Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers are easily some of his most famous, making them widely recognized in the classroom. In fact, many students end up creating their own version at some point before they move on to secondary art. My students loved the opportunity to draw a variety of different types of flowers, especially after learning about Vincent Van Gogh and his Sunflower series. With these two project options, students can create their own still life featuring a vase of flowers. Using oil pastel to color is a lower-prep choice, although not nearly as “fast” as tempera paints.
Looking for a cheery project to commemorate Van Gogh’s birthday on March 30th? Try one of these options with your students:
OPTION ONE: Drawing with Oil Pastels
This lesson took one fifty-minute session.
What you’ll need:
- 12” x 18” or 10” x 15” sulphite paper
- Oil pastels
Here are the steps:
Start with the 12” x 18” sulphite paper. If you have shorter classes, I suggest trimming the paper to 10” x 15” so that it is a bit more manageable for students to color in a short amount of time.
Draw the vase first (sides and bottoms only) with oil pastel.
Next, draw the centers of the flowers. Some centers are round, some are oval, some are little balls.
Draw the petals, leaves and stems followed by the table line.
Using a variety of oil pastels (I don’t limit them to the colors that Van Gogh uses), color the composition. This takes a good amount of time and may take a little encouragement, especially for the kids that want to finish fast, but this lesson really looks wonderful when they put in the effort.
Once everything is colored, go back and add a black line around every petal, leaf, flower center and vase. It’s really worth it, I think!
OPTION TWO: Using Tempera Paint
Many students don’t leave school without creating their own version of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. While I usually do a collection of sunflowers in oil pastel, I decided to try out a tempera paint version instead. This lesson takes two fifty-minute sessions.
What you’ll need:
- 12” x 18” sulphite paper
- Oil pastel
- Liquid tempera paint
Here are the steps:
Using an oil pastel, draw a vase, table line and the flower centers. I demonstrated this step first and then gave all sorts of examples to encourage students to create a vase and flowers unique to them.
Paint the table one color with liquid tempera paint and then paint the rest of the background with another color. I set out two colors but can put out as many as you’d like.
This usually marked the end of our first session (approx. 45 minutes).
For the next step, I set out an assortment of paints and demonstrated how to blend paint using the double-loading technique (dipping the paintbrush in one color and then another) and mixing colors directly on the paper.
After painting the leaves and petals, children painted their vase and added shadows and highlights. Some children added shadows to the table as well.
For an optional final touch, trace over the outlines with black or white paint. I left the decision of whether or not to do this up to the students.
The complete Tempera Flowers in a Vase lesson along with standards and assessments is available in the Van Gogh Bundle inside the Sparklers’ Club. Join the waitlist here.
Here’s another Van Gogh project for your classroom:
I was searching for a lesson that used VanGogh’s sunflowers for inporation and stumbled across your blog. I LOVE all of your ideas and projects and was immediately inspired to teach this lesson to my third graders and they loved it. The artwork turned out beautiful and I was impressed with the high level of success. Thank you for this site and for sharing your lessons.
Welcome to Deep Space Sparkle. Glad you like the projects. Most of them come from sources off the internet, from art teachers like you.
Personally, it helps me to have all my lessons formatted, but I’m glad it’s helpful and inspiring for others.
If you have lessons to share…please send a link or give a brief description.
We could all use more ideas!
Hi! I came across your blog while searching for an art lesson on the net! I think that Van Gogh’s sunflowers would make a great lesson for my kids! We’ll make it tomorrow and I’ll post some of their works in my blog one I find the time. Check out my site at http://handsonarts.blogspot.com most of my posts are art lessons I found in the net though.
What lovely results. I can’t wait to try this with my kids.
How would this lesson be graded? I really like this lesson, but am quite unfamiliar with teaching and grading art, and I am trying to determine how to set up a grading rubric for this lesson. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
I don’t have to grade art, so I’m unfamiliar with a standard rubric. Perhaps other teachers might weigh in. Good luck!
My art rubrics usually include use of space, use of colour and creativity. The students would know that the background has to be coloured in and a variety of bright colours would be used. Flowers of different sizes would be part of the evaluation.
I love all of your ideas! I stumbled on this one while looking for a lesson on organic shapes to teach my third graders. I can’t wait to get a bouquet of flowers to show students while talking about the different flowers!
I absolutely love this lesson. I have shared it with two different second grade classes so far (my son’s and then my daughter’s). The kids are so impressed with the process and the final product. I stick with just the pastels so I can finish in one 50 minute lesson. I do seem to need to let them use pencils first though…otherwise I end up with tears or using up way too much extra paper…I used the light blue construction paper and the colors really shine! Quite a few kids picked this as their favorite project out of the entire year of weekly projects! I also read a book about Van Gogh…it is a story book called “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers” and the kids really get into it. Thanks so much for sharing the lesson. I am totally hooked on this site and on teaching art now!! love it!
I’m so happy the lesson worked for you! And its even better that the kids loved their work. Good for you…you must have done a great job teaching.
Thanks for letting me know!
Looking forward to some great art ideas!
Great ideas! Looking for something geared more towards 3 and 4 year olds for my preschool class ?
I love this site for art ideas
I love the lessons about Van Gogh’s Sunflower’s. Will try the tempera in class. Thanks/!
i think this will be fun