blue is sad and yellow is happy

student starry night

today we learned about vincent van gogh…that he wrote more than 600 letters to his brother theo…that he only ever sold one piece of art during his lifetime, despite creating more than 1700 pieces of art during his short 37 years….that his first painting was called The Potato Eater and none of my students really liked it at all…that he cut off his earlobe after gauguin decided to move out of the apartment they were sharing and gave the earlobe to a, well, a woman of the night, shall we say…and that he painted with blue when he was sad and with yellow when he was happy…


we paid special attention to his Starry Night – its color scheme and the many techniques that van Gogh used in the piece: impasto, sweeping brushstrokes, spirals to indicate movement and perspective based on imagination rather than reality. The children were then given the opportunity to create their own versions of Starry Night using a variety of materials. i wanted them to create nighttime cityscapes with skyscrapers in the front and swirling clouds in the sky…and it was amazing what they came up with on their own…here are a few of my favorites…i love this little house by the hill, especially because of the little wisps of smoke coming out of the chimney and the car driving down the road on the left…

little house by the hill...complete with smoke from the chimney

and i just adore this one with the tree with that lovely knothole…

the hill near the city

and if anyone is looking for some fun van gogh-like things to do at home, here are a few suggestions…

  • There is an absolutely wonderful book called “Van Gogh: My Sticker Art Gallery” by Carole Armstrong which allows children to study 45 of van Gogh’s most famous paintings through miniature stickers that they can affix to the book. It’s truly a fantastic book and a fun way for kids to learn more about the works of this great artist.
  • A wonderful web site devoted to the drawings of van Gogh can be found at
  • Don McLean wrote a beautiful song about van Gogh” called “Starry Starry Night” – there’s even a beautiful slideshow of all of van Gogh’s works set to that music…and here it is…


Filed under artwork, ktblue art classes

2 responses to “blue is sad and yellow is happy

  1. Real cool. Such wonderful strokes and he had quite a tortured life. After skiing finishes I must bring Tallulah (nine) over for one of your courses. They are fascinating!

  2. Barbara Collier Conrad

    Wonderful results! Love the slideshow! With Van Gogh being such a prolific painter, I wonder how many people have seen anything besides “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers.” When I was teaching third grade, we had a “Great Artists” program, done by parents. The Van Gogh presentation featured the painting of him with his bandaged ear. The kids just couldn’t get past that….

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