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Meeting the Masters: Van Gogh, Part 2

artclass 002Because we’re only doing it every other week, this is only our second “day” with our first Meet the Masters artist.  (read about our happy first meeting here)

Today, it was time for the hands-on project, an exploration of both texture – a la Van Gogh himself – and a brand-new medium:  oil pastels.  Naomi loved the little pastels and was fascinated with the idea of peeling and snapping them.

She made a point of using every colour just so she’d have to peel each one, and refused to let me do any.

I used pastels as a kid (maybe junior high school?) but didn’t really realize what they WERE – SuperMegaCrayons from the Planet Artizoid.  GZ experimented with using crayons and pastels while I showed Naomi the different results in terms of texture and vibrancy.

I hate to sound like an ad, but the instructions from the Meet the Masters program were SUPER easy to follow.  I am NOT an art person, but they are so stupidly simple:  all you need is a pulse to succeed with this program.  Lucky for me!  One of the big kids actually complimented my finished art piece… it was pretty good considering I have ZERO talent.

The instructions walk you through a couple of practice steps, trying out techniques on newsprint first so you get the hang of it:

artclass 001  artclass 003

Then, you switch to black construction paper and draw the horizon.  Above the horizon, you create a busy sky full of swirly stars; below it, you use a different pastel technique (lying it down and rubbing) to create a soft “ground” beneath.

The goal here is NOT to create an exact replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Night (impossible, except for Ted!), but to capture a bit of the mood and texture, along with teaching kids a new art medium and the versatility of simple techniques.

artclass 005I’ve already said that Naomi Rivka hates colouring, but the truth is, she’s not very patient with ANYTHING to do with art, and I had to keep reminding her to make teeny tiny dashes; otherwise, she would have drawn giant swirls. 

In exasperation, she finally asked, “do REAL artists have to be patient, too?”  I said yes; sometimes they have to work hard and SLOWLY for days, weeks or even months to finish their art.  It was very teachable – the idea that artists don’t just slap out a masterpiece (though some do; Ted generally does!). 

Which is not to say that I don’t love all her rapid-fire, detailed sketches and doodles!!!  I tried to validate that by telling her that that she create her own art, using any technique she wanted, on a fresh piece of construction paper as soon as we were done this project.

Her patience finally wore out towards the bottom of the ground.  She took almost ten minutes doing the top layer of earth, which looks fantastic, but then she was scribbling, point down, instead of gently rubbing, by the time she got to the end.  You can see a few of the scribbles here.

artclass 006And then, to my exasperation, just as we were putting everything away, I issued my standard reminder:  “a real artist always… signs her work.”  (though not Vermeer, apparently; see, I’m learning, right along with my kids!!!)

I showed her where I’d printed “Mommy” neatly in the bottom-right corner of my starry night “painting.”  So she grabbed a white pastel and scrawled her name right across her horizon.  Blah.

Meet the Masters even provides a printable information slip that you glue to the back of your completed artwork so that when you look at it months or years later, you remember (if the cheap Dollarama glue hasn’t fallen off) what the heck you were trying to accomplish and what artist you were studying at the time.

More and more, I am liking these programs that arrive only as printable PDFs.  I like having them on the hard drive and not worrying about rounding up books, photocopying materials, etc.  Not to mention clutter!  I guess the downside is having to rebuild everything – my thousands of free downloads, printables I’ve created, and paid PDFs – should the hard drive ever fail.  Agh.  Let’s not think about that.

All in all, a good art lesson, and I’m looking forward to our next artist:  Mary Cassatt.  We’ve already done one of her paintings for Picture Study with First Language Lessons, and for some reason, Naomi is obsessed with her already.


  1. Here in Israel, oil pastels (i.e. צבעי פנדה - tzivei panda - apparently named after a specific brand of pastels) are very popular. They're used in drawing classes in elementary schools across the country.

  2. Back up your computer, woman! Don't go through the pain that I did!


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