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5th Grade Van Gogh Reproductions!

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Are you looking for a fun project that will make students feel successful with drawing and color? My 5th graders are currently working on these Van Gogh reproductions, and they are all coming along beautifully!

I got out our large boxes of oil pastels for this project. Each student had their own.

One of the best ways to learn how to mix colors is by copying a master artist. I started doing this for fun when I was in high school. One day I purchased a giant art book at Barnes and Noble, I went home and started copying Degas paintings from the book. I remember the first time I matched Degas' turquoise, I was so proud of myself. For me, it turned into a self taught path to understanding color.

Van Gogh was a master with color and line, so he's a great artist for kids to study and copy. Read on to see how we did it.

MATERIALS: Pencils, Crayons, Oil pastels, 9x12 black construction paper, and a class set of Starry Night copies.

TIME NEEDED: 1 hour 45 minutes (2-3 class periods)


I made enough copies of "Starry Night" for a whole class and I laminated them. On the first day I gave students a sheet of black construction paper and their Van Gogh copy. Using colored paper takes the pressure off of drawing, because mistakes are not as noticeable.

I demonstrated how to draw the large shapes in the painting on the black paper in crayon. I had them do their drawings in pencil first. Then I asked them to go over their pencil lines with crayons. Going over the lines with crayons gets them to start thinking about color, but in a very casual way. Nothing feels more casual and stress free than using crayons in art!

My original plan was to have my students paint on the black paper, but after doing my sample I learned that I just couldn't reproduce the colors as accurately as I wanted given the tempera paints we had. Also, I was concerned that painting such a detailed painting might be too much for 5th graders, so I did a last minute switch to oil pastels and I'm so glad I did. Oil pastels on black paper really pop!

When students came in on the second day, I did a demo on how to mix oil pastels. To learn how to use oil pastels, read this old blog post of mine. I asked my students to focus on a layering technique, no smudging. I emphasized showing their lines, like Van Gogh. They put lines on top of lines until they get the correct color.

This is a 3 day project, one for the drawing, and two for adding color. It is suitable for 5th graders on up. For any students who get frustrated with the drawing portion of this, remind them that they can edit small things out. Also let them know that the focus of this project is color, it doesn't need to look exactly like the Van Gogh.

I used to teach a similar project to my high school students, only with them we used tempera paint, white paper, and they got to choose from 4 different Van Goghs. It was also a very successful project, but using paint takes much longer, is more challenging, and can be very frustrating for younger children. If I'm feeling brave, I may try this with my 6th graders this year. Let me know what you think!

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