Ms. Mahan's Art Time

A project inspired by Vincent van Gogh
Spring 2013: Starry, Starry City Night

To be creative is to be open to all sorts of possibilities and is an important part of child development. At a young age, most children are brimming over with limitless amounts of creativity but lack the resources to put their ideas into action.

Unfortunately, creativity becomes hard to maintain as they reach an age where they begin to lose self confidence in their ability to create. This happens at different ages, but the older a child gets, the more frustrated they may get in their artistic ability. It is important to teach certain skills and techniques to foster the joy of creating at higher levels of child development.

As an art teacher, I teach certain skills, techniques and process, while also allowing for each child’s unique creativity to show through. It is important to never tell a child their art is wrong. Instead ask questions that cause them to think deeply about what they are creating. With this practice, once a child enters the stage of self doubt, they have already acquired the skills needed to feel successful.

I like to introduce young students to artists such as Vincent van Gogh, whose art brims with limitless creativity and possibilities. Vincent painted for the sake of painting. Showing children that famous artists have struggled, teaches it is OK to make mistakes.

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

— Vincent vanGogh

Inspired by: Vincent van Gogh

Adapted for: Ages 3-7

Objective: Wax resist painting

  • Water container and brushes
  • Watercolor paper or heavy white paper
  • Watercolor paint
  • Black construction paper
  • Crayons or Oil Pastels
  1. Take a look at the short brush strokes and lines in “Starry Night” and practice making them in the air with your finger. Discuss how the swirling lines remind you of wind. Have the children close their eyes to imagine a windy, starry night. Van Gogh painted the “Starry Night” from his window. He lived a short, sad life, and it wasn’t until he died—one year after completing “Starry Night”—that people began to appreciate his artwork, which is now worth millions.
  2. Using an orange crayon, draw several small dots for stars or planets. Draw an orange moon in the corner (crescent or full). Using yellow and white crayons, draw short lines surrounding the orange stars. You will not be able to see the white crayon until watercolor is added, so make sure this is an important step. Emphasize pressing down firmly on the crayon to achieve bold lines, rather than light wispy lines. Using a purple or blue crayon, draw a few swirls in the sky to show the wind.
  3. Wax and water do not mix together (or oil and water in the case of oil pastels). When paint is applied over the wax drawing, the paint will adhere to the paper, not the wax. Paint over the paper with blue and purple watercolor. You are left with stars that pop off of your paper and lots of “ooohhhs” and “aaahhhs” from your child. I like to tell my students that what we are about to do is magic and they are going to see the stars pop off of their paper.
  4. After the painting has dried, they will create the city or village below. Make sure the black construction paper is the same size as the white paper. With the black construction paper, draw a city line across the paper using a white crayon so the line is visible. Demonstrate first and if they are having trouble, direct the line drawing by saying up, over, down, up, over, down.
  5. Cut out the city and glue to the bottom of the paper.
  6. Using a white and yellow crayon, draw windows and other details onto the buildings.
I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.

— Vincent vanGogh

Jessica Mahan
About author:

Jessica Mahan, an art teacher for the Republic School District, is also an area artist. Her artwork can be viewed at

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