s art lessons for this idea

For my very first art lesson this year I introduced my grade one, two and three classes to Pablo Picasso. We looked at his traditional vs abstract paintings and explored some of his unusual portraits. Carla’s unique approach to drawing an abstract dog made the assignment fun and less intimidating than drawing a traditional human face.

After we practised drawing some dog features (snouts, eyes, ears, tails, paws) I gave each child a piece of watercolour paper and instructed them to draw an eye, turn the paper and draw a larger eye and continued like this until there were six or seven features on the paper. Then they had to turn the paper and find the layout they liked best and start joining the features to create a dog. They could change things around and add more features as they went along. This took up pretty much all the time we had in our first class. I collected the papers and stored them away for a week.

The following week we discussed what the primary colours are and I demonstrated how to hold a brush and apply paint to the paper. I returned their work from the week before and handed out the paints. For many in grade one it was a challenge to stay in the lines but for the most part they managed to keep the colours from blending into one another. We used tempera paint so it took a while to dry. I asked the homeroom teacher to give the students time to go over the pencil lines with a black Sharpie so that their dogs would reappear.

I loved their finished works of art. I’ve selected a few to share with you.

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Share Your World – 2014 Week 25

…..almost half way into the year….yikes, where does the time go?

What is your favorite type of dog? (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal, drawing, cartoon or character in a movie or TV show) 

As much as I love our current dog, Frances, I’d have to say that my favourite breed of dog is the Golden Retriever. Before adopting Frances we owned 2 Goldens over a 23 year period. Our first dog died way too soon, just before she turned eight and our second Golden lived to be 15 years and 40 days old. My husband says now that the Goldens were my dogs and that Frances is his.

This is Scully at the cottage when she was 15 years old. As you can see she only has one eye. She lost her eye when she was only two but it certainly didn't slow her down. She hated having her picture taken and would usually run away when she saw the camera. I suspect in her last year or two her sight in her one eye was starting to fail.

This is Scully at the cottage when she was 15 years old. As you can see she only has one eye. She lost her eye when she was only two but it certainly didn’t slow her down. She hated having her picture taken and would usually run away when she saw the camera. I suspect in her last year or two her sight in her one eye was starting to fail.


Frances is a mixed breed of Dachshund and Australian Shepherd.

Frances is a mixed breed of Dachshund and Australian Shepherd.


Name one thing not many people know about you.

It’s a weird thing to admit but I have a deathly fear of bears. I’ve never had an encounter with a bear or even seen one from a distance. My sister thinks it has to do with a book our Aunt gave us when we were kids about bear attacks. Last year a family of bears swam across the lake and now live on the island where our cottage is. I’m actually afraid to go for walks in the woods now.

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Have you ever gone scuba diving? If you haven’t, would you want to?

I’ve never been scuba diving but if I went to a sunny island in the Caribbean I would probably like to try it.

What was the most important event in your life last week? (anything goes it can be a good nights sleep, finished a reading book,winning the lottery, or getting married)

Last week was extremely busy and I had a lot of late nights. For two nights in a row I didn’t get home until 9:30 and 10:30 and on one of those nights I couldn’t sleep right away so I stayed up and painted and didn’t get to bed until 2:00 in the morning. The following day I went to lie down right after dinner because I was feeling a little off and I didn’t wake up until after midnight. I changed out of my clothes and into my PJs and surprisingly fell asleep without any difficulty. I woke up shortly after six in the morning. Sleeping for over ten hours on a school night and finally getting the rest I needed was the most important event of last week.

One of the paintings I was working on.

One of the paintings I was working on.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful that my daughter went into school with me on the weekend and helped me clean up my art area and part of the library. She also helped me organize the children’s prizes from the Jump Rope for Heart activity and together we took down all the art work around the school and returned it to the different classrooms. I knew that if I didn’t get it done on the weekend I’d be in big trouble this week. There is so much going on at school this week that I needed to get those jobs done ahead of time.

I’m looking forward to the end of school on Friday and to our staff party on Thursday night. Normally the children are finished one day before the teachers are but this year both students and teachers work right till the end of the week.

For more Share Your World posts check out: