Starry Night: Art Lesson for Kids

SN2 IIVincent Van Gogh is my favorite artist. His work is full of expression, color and movement.  I smile every time I look at his bright and cheery paintings.

Starry Night is on the top of my list of Van Gogh’s works. I can see why it is one of the most sought after prints in the world. So amazing since Van Gogh only sold “one” painting in his lifetime. What a great reminder for us artists to just enjoy the gift of creating—you never know (something you make may positively impact another person (the world!!!). 🙂

Before we get started, take a look at this excellent video that shows the movement and flow of Starry Night: vimeo-Starry Night (Interactive).

This lesson for the kids in my 1st – 3rd grade art class is such a great piece to paint to show children flow, rhythm, movement, texture, pattern, shape and color. Plus, they learn about composition (the placement/how items are arranged in a painting) when they reproduce a work of art.SN8

Since I had 20 children to work with, I forgot to take pictures of the process. I will do my best to explain what we did to get our finished masterpieces of Starry Night.


Tablecloth or placemat to go under canvas

Canvas (11×14)

Liquid acrylic paint in various colors

White chalk


Paint trays

Water (clean brushes)



While the children painted their entire 11×14 canvas with a thin coat of golden yellow, I explained to them that this is what is known as ground color.

I did this for two reasons. Mostly, so we could use white chalk to layout the design of Starry Night. The other reason was so the yellow background color would show through if the children missed a spot while painting in all the elements of the design.SN6 II

In order to help the children learn where to place everything (composition) on the canvas, I first divided my finished painting of Starry Night into quadrants (a chalk line through the middle vertically (top to bottom) and horizontally (left to right)). I briefly discussed how each element (the stars, moon, clouds, tree, mountains and church) lives in a certain quadrant.

NOTE: Even with dividing the canvas up in four equal parts, it’s very easy for small children to get confused with left and right placement of things. Especially in a class setting with another student sitting across from them painting a mirror image of what they are painting. Therefore, another reason I use chalk when working with children and I take time to help each student understand where to place each element.

SN3After chalking in where everything lived, we painted our canvas from background to foreground. The sky was painted first in a dark blue. The clouds were added in light blue with small strokes of white. The stars were painted as circles (various sizes) in yellow and then the children went around the yellow circles adding white strokes of color. A dot of orange was added to the middle of each star and also used to paint the moon. NOTE: I found in painting with small children, it’s best to explain things in terms they already understand. So the easiest way to help the children (5 – 7 year olds) paint a moon was to tell them to paint the letter “C”.

After we painted in our sky, we painted in our three mountains (that we chalked in).SN1 II

We painted our ground green and added a few curved lines in dark green to represent hay bales.

Before painting the tall tree, we talked about curved lines and how the tree looks like a flame a fire.   They used the sky dark blue, dark green and light green to paint their tree.SN3

The church was added last using basic shapes of squares and a triangle. They painted it white and then outlined it in the color of the sky and added the door.

I love how the children captured the dimension of the front and side view of the church.SN5

So fun!!!  Are you smiling?  I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did. 🙂

♥ Michelle

Michelle Marttila

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