Friday, September 28, 2012

In the Style of van Gogh: Painted Collage

One of my favorite paintings, especially this time of year, is "Siesta" by van Gogh, 1889 - 1890.  It also sometimes titled "Meridian" or "Rest".

I had the pleasure of seeing it in person at the Orsay in Paris and the texture of the brushstrokes immediately places you in that field.

What a good place to start with a painted paper collage.


- wc or heavy sketch paper for painting
- newspaper
- brown kraft paper
- disk tempera, liquid tempera, and/or acrylic
- sponge
- scissors
- glue
- charcoal
- colored pencils or crayons
- reference photos


So this is a 2 session project.  One for painting and one for cutting/pasting. 

Take your heavy sketch paper or wc paper, this will be your background substrate.

With blue paint  cover at least half the paper on the diagonal.  Now with kids I just have them paint the entire page.  Set aside to dry.

Newspaper is one of my favorite art materials.  You will need 3 1/2 sheets.

With the same blue paint you were using paint over one 1/2 sheet.  Add a little white so you have a page that goes from dark blue to light.

Set aside to dry.

Paint the next piece brown and one yellow.

Take the brown sheet.  Using liquid tempera and/or acrylic paint 1/2 of the sheet with darker colours and one with lighter colors.  You also want different brushstrokes for each half.

One side has skinny diagonals and one side has wavy.

It's up to you what you do just be consistent on the half.

Here on the yellow I'm using a piece of cardboard to make my lines.

Leave your newspaper to dry.

By now your background should be dry.

Grab your sponge.  Now it can be a sea sponge or a manufactured one.

Put a little white tempera or acrylic on a plate.

If using a manufactured sponge make sure your tear a chunk off.  You want an uneven surface on the sponge.

Sponge on some white paint on the diagonal.

I ask the kids to turn their hand each time they sponge so you get variation in the sponging.

Let dry.

Take your brown kraft paper and cut a rectangle that fits in the lower 1/2 or 2/3rds of your background.  I pencil in a mark on the kraft paper so I know where to cut.

Don't attach just yet.

Using the painted newspaper start cutting out the other parts of your background.

Here is the light field.

The medium value haystack.

The dark value haystack.

Using glue secure the pieces into place.

Add some pieces to the front, (foreground).

Now with crayon or

colored pencil add in some grass details onto the kraft paper.

With the blue paper you painted sketch out the figures.

Cut out and add to the collage.  For the faces, feet, and hands I used the reverse side of the painted newspaper.

Add some shading and details to the figures with charcoal and crayon/colored pencil.

You could also sketch out the figures on white paper.

Add colour and then cut and paste onto your collage.

That's it.

Onto the results for the giveaway of the DVD Series, "Understanding Art: Impressionism" with Waldemar Januszczak.

I had a total of 57 entries and the winner by random draw is:

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2012-09-28 19:35:59 UTC

Which works out to be Jess who left this comment,

"Hi Gail! I have you on my google reader and I always look forward to your blog. I teach art to grades 4-8. Would love to win the DVDs! Thanks for sharing your ideas. "

Congratulations Jess!  Please email me at so I can arrange delivery.   Thanks everyone for entering.

See you next week.


  1. Your projects are so inspiring but I'm wondering how long it takes for your students to do them? I have 40 minutes (which can really mean 20 if you factor in demo & clean up) and classes back to back. This means I could only do two parts to the lesson once a week - essentially a month for this one collage. Just curious!

  2. Hey Kristin,
    This is only a 2 session project. Session 1: paint background, paint newspaper, add paint details to newspaper(even if it is still damp) and then sponge background.
    Session 2: cut and paste landscape, add figures. I try to get all classes painting on the same days, less set-up and clean-up in between. I also do multiple projects at one time. On painting day kids might be doing the painting for 2 projects. Because we have a few projects on the go, those kids that finish early can work on the other project. I don't know, it works for me!

  3. Another homerun for the homeschool! Thanks for this timely post. We just completed our picture study on van Gogh and were so glad to have found this project, as it was one of the paintings we studied. Thank you for your fondness of van Gogh and for demonstrating this tutorial project! Great work!