Starry Night is one of my favorite paintings to teach about! I think I have blogged about it every year since I started teaching; well, here we go again! :)
By the time we got to Starry Night this year, my students were already familiar with Van Gogh because we had already painted sunflowers. I began by talking about many elements and principles of art in the painting. I especially like to point out the contrast of warm-colored stars, moon, and lights in the windows of the buildings against the cool-colored sky and town, cloaked with the blueness of night. There is movement in the sky; it seems to be swirling! The element of line is very strong; everything is composed of brush strokes.
Then, the students got to paint their own version of the sky; I gave them lots of freedom this year, letting them paint it however they wanted. I showed my own example painting, which used dotted lines to emulate Van Gogh's brushstrokes, and I demonstrated on the blackboard how dotted lines can make a shooting star or a brightly shining star. But, after the demonstrations and ideas, they could paint in any way they wanted.
The second day, I began by giving each student a postcard of either a Van Gogh painting, or a Vermeer. I explained the stylistic differences, and had the students figure out who painted the picture they were given. Then, each student went up to the blackboard and attached their postcard with a magnet to either the Van Gogh side or the Vermeer side. Then we further discussed differences between the two artists that the students noticed as they saw the many postcards. After the postcard game, the students finished painting their sky.
The last day was for making the town. I had the students cut buildings and trees out of black construction paper. I know this doesn't quite match Van Gogh's town, but I like the effect of the black town silhouetted against a lively sky. I demonstrated many ways to make trees and houses, and fancy buildings. It is much easier to cut a square, triangle, and rectangle, than trying to cut out the shape of a house with a roof and chimney all at once.
Here are some finished results, as well as the bulletin board showing many of the paintings all together.
Look; it's the big dipper!