Van Gogh Oil Pastel Project


For children who want to explore more then just Van Gogh’s Starry Night, you might introduce them to The Potato Eaters. This is such a great painting to study, not only in context, but in color, and movement as well. We used the book, “What Makes a Van Gogh” for reference.


Suggest Resources for a Unit Study:



Art Project Tutorial:

We are going to use our Oil Pastels. This is our recommended set of pastels from Crayola. You get a larger crayon, a variety of colors and the price is right. We’ve had this set for over two years and we still have huge crayons left.

Look closely at The Potato Eaters. We’re going to be focusing on the hanging light in the middle of the picture. Take note of how the light is shown on the women’s faces, and their backs are dark with shadow.

We’re going to make the background first. Choose neutral colors, like grey, black, brown. Also choose some yellows, greens, purples to add dimension. Look closely at Van Gogh’s painting for other hints of color.

Add in layers of color by using the broad side of your crayon, up and down the paper. When you get your colors laid down, use your fingers to blend the background. I added a layer of gold right before I blended.

It’s time to draw! Use a pencil and sketch out the outline of the handing oil lamp. It doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact if you look closely at the painting you’ll notice that it’s a tad bent and not exactly symetrical.

Your pencil drawing will lightly show up over your oil pastel. Draw your entire picture before we color it in.

Using your Black, Fill in the shadow areas of the oil lamp. Study the painting to really see where the colors of black are.

Add in some light! Use your hues of yellow to fill in the underside of the lamp shade. You might find it hard to color a light color over your dark background. You can press hard, or use your fingernail to scratch away the background first.

Move to the base of your lamp. Notice how the colors blends horizontally across from white/yellow/black. Use what you know about blending, and your fingernail to scratch out some white areas.

Continue your horizontal blending all the way up your lamp base. Color in the knob, and the flame of the lamp. You can see that it’s like an elongated triangle. Pull rays with your yellows and your fingernail. Not to
many, just enough to show that it’s flickering.

Use your fingernail and go around the
metal wire surrounding the lamp. Then study the painting. Use your yellow and black in the appropriate areas around the wire. Play special attention to what areas are lit with yellow and what areas fall into the shadow with black.

Use your yellows
and go around your
lamp adding color to
your background.
Try to think about
what area would be
the most lit up and
blend in some
yellows into that
area. I even added
some more black to
my corners so that I
can draw the eye
toward the center

All Done!

Framing your project in black construction paper would look really nice


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