Starry Night / Advent Banners

Vincent Van Gogh / Starry Night

Grade 6 / Starry Night over Bethlehem

I  was asked to do something for Advent with the grade 6 class at St. Michael Catholic School.  So I started with a reading from the Gospels, describing the star that marked the place where Jesus was born, and of the shepherds and wise men who were directed to seek out this singular baby, the Son of God.

We talked about the star being so much bigger and brighter than the rest, perhaps. Emmanuel.  God with us.  What must it have been like to wait for such a thing?  To see such a thing?

Then we went on to talk about Van Gogh, and the emotion he brought to his work.  One can see it in the very brushstrokes!  I showed them a large print of ‘Starry Night’ – just happened to be in their school library.  Yes.  Love that.

Could we bring some of the elements of Advent and Van Gogh’s work together, to make banners?  Sure we can!

First the sky.  I gave them each sheet of  9″x20″ paper, the heaviest I could scrounge, and with a bit of tooth.  Then, oil pastels, with directions to almost completely fill the page with the night sky in the style of Van Gogh.  Remembering (of course) to emphasize one star, which would make this truly an Advent picture.  I encouraged them to be bold with the colours (press that colour right into the page!) and with the marks they make – to let that all show, and to use many colours to enrich the night sky.  This suited some more than others, but they had the poster before them to refer to.

I gave them a choice of venue for the remainder. The landscape was to be in silhouette at the very bottom of the page, cutting out black construction paper to be glued on.  They could show the shepherds in their fields at night, the stable in Bethlehem, or the wise men approaching on their camels.  If I were to do this lesson again, I would give them more help with this part (since Exacto knives are not part of the classroom kit, except for my own closely guarded one); perhaps some possible templates, or time to draw out the scene in pencil on white paper before tracing it and cutting out the black.  It is very difficult to come up with an interesting skyline without some practice.

The following class I brought in pieces of wood to fit across the top – we stapled and glued the banners on, and tied a length of yarn for the hanger.  Done!  Well in time for Christmas, and to decorate their homes for the season of Advent/anticipation.  They were quite pleased with the results, I think – and glad to have something they could take home.  Leah’s is still hanging on our main bathroom door some 4 months later!

Okay, I’ll make it easier on you with that Spiral Jetty reference.  Robert Smithson was a landworks/earth artist. This was his most well-known work.  At least I had to know it for certain Art History exams.  His work didn’t come up during this art lesson at all – the kids’ work just took me there.  Check out more visuals at:

www.robertsmithson.com

Fall 2011 / St. Michael School

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