Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Starry Night Printable Book & Art (Van Gogh Study)

I believe that some of the most open-minded individuals when it comes to art are children. And I believe that art is a means for expression, understanding and acceptance of other cultures, as well as a visual chronicle of history.

Now I have a confession to make.

I have been TERRIBLE at exposing my son to fine art. I have no excuses. I have a degree in art history. I worked in an art museum. Heck, I even gave tours there as a volunteer docent. I don’t know what my reservations have been, but it’s time to end the shame and begin sharing some of my dear friends – legendary artists from around the world – with my son. This is my first attempt.

It was inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting. I have seen pictures of it a thousand times and it still leaves me breathless. When I went to the library to look for children’s books about it and left empty-handed, I felt defeated. Not to be thwarted, I made my own book as an introduction to Vincent Van Gogh.

My son fell in love with making books when he was in kindergarten. He still loves it. As he read the Van Gogh book, he asked me, “Is this a library book?” Flattered, I answered “no.” He responded, “Good. I can keep it.” YEAH! My efforts were worth it! (To make your own copy of the book I made, download and print the first three pages, flip the stack of papers over and download and print the remaining pages on the back. Put the pages back in order, fold in the middle, and staple on the fold.)

I had a few goals with the book:

  • To show my son where Van Gogh lived (notice the small painting of Holland on page 2).
  • To explain why he painted the way he did (using color to portray emotion).
  • To get my son thinking about how colors can convey feelings.
  • To help my son recognize that there are many variations of each color (e.g. there are hundreds of yellow colors).

He read the book, completed the pages that required it, and then I showed him the painting that inspired our activity in a book I had. Next, he made his own starry night picture.

Marker/colored pencils
Dull lead pencil
Sytrofoam tray (think ground beef or chicken packaging)
Small rolling pin wrapped in cling wrap (or a brayer)
Acrylic paint
Aluminum foil
White paper

First I had my son draw a village, street, or city at the bottom of a piece of paper. Then I gave him the Styrofoam tray and told him to use the dull pencil to draw on it the night sky and how he felt about nighttime. (My son just learned about space in school so he is still full of awe.) His sky had many shapes. I had to admit, it wasn’t at all what I expected. He drew big circles for planets and asteroids. He even threw in a comet. It was space-tacular!

When he was done, we squirted some blue and black paint onto a sheet of aluminum foil and ran our covered rolling pin through it and then over the tray. When it was totally covered in paint, we flipped it over and pressed it onto white paper. It revealed a mirror image!

Then we cut out his streetscape and glued it below. Voila! My son’s own Starry Night was complete!

Want to explore the connection between color and emotion further? Share My Many Colored Days with your child. This untraditional Dr. Suess book is one of my absolute favorites for talking about feelings!


  1. That is a BRILLIANT piece of artwork. I can't wait to have a go with my kids. Exploring different techniques and ideas!

    Thank you for linking up to Kids Get Crafty!


  2. Thank you for sharing your Van Gogh book. We did a Van Gogh drawing some time ago following Usborne Art book, but since Van Gogh's fate was quite dramatic, I didn't share any books about him. Yours only focuses on the positives - it looks great!

  3. What a great idea, thank you for sharing!

  4. Another incredible project with your son! He's so lucky! Thanks for sharing at Etcetorize~

  5. This would be a great connection to the stamping activity Kim did last week here
    I feel it is important for our children to learn about great artists and artwork and most public school curriculum doesn't begin to touch upon it. Thank you for linking up to the Afterschool Blog Hop this week!!!!

  6. Oh my gosh how cool! I love fine art! :o)

    I'm a new follower from Cure for the Common Monday.

    Please feel free to link up to my Make Yourself Monday blog hop!

    For Love of Cupcakes

  7. I love the process of his art and that he made the sky his way. I love the book you made for him too, thanks for sharing.

  8. Oh my gosh, this is AMAZING! I can't wait to do this with my kids! Our family recently took up an astronomy hobby. We bought a really nice telescope and since Andy is off track from school right now, he has enjoyed staying up late a couple times looking at the Moon and Jupiter and it's moon's. It's been so fun, and I know my boys would love doing this activity!

  9. Great idea! I love it. I am definitely going to bookmark this for when my son is a little bit older. Thanks for sharing,

  10. oh, this is outstanding! I really like how the art came out his own way and the process involved in making it.

    Thanks for linking to the Sunday Showcase & sharing your creative fun! I hope to see you back this week -


  11. I'm late on the scene here, but I found your blog via Pinterest and can't wait to try this with my kids! Seems like we never get around to doing art, and I feel bad because my kids really love it. That's why we're planning a summer of art this year!

  12. Love the booklet - how do I print it?

    1. Click on the links to the docs in Google Drive in the paragraph starting "My son fell ..." If you have trouble accessing the document, you may need to request permission through Google Drive (this isn't always a requirement); if you're a teacher and want to request permission, use a personal email address, not your school email. Most districts block emails outside their domain making it impossible for me to let you know you've been granted access.

  13. This is great! Would be wonderful if you could design a whole series of books on famous artists.