“Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, ‘What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.’ Yes, evil often seems to surpass good. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes, at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so I must still have hope.” ~Vincent van Gogh
I think that this is why I teach small children–because they give me hope.
Artist Focus: Vincent van Gogh
This month the artist that we are spotlighting is Vincent van Gogh. During our circle time I read to the children the book van Gogh And The Sunflowers by Laurence Arnholt. This is a book in Arnholt’s Artists Books For Children series. The book is written for children in the 6-9 age range and so it is a bit over the head of, and beyond the attention span of my littles. So, I simplified and summarized the story for them as we looked at Arnholt’s illustrations and that worked out quite nicely. I then showed them four renditions of van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings and we talked about their differences. I introduced them to the term “impasto,” which is a technique that is used in painting where the paint is laid on very thickly. We talked about how the paint is so thick on the sunflower paintings that you can see the brush strokes and the paint creates a thick, rough texture on the canvas. Finally, I taught them a wonderful, rollicking song called “The Sunflower Song” by C. C. Warner. The littles just loved this song–it is right up there with Grey Squirrel!
Our invitation to play this week also carried on the sunflower theme. I put popcorn kernels and sunflower seeds into a wooden box and added miniature clay pots and silk sunflowers. The littles really liked scooping up the seeds and kernels and “planting” the flowers. I wish that I had a picture of this sensory bin, but even though I had it out for four days of exploring, I completely forgot to get a picture!
- Impasto painting. I got this idea from MaryAnn Kohl’s book, Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Style of the Great Masters, To 1/2 cup of tempera paint you add about 1 Tbsp of flour to thicken the paint. I put the four van Gogh pictures of the sunflowers next to the art tables so that the children could look at them. Then I gave them each a piece of drawing paper; a paper plate with a dollop of yellow, orange, brown and green paint; a small popsicle stick that they could use to scoop up the paint and a paint brush. Then I let them loose! It is the process of artistic exploration not the product that is important. As van Gogh said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” When my littles paint, all negative voices are silenced. So their end result may not have resembled van Gogh’s sunflowers at all, but I think that they created some beautiful art.
2. Coffee Filter Sunflowers. This idea came from the imagination tree website. I gave each child two coffee filters. I put some slightly diluted yellow liquid water color paint into containers and some slightly diluted orange liquid water color paint into containers. Next I had the children paint the coffee filters. I put the wet coffee filters onto paper towels to dry. If you look in the pictures above you can see them drying as we are painting our impasto sunflowers. Once dry, I showed the children how to glue the yellow coffee filter onto the orange one. Then I gave them gold and black sequins, fall confetti and gold glitter to glue into the center of the sunflowers. For the stems I cut a piece of green cardstock in half lengthwise. Then I rolled the cardstock into a tube and taped it closed with a green leaf patterned washi tape. I also stapled closed the top and bottom of the rolled cardstock. Finally, I glued the sunflowers onto the green cardstock stems.
3. Sunflower Seed Mosaics. I keep the plastic lids from cans because they make great paint palettes! To make the sunflower Seed Mosaics, I squirted a puddle of glue onto the plastic lid and then tilted the lid so that the glue evened out on the lid. I gave the children a pile of sunflower seeds and let them arrange the seeds into a pattern on the lid. Then I gave them red, blue and purple tempera paint to paint the seeds with or to swirl through the glue. We let the glue dry for five days and then popped the discs out of the lid. They dried fairly clear. I punched a hole in each one and tied a string of yarn through them so that the children could hang them up. The inspiration for this art project came from Deborah at Teach Preschool
4. Sunflower paintings. I drew a circle on the top third of a piece of white drawing paper. Each child covered the circle with glue and glued on sunflower seeds. I also gave each child a toilet paper tube that I had flattened into an ellipse shape. They pressed the toilet paper tubes into paint and stamped petals onto their sunflower. The idea was to stamp around the circle, but the littles stamped those petals wherever they wanted! I loved those sunny yellow petals, in many cases, stamped willy-nilly all over their papers. They also painted green stems and leaves. Their painting were charming.
Let the Children Play