Once again Primary Teachers are to become instant experts, this time its Art, with many new syllabus documents including ARTIST STUDY, as a basis for classroom art lessons.  An impossible task you say, not for me, read on and I will tell you the secrets of my success. Without my computer and Internet connection I'm just a pretty ordinary person, but anyone watching me teach art would think I am the Robert Hughes of the Classroom.

The web is the most splendid of resources for art imaginable.  For the first time it is possible to view full colour examples of almost any artwork you can think of.

An artist's work is in fact a great place to start an art lesson.  Discussing a painting will focus students' attention on specific techniques of art enhancing their own creations? What paintings should you choose???

Here's some that have worked for me.


- Just about any of his paintings are great, the missing ear story* really intrigues the students that's why I enjoy starting with:- "SELF PORTRAIT WITH BANDAGED EAR AND PIPE

There has recently emerged some dispute over the original 'ear' story; evidence now suggests that it may well have been Gauguin who cut off Van Gogh's ear during an argument.  Historians disagree about the relationship between the two artists, some believing it was volatile others believing it to be friendly.  Museum curators are influenced by their view of history in the placement of Van Gogh's 2 chair paintings;

"SELF PORTRAIT WITH BANDAGED EAR AND PIPE" If Curators place the chairs facing each other (as at the site above) they represent a view that the artists had a friendly relationship, swap them around and they represent an entirely different view of the relationship between these two great artists.

The "VASE WITH TWELVE SUNFLOWERS" one of Van Gogh's trademark paintings, he did not paint just one painting of Sunflowers but a whole series.  The use of a wonderful vibrant yellow so warming in these Sunflower paintings, can also be found in the painting, "Vincent's Chair with Pipe" and "Vincent's Bedroom in Arles" and they were all painted in the YELLOW  HOUSE.  In the book "The Painter", by Libby Hathorn, the central character Bernard comments.....

" ........he was attempting to reach a high yellow note ...." ("The Painter" is a wonderful class novel to read when studying Van Gogh).

"THE MULBERRY TREE" is one of my favourites, again the brilliant yellow, this time against a wonderful cobalt blue sky, with all the restless turmoil of the branches.

In "STARRY NIGHT" Vincent was excited to explore colours at night, believing there were infact more colours to see at night than during the day.  Try this Van Gogh trick, squint your eyes together so that your eyelashes almost touched, it will seem to make colours and lights spectacular.

THE LOST WORKS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH'S with KID PIX After the research and discussion comes the creation. I love to use KidPix with art lessons creating is a breeze and students can be very inventive with this software.

After viewing "SELF PORTRAIT WITH BANDAGED EAR AND PIPE" paint your own portrait using the KidPix draw program. Use the 'Wacky Pencil' tool, set the tool to fairly thick (using the palette at the bottom of the active window), Van Gogh used fairly thick brush strokes. Use different shades of colours, use the arrows on the colour palette to find a suitable shades, this will give it the true Van Gogh feel.

Next tackle the CHAIRS, work with a partner, think about how you feel about your partner and draw you chairs to show how your feel. (Image 1)***

Then perhaps the SUNFLOWERS, ask your students to try to reach 'high yellow note" once again concentrating on thick brush strokes, movement and lots of different yellows, then its onto the Mulberry Tree. (Image 2)***

More able students can create a slide show of their images using the KidPix slideshow application.  A good title might be "The Lost Works of Vincent Van Gogh."

There are many artists who's work can inspire students here's a few of my favourites...

PIETER BRUEGAL'S "Children's Games" is a wonderful painting.  There are so many small details in this picture to discuss and find.  Almost like a 'Where's Wally" of the art world.  Children skipping, playing leapfrog, playing pirates, riding a barrel turning somersaults and much much more.  The children can click on this image themselves and explore it close at hand.  Using the image viewer on this site the pictures can be scaled to whatever screen size you like.

After close scrutiny of this painting turn to your KidPix program and select a background. To do this, open the  'Goodies" menu, then "Pick More Pictures", then select the "backgrounds" file, I chose the "Park" image in the "Nature" folders**. Open the "Goodies" menu again and select "Pick a stamp set", then select "City stamps"**,you can  select other stamp sets to add to your picture as well. Use the stamp tool to create some tiny little pictures on your backdrop. Edit the stamps by double clicking on them, and changing colours and orientation.

