Vincent Van Gogh Art Lesson Plan for Kids

Van Gogh Lesson Plan Pastel Flowers

A lesson plan in oil pastels for kids.  

Van Gogh Art

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Vincent Van Gogh 1853–1890


A lesson plan in oil pastel for grades 6-8, completed in two 45 minute class periods.

Students learn about the life of the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh, and create an original still life image of flowers in his style.



still life, perspective, loose sketch, artist’s interpretation, color gymnastics, render, gradate, highlight, analogous

National Core Art Standards—Visual


Anchor Standard #1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work Anchor Standard #3: Refine and complete artistic work


Anchor Standard #5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation


Anchor Standard #9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work

Vincent Van Gogh

Portrait Of An Artist

Vincent Van Gogh
By Lucy Brownridge, Illustrated by Edith Carron


Vincent Van Gogh is a visually stunning account of the life and work of one of the most iconic painters in Western art history. His biography is told in a simple sequence of life events accompanied by several of his famous paintings, and is richly illustrated in styles that mimic Van Gogh’s bright colors, painting and mark making techniques.

Van Gogh was known for painting many genres; landscapes, portraits, settings and still life of objects. Usually the first thing to come to mind when think- ing of Vincent Van Gogh, are two of his most recognized paintings– The Starry Night and Sunflowers. Lesser-known, may be his many magnificent paintings of ordinary flowers. For an artist like Van Gogh, who was struggling to sell work and make a living, paying models was an issue. Painting flowers was inexpensive, and they were always readily available. He often composed his floral arrangements for his paintings by using ordinary flowers from nearby gardens or those that grew in the countryside near his home. There were poppies, corn- flowers, roses, irises, myosotis and chrysanthemums, to name a few. Van Gogh brought life and emotion to his flowers, painting them thriving and full of life and vivid color through his own unique perspective, and painting technique.

In this lesson plan, we move beyond the most recognizable and much done Starry Night and Sunflowers images, and delve into creating an original piece of art. Using oil pastels, students will experience drawing from an actual still life set up, and learn Van Gogh’s exciting and unique mark making technique that he called “color gymnastics” to execute an exciting masterpiece of their own.


Getting set up

Preparing for this lesson plan begins by deciding to make an investment for your art room by purchasing artificial flowers from your local craft emporium, and hopefully during a sale period. This investment will provide many years of what will become an anticipated Van Gogh still life lesson plan in the classroom.

Plan on making 4 simple arrangements for 4 drawing stations in your classroom.

When choosing flowers, look for a variety of simple, well defined shapes that will be easy to draw– circular, spiky, smaller, larger.

Flowers in Vase

For containers, look for simple shapes, with a smallish opening to accommodate enough stems and allow flowers to spill out in a loose manner. The jug pictured here, is a classic shape that is recognizable in many Van Gogh images. I found it at the same craft emporium (Hobby Lobby) at 50% off, making it $6.

Make the flower arrangements in a simple way, using no more than about 3 shapes. Consider the colors you are putting together, and what color backgrounds will compliment the arrangement.

Vase sketch in white

The Sketch

Create drawing stations in the classroom by temporarily positioning desks in 4 circles or semi circles. Place black construction paper and white pencils at each desk. Finally, place a bouquet on a stool or small table at the center of each station. Divide the students among the stations.

Tell students to draw from the perspective they are sitting at. Demonstrate how to sketch loosely, using their whole arm, not just their wrist. Detail and accuracy is not the point– the drawing should be a fairly quick artist’s interpretation of what they see. Have them begin with the flowers, and fill the upper 3/4 of the paper, then add the pot and table. drawing time should not take more than 15 minutes.

Van Gogh pastel flowers and vase

Van Gogh pastel flower


Van Gogh used a painting technique using bright colors and short, lively, energetic brush strokes he called “color gymnastics.” Have students chose a handful of colors and show them how to use the oil pastel sticks to make quick, short strokes to express the shapes of the different flowers. Using more then one color in a flower (but in the same color family) adds excitement and interest.

Van Gogh pastel flowers and vase


Show students how to continue by filling in with the greenery with loose, sketchy strokes. Fill in the table top with lively marks.

Van Gogh pastel flowers and vase

Van Gogh pastel vase details



Next, show students how to render the vase to give it its rounded dimension. Begin by choosing 3 similar colors to use. Start with the darkest color and begin curved strokes along the outer edge. Gradate the coloring of the vase by adding a lighter color as your move towards the center. Finally, create a highlight effect by adding a few of the lightest color strokes to the center.

Van Gogh pastel flowers and vase


Demonstrate how to choose 2-3 analogous colors or shades of the same color, and begin to fill the background with Van Gogh’s distinctive short quick strokes. Start with the darkest color, then fill in with the other two. Leave a black channel around the image to help make the color and image pop.

 Van Gogh pastel flowers and vase

Framing the masterpieces

Your student’s artwork is sure to be a real show stopper, and an impressive project to display for your next open house! You can further enhance each piece by “framing” them before hanging– have each student choose a pre-cut piece of larger colored paper (14 x 20) in a flattering color to mount (glue) their master- piece on, leaving a 2 in. frame. Enjoy the attention this art is sure to get!

Download the entire lesson plan, here

Artist Biography - Janis Doukakis


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