Art Smart: A Lesson in Value, Van Gogh & Watercolors

by This is Carrie on April 2, 2010

During last week’s second grade art lesson, I introduced the element of VALUE- the relative lightness or darkness of a color.

For a hands on and visual interpretation of value, I had the kids make fingerprint value charts with their watercolors.

Then, I introduced Vincent Van Gogh, an artist whose use of value is readily apparent his works of art.

Cypresses. 1889

So many shades of blue in the sky and green in the trees.

The Starry Night. 1889

I always love the “oohs” and “aahs” that come when kids see Starry Night.  It is a great example of how the artist uses darker shades of a color (in this case blue), to change the feeling of a painting (from day to stormy night in this case).

Then it was time for some watercolor practice.  Only a small handful of kids in each class had ever used them before so I gave some basic instructions about adding water, not smashing the brushes, etc.  Then, we worked on creating trees using value to add interest.

The final art project was to create a watercolor landscape, once again using value to create interest, depth and detail.

Even the most rowdy of the kids were quietly engrossed in painting while classical music softly played in the background.

Creativity was flowing, self confidence was building.

The serenity of the scene reminded me once again that keeping art education in the public schools is so important.



Jana @ Weekend Vintage April 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

It looks like you had so much fun. I want to paint too:)

Sarah April 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Art education in public school is so important. I did elementary school in Mexico where we didn’t have any art classes therefore when I moved to to the U.S. I couldn’t believe I could take an art class at school! 7th grade “art class” was my first exposure and I loved it so much. Good job with your class!

Jen Guzman April 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I’ve learned so much from your second grade art classes!

Annalea April 2, 2010 at 6:18 pm

The idea of “art education” (along with all other fragmentations of the whole concept of education!) has always amused and frustrated me.

Art IS education. Just as is music, dance, song, the written word, sculpture, and numbers and their manipulation. The idea of producing well-educated individuals with curricula limited only to the left-brained topics is both sad and dominant in our world. I wish more people would bring their minds forward out of the industrial revolution and into our post-consumer, rich and varied world that NEEDS people who can do all kinds of things . . . not just be obedient cogs on an assembly line.

If you haven’t seen Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on creativity, you need to. It’s profound and funny and at times makes you want to cry and hug your children.

Way to go with working with the children! That was a great session, it looks like. :o)

Sara Cox Landolt April 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

Oh what fun! I paint with the kids mostly during the cold Wisconsin winter. I think I’ll add some classical music next time vs silly songs.

Brittany April 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I think it’s so cool that you do this! What a great way to expose kids to art and give them confidence.

Kim April 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Carrie you all ways have the greatest ideas! I love this!

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