Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

It is reaching the end of the year. I am done.  I am so done.  The art show is now over.  I don’t have to worry about projects for the show, so now we can focus on fun stuff…. haha, I can’t write this without smiling.  It’s all fun!!

I love flowers, and I love Vincent Van Gogh.  I wanted my kids to experience his sunflowers.  I also have some very new brushes that need paint all over them. Get ready for magic.

When I start teaching about Vincent Van Gogh, I like to read Camille and the Sunflowers to my students.


I like this story a lot because it tells the story from a child’s point of view.  It is much kinder than what really happened to Vincent.  Inevitably, students ask why he was so poor, so lonely, why did he die so young? And I answer these questions.

Vincent Van Gogh’s life is fascinating and I love sharing things I’ve learned with my students.  For example, did you know Van Gogh had a rare form of epilepsy which made him hallucinate?  Not the best thing to have in 1800’s Netherlands.  He was a “freak.” Or that he was so lonely, his brother Theo essentially paid Gauguin to be Vincent’s friend. Van Gogh and Gauguin had a very turbulent relationship, and this is a subject of many documentaries and articles.  It is now rumored that Gauguin cut off part of Vincent’s ear. It goes on and on and on.  Tons of information on the Internet, and TED talks.  I’ve even had the pleasure to visit the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.  I am a fan.

I needed some help with drawing the flowers, so I visited my trusty pal, YouTube.  This is a great video and a great place to start.

This video helped me tons!  Here are some of my students’ rough draft drawings:

Then it was time to play.  I did a few different approaches with this.  In one class, I gave the students a big range of paints.  Then I showed them how to blend some of their colors. I stressed that I wanted them to use the petals as a guide, I did not want them to paint inside the lines or be restricted by colors.  Blend, blend, blend!  Paint big sweeping lines! The only thing I wanted them to paint according to my instructions was the vase, so I showed them how to paint along the shape of the object and make the vase varied in color to show how the light hits it.


I told the other class to paint the flowers the same way, but then I had them sponge paint their background.  The only problem with this is that the paint is washable tempera paint and was very blah.  I like the brushstrokes for the background too much and won’t do sponge in the future.

Overall, I’m super happy with my first attempt at this.  I like how students turned their sunflowers into very colorful and vibrant flowers.  This lesson is a keeper for next year.

Author: Sonia Chapman

I am an art teacher, living in the Middle East, following my passion for art, teaching little children about the finer things in life, and loving every bit of it.

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