These stunning sunflower paintings were created by the Grade 3 students after they looked at the sunflower paintings and drawings created by Vincent Van Gogh.
I found some images online from Vincent Van Gogh’s sketchbooks and I always show these to the students to reinforce how important their art journals are in the process of creating their artworks.
The students also looked at photos of sunflowers which grew outside our grade 5 classrooms earlier this year
and at photos inside a magnificent book by David Douglas Duncan titled ‘Sunflowers for Van Gogh’.
I was lucky to stumble across this lovely book for $3 at the Salvation
Army Opportunity Shop in Werribee. What a find! The author and photographer, David Douglas Duncan, fell in love with Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings and travelled to France to create a book devoted to the fields of sunflowers in France. I often find fantastic art books on the bookshelves of Op Shops and they are always really cheap! Op Shopping is one of my favourite pastimes as you just never know what you might stumble upon! The students loved looking through this book and it was out, on their work tables, throughout the creation of these wonderful artworks. They were fascinated by the variety of the sunflowers and that they were so different to the sunflowers that grew in our school garden beds.
As you can see the grade 3 students spent many, many weeks on these art works and they are, rightfully, very pleased with them.
The students started by doing a 10 minute pencil draft in their journals of 4 different sunflowers – front view, side view, dying with petals dropping, not yet open.
All the students found these 4 views challenging but were willing to give it a go in their journal. They then bought their journal to me for a quick one on one chat about their drawings, full of praise, of course, and directed specifically at their ability level – differentiation!
They then drew a vase of sunflowers 10 minute pencil draft. And again bought this to me for a brief chat. Most children drew their sunflowers in the vase facing in different directions (hooray!) as the brief practice of the four views freed them up to do this. I did not make any direct references to how they were to draw their vase in their journal, or that they were to include the four views from their previous drawing. It was all learning by doing – and isn’t that the best kind of learning!
So that is 2 steps before they could even commence painting!
The students commenced by drawing a faint pencil line at about a third of the way up from the bottom of the paper. This gave them a line between the tabletop and the wall. This was suggested by a student who pointed out that Vincent had given his flower vase somewhere to sit by creating a table top rather than the vase just finishing at the bottom of the painting – hooray, hooray for improved observational skills! There was a huge variety in the colours used and some children created fancy tablecloths while others decorated the background wall. Most students painted their background with dry block paints giving it a wishy washy watercolour appearance.
Since creating this post I have also offered the option of using patterned paper for the tablecloth. The students have used old gift wrapping paper and scrapbooking paper, trimmed it to fit their paper and glued it into place. Fabric scraps could also be used. Not all students chose this option. Lots still preferred to paint. However it was a quick fix if a student had been absent for several sessions and I was trying to move them through the process a bit quicker!
I usually write up a basic framework to create the art work during discussion with my first class at that grade level. I call these procedure sheets and usually scribble them up on A2 or bigger sheets of paper. They have the grade level and title of the art work at the top so they are easy for the students to access if they want to reread them. I usually have them clipped to an easel or clipped to the whiteboard at the front of my classroom. I then revise and add to the framework/procedure through discussion with the other grades. All students are well aware that it is only a guideline and they are free to pursue their own ideas throughout the process. I actively encourage this as it allows the students to work independently, with a reference up the front if they need it, as they work their way back and forth, stopping and starting, between parts of this complex work. I scribble in alternatives at each step, sometimes as they appear, and make sure the materials are available on the resource table, to aid the students independence.
I keep these procedure sheets and store them in a large display book for each grade level to be reused at a later date.
Once the tablecloth and wall are complete and dry the students move on to creating the sunflower stems. Most students chose to print the stems onto the background using cardboard scraps after this had been demonstrated. Again, this created a huge variety of different looking stems.
They then painted the sunflowers carefully, most students deliberately leaving one stem without a head. Most students chose to paint their sunflowers using basic school acrylic paint. This accentuated the difference between the wishy washy background walls and the stark, bright, solid colours of the sunflowers.
The 3D sunflower head was made using Model Magic
which is created by Zart Art in Box Hill, Victoria, Australia as an alternative to Model Magic. My students have used both successfully. The material is very light so it stays glued to the artwork even when they had been on display for a couple of weeks.You really don’t need much model magic to make the head of just one sunflower. I think it gives these artworks real impact without breaking your budget! We found, as the weeks marched on, and some students had not created their Model Magic flowers, that it worked just as well when we started cutting corners to get finished. It was just as successful if you glued the flower on as soon as you made it, rather than wait for it to air dry, and you could paint it before it air dried as well.
To finish their amazing work of art the students cut and decorated a vase and made sure it was big enough to cover the stems! This was an hilarious learning adventure all on it’s own. I showed the students how to fold a kinder square in half, draw half a vase on one side, cut it out and get a whole vase. The shocked faces when their vase was way too thin or better still, in two separate pieces, as they had drawn their vase along the wrong side of the folded paper, were priceless! I am always pointing out to the students that mistakes are part of their learning so it was fantastic to watch them fiddling with the two sad, separate pieces of their vase, to figure out where they went wrong, so they wouldn’t do it again. Students also offered up their unwanted, too thin vases to other students whose stems were in a narrower arrangement!
The vases were then decorated with all sorts of bits and pieces. (Buttons, ribbon, bias binding, fabric strips, washi tape, wool, string, sequins, plastic jewels, raffia, crepe paper, etc. Most of these things were art room donations!) They experimented with decorating their vases arranging and rearranging the bits and pieces before they glued them into place, after this had been demonstrated.
It was a very long, involved process from start to finish for this work, with many stops and starts in between, as work had to dry completely between many of the steps.
All the grade 3 students worked brilliantly and moved independently onto different parts of the work while waiting for other bits to dry. This independent way of working may look chaotic, if you walk into my classroom, as students transition from one section of the work to another, but it frees me up to move between the students and interact and consult with these independent artists as they work!
I am very proud of how committed the grade 3 students are to their art and how well they used their art time!!!
And I’m sure you will agree that these are stunning artworks, some of which took 8 sessions to complete. All students, regardless of the level of their ability, were proud of their achievements.
And they made a gorgeous display. I can’t wait to put them all up at the art show! The Cambridge Primary School Art Show is on the 23rd and 24th October!!! Just 4 weeks away – aaaggghhhhh!
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment.