Vincent Van Gogh – what painting do you think of when you hear his name? Starry Night? The Sunflowers? The Yellow House paintings? Van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists. Between 1881 and 1890 he painted over 900 paintings, yet sold only one during his lifetime.
Van Gogh’s works come to life during my favorite time of year when Mrs. Lustgarten and I team on some art related lessons. Learning about artists seems to bring the spring and summer warmth into the long, dark winter days of Seattle. A few years ago, the Lake Washington Schools Foundation granted me funds to purchase art appreciation books for our library.
Then a trip to France where I had the opportunity to visit the Louvre and the Orsay Museum in France and Claude Monet’s house in Giverney cemented my love for many of the great artists. Ever since, our art leader, Mrs. Lustgarten and I have coordinated some lessons to link the library to art. We sit down together and brainstorm ideas of how our students can learn about famous artists along with using the tools within the library.
This year in addition to focusing on particular artists, we are bringing the art of the Caldecott winners to the forefront of some lessons.
The Caldecott Medal and Honor awards are given to the illustrators of the most distinguished picture book for children of the year. The illustrators use a wide variety of art techniques and in our student lessons, Mrs.Lustgarten is having some classes imitate the medium of the illustrator. In our library classes, we are reading the newest winners and learning more about the award and the different medium artists have used through the years.
Kindergarten has focused on some of the work of Vincent Van Gogh. In first grade, the students read Katie Meets the Impressionists, Katie’s Sunday Afternoon, and Degas and the Little Dancer, and watched a dvd about Claude Monet’s life as an artist. In art class, they created artwork using the pointilist style of George Seurat.
Second and third grade is learning more about the Caldecott award, the work of author/illustrator Mo Willems and his “pigeon”, as well as Henri Matisse. Fourth grade is focusing on scratchboard art, the style used in The House in the Night, the 2009 Caldecott Medal winner.
The fifth and sixth grade classes are involved with a long-term research project. They are learning the 5 steps of research in a biography project about a famous artist. Using books and the internet, students must find the basic facts about their artist. Then they will create a Wordle and Fakebook page about their person. The last step is to film a biography interview where they pretend to be the artist they have researched. The biography museum idea came from Mr. Avery in Massachusetts. You can see examples of the biography videos here. My goal was to have the students experience the research process before they begin their exiting Expert’s Projects for their classroom teachers.
The culminating project for the 5th and 6th graders in art will be to create a pennant imitating the style of the artist they have researched. These pennants and videos will be available for viewing at the Art Walk in June.