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Starry Night Ornaments

Get inspired by the impasto technique used by Vincent van Gogh to make this sculptural keepsake! Students roll Model Magic® coils to cover a foam ball in the style of a great masterpiece.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Invite students to research images and information about Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh’s mental illnesses and inner-ear issues made him feel dizzy much of the time. These medical challenges most likely led him to use the thick swirling blobs of paint found on many of his most famous masterpieces.
    2. Van Gogh died a pauper, but his more 700 drawings and paintings are worth millions today. One of his most famous paintings is "Starry Night." In this painting the sky is deep, dark blues and yellows swirling around stars and a moon. Van Gogh’s paint was very thick, and he used a technique called impasto. Students can do something similar with varying coils of Crayola Model Magic® compound! It is a wonderful way to interpret this technique.
    3. Students begin by poking both ends of a short ribbon into a foam ball with a paperclip. Use a thin layer of Model Magic background color to cover the entire ball. Model Magic air-dries to the touch overnight and dries completely in 2 to 3 days.
    4. Several coils can be rolled in colors selected by students. Gently press these coils on the ball to outline each one. Fill the space with different colored coils of Model Magic. Van Gogh loved to use yellow to express happiness and often added unexpected colors within others. For example, white, yellow, and orange swirls are incorporated into the blues, some very dark, of his sky. Encourage students to add bits of extra colors and leave them swirled in the coils. After the first layer is filled, add extra layers of coils on these objects until satisfied with the ornament.
    5. Provide time in the school day for students to share with small groups of classmates how they incorporated Van Gough's artistic techniques into their artwork.
    6. If time permits, students may want to make a series of ornaments for each masterpiece they admire!
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    MATH: Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

    MATH: Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Explore factors that contribute to one's personal identity such as interests, capabilities, and perceptions.

    VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub; The Van Gogh Café by Cynthia Rylant; Van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists for Kids by Carol Sabbeth; Vincent's Colors by The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Impasto by David Lyle Millard

    Working in groups of 4, students investigated a self-selected masterpiece. Using the coordinate plane, each member of the group focuses on one quadrant of the masterpiece and identifies an object in the artwork. The identified object should be graphed on the coordinate plane, placed in the appropriate quadrant. Students write directions for another group to re-create their objects on the coordinate plane.

    Using the graphs that were created on the coordinate plane, each student re-creates that object in 3-D using Crayola Model Magic. Organize the completed masterpiece objects and display them together to somewhat reconstruct the original scene. These can be incorporated into a mobile and hung in the classroom for viewing.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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