Painting like Vincent

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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Art and designEnglishPrimary EducationLower Secondary (Key Stage 3)

In deze les zitten 14 slides, met interactieve quizzen en tekstslides.

time-iconLesduur is: 90 min


The students will mix their own paints and make paintings of objects from their everyday lives.


Before class begins, put all the materials out on the tables or desks. If you don't want the students to choose their own colours, you can put three colours of paint on each mixing board (tip: choose a varied set of colours).

Materials required
- Art paper
- Pencils
- Various colours of paint
- Mixing boards or empty egg cartons
- Brushes
- Rags or towels

Instead of letting the students pick the colours, pass out different combinations.

Background information
Vincent van Gogh often experimented with colour. He sometimes used strong colour contrasts and sometimes worked with a limited set of colours. The challenge is then to make the painting interesting anyway. The students will experience this for themselves.

Onderdelen in deze les

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

Story: Vincent often painted everyday subjects – in other words, things that he saw in his daily life. Here we see farmers having a simple evening meal. Vincent made this painting before he left the Netherlands. At that stage, he did not use a lot of bright colours. - How many different colours can the students find?

The Potato Eaters, 1885

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Ask the students what they notice about the colours in this painting. Are they very different from the colours of the previous painting? The small yellow book belonged to Vincent, and the large Bible belonged to his father. The small book attracts more attention because it is brightly coloured.

 Still Life with Bible, 1885

What is an everyday subject?

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

- So what exactly do we mean by 'everyday subjects'? On the next slide, there's a little quiz.

One example of an everyday subject is:
ministers meeting with the king (or queen)
your bedroom
a violent storm at sea
the wedding of a famous football player

Slide 4 - Quizvraag

Briefly discuss the right answer. - Can the students give other examples of everyday subjects? - Which subject – A, B, C or D – would they most like to paint? - Do they know which of these subjects Vincent painted? > Answer: His bedroom. See the next slide.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

The Bedroom, 1888
Which of these is the least everyday subject?
Your lunchbox
Someone driving a car
Children playing in the schoolyard
The coronation of a new king (or queen)

Slide 6 - Quizvraag

Briefly talk about why D is the right answer. What makes a subject ordinary? And what makes a subject special? Is it better for a painting to have a special subject, or an everyday one? Why? (Vincent never painted any of these four subjects.)

Can you think of ordinary subjects for a painting?

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

Have the class come up with a few examples, as inspiration for their own paintings of everyday subjects. These examples can be written on the board; click the pencil to start writing.

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

This is a sketch made by Vincent before he painted The Potato Eaters. He sketched the basic shapes in the painting. The students will now do the same thing. Have them decide where they'll use light colours, and where they'll use dark ones. Tell them not to use thick lines in their drawing, like Vincent, or you'll be able to see the sketch through the painting! Students who have a hard time choosing a subject can try to copy Vincent's sketch instead.

Sketch for The Potato Eaters, 1885

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Are the sketches ready? Then it's almost time to for each student to pick three colours for his or her painting. Story: In these two paintings, Vincent used almost nothing but dark colours. But of course, you don't have to do that. Just look at this next example.

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Story: You can also use very bright colours. In these paintings, Vincent used almost nothing but shades of yellow. There are also some other colours, which really attract attention. Does anyone see a surprising colour in the painting Sunflowers> One of the sunflowers has a blue centre.

Quinces, lemons, pears, and grapes, 1887 Sunflowers, 1889

Slide 11 - Tekstslide

Story: Vincent used a palette when he painted. On his palette, he could mix paints to create different colours. That's what you're going to do now. Use your three colours of paint to make as many different colours and shades as possible. Does everyone know how mixing works? If you need help, you can use the colour wheel. Vincent used something very similar.

Detail from Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887-1888

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

As a group, take a quick look at how the colour wheel works and how it can help you mix paints. Then the students can start painting, using their three colours and their mixtures.

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

While they work, leave this slide on the board. On the left is the type of colour scheme that Vincent used. On the right is the modern colour wheel. Give the students some advice: you can use one strong colour for an important part of your painting and then use another set of colours for all the rest of the painting – mixed colours that are similar to each other.
How did it go?

Slide 14 - Tekstslide

You can finish the lesson by looking at the students' paintings together. - What subjects did they choose? - What was it like to paint with just a few colours?