Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Producing A Starry Night Using Color, Line, and Shape

Subject Area

Arts Education




Van Gogh’s masterpiece, The Starry Night, is a great tool for teaching the elements of art including line, shape, and color. In producing their own version of The Starry Night, students can learn about overlapping, primary and secondary colors, how line shows movement, and color value. In this activity, students will recreate The Starry Night using oil pastels.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 2 - Visual Arts


    Integrate art vocabulary while planning and creating art.

    Unpacked Content



    • Principles of design
      • Balance
    • Brainstorming
    • Composition
    • Concepts
    • Characteristic
    • Elements of art
      • Space
      • Value
    • Expressive properties
    • Foreground
    • Middle ground
    • Neutral colors
    • Resist

    Essential Questions

    EU: Artists and designers develop excellence through practice and constructive critique, reflecting on, revising, and refining work over time.
    EQ: What role does persistence play in revising, refining, and developing work? How do artists grow and become accomplished in art forms? How does collaboratively reflecting on a work help us experience it more completely?

    Skills Examples

    • Create two-dimensional artworks such as drawing or painting by using a variety of media.
    • Use the book, The Goat in the Rug by Charles L.
    • Blood & Martin Link to learn about weaving.
    • Use clay or pipe cleaners to create small animal sculptures.
    • Work in groups to brainstorm ideas for a collaborative art project.
    • Use a book about clay, When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor to study Native Americans and their traditions.
    • Use the book A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle to explore collage techniques.
    • Create a real or imagined home using two-and-three-dimensional media.
    • Learn how to properly use and store brushes, close glue bottles and marker tops.
    • Use found objects such as leaves, rocks, paper tubes, egg cartons, etc.
    • to create artworks.
    • Use the book A Day with No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch to explore different colors and values.
    • Create a landscape showing depth by placing the foreground, middle ground and background in their correct positions.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will learn art vocabulary by recreating Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night. Vocabulary words include: line, shape, neutral colors, value, overlapping, background, primary colors, secondary colors, warm colors, cool colors.

    Activity Details

    Students will begin by learning color theory. The teacher will discuss the following vocabulary words with the students:

    • Primary colors- colors that cannot be made by mixing two other colors.
    • Secondary colors- colors that are made by mixing two primary colors.
    • Warm colors- red, yellow, and orange. Colors that make us think of something warm.
    • Cool colors- blue, green, and violet. Colors that make us think of something cool.
    • Neutral colors- black, white, gray, and brown. Colors that do not show up on the color wheel.
    • Value - the lightness or darkness of a color.
    • Overlapping - to extend over or cover part of something.
    • Line - a mark made by a tool such as a pencil or brush.
    • Shape- an outlined object that identifies something.
    • Background- an area of scenery behind the main subject. 

    Introduce Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night by showing the video "Mati and Dada Meet