TIP: Use the arrow keys at the bottom of the active window to show more stamps. You will have created a Bruegalesque masterpiece in no time. (Image 3)

MONDRIAN is fantastic for SQUARES and OBLONGS and PRIMARY COLOURS. To view "Composition A: Composition with Black, Red, Grey, Yellow, and Blue 1920" goto

In this classic Mondrian you will notice that only PRIMARY colours and NEUTRALS are used and that none of the rectangles overlap. Can you find the only square in this composition??  Open KidPix, use the "rectangle" tool; turn the volume up for your demonstration, as this tool makes a wonderful noise. Make a variety of different sized rectangles; use the primary colours and neutrals Mondrian used.

WASSILY KANDINSKY'S  "Composition X" is a celebration of shapes line and colour. Notice the use of repeated shapes that look like confetti and streamers and round shapes that resemble balloons.  What other things could be included to represent a celebration???  What if the celebration was for Federation, or your birthday?  Choose a celebration and go wild with colour and shapes. Use the Wacky Brush tool in KidPix to create your own celebration.  Use the colour palette to change colours often.

In PAUL KLEE's "The Golden Fish" - a fantasy fish glides through the water giving the sense of movement, and magic.

In KidPix choose the "Stampimator", open the goodies menu and choose "backgrounds", click the "more pictures" button, and goto the backgrounds file on the KidPix disk, select an image you like that represents under the sea, I rather liked "Fractal 11".  You can draw the special fish using the "wacky" brush tool. Then open the 'Goodies" menu again and select the "nature" stamp set**. Select the fish from this stamp set and place it on your background, hold it down and move over the active window to create movement along a path.  Now you have created something Klee could only dream about, actual moving art.

The WEBMUSEUM, Paris is an excellent resource.

Background information is given as well as details on style and structure of paintings, and with a double click on any of the paintings a full screen version is available, ideal for a whole class lesson. At the WEBMUSEUM you can access art periods some of my favourites are:-


Fauvism with all its garish colours

Expressionism which is especially relevant when discussing the emotive values of paintings.

Still want  more....the Sanford site offers more.. Carmen's Lessons are great at this site - they incorporate flash, mouse click progressed, slideshows that cover many basic art concepts including




.....and many other topics.  These can be used with the whole class, as a lesson initiator or by students individually with fairly open research questions like: What different types of lines are used by artists? Students can take notes as they view the online lessons. The explanations are fantastic and simple. Then produce their own landscape pictures on KidPix (Image 4).

Try the "Practicing Portraits" interactive

The art timeline is excellent at this site and has links to all major art periods.

Art Lessons follow on from the various art concepts introduced above.

I have saved one of my favourite sites till last - the ART SAFARI site Students select a work of art online and then respond to a series of questions, online.  Their answers are compiled on completion into an essay.  When completing this activity I ask students to copy and paste their finished work into a Word document, copy the artwork and title, format, and print the final article. A brilliant art appreciation activity.  Art Safari concludes with an online art activity or game.

The virtual world of digital drawing and imagery with its scope and possibilities of expression and ideas is a phenomenal new territory to explore. Virtual visits to online galleries and art databases, bring the art world to your desktop. These are the secrets of my success, now they can be the secrets of yours.


*" Q7What is the full story of the "ear" incident"?

"A7 On the evening of 23 December 1888 Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin had an altercation in which Van Gogh is said to have threatened Gauguin with a knife. Later that evening Van Gogh returned to the "Yellow House" in Arles where he lived and mutilated himself. Holding the open razor in his right hand, he had sliced through his left ear; starting high at the back and hacking downwards so that all the lower part of the ear had been chopped off. This had left part of the upper ear still attached as a hideous flap of flesh.

Van Gogh, then wrapped the ear in cloth and made his way to a favourite brothel where he presented this "present" to a prostitute(girlfriend). The police were called in and Van Gogh was subsequently hospitalised. The severed tissue of the ear was placed into a jar of alcohol in case it might be needed as evidence. Some months later it was thrown out.

(source: Van Gogh: His Life and Art by David Sweetman)"

**Some versions of KidPix may vary in the images and stamp sets available, simply select a suitable image from those available on your version from the original KidPix,, through to the latest, KidPix Deluxe 3.

At this site you will usually find some information about each painting and its history. 

***Pictures Drawn by pupils from Crown St Public School Surry Hills

Van Gogh Gallery  Also at this site - descriptions of Van Gogh's technique, painting style, and biography.

Libby Hathorn (2000) The Painter Hodder Headline Australia Pty Limited  (pp111)

Artchive - Comprehensive list of Artist  including scalable images - suitable for whole class viewing.



Additional Art links including Australian Art Resources

Cathy Brown B.Ed. (HONS) is a Educator with over 20 years teaching experience from Pre-school to Tertiary level, she gives seminars and inservice in Computer Technology and also writes a free email newsletter ¦Virtual Teacher  Read it at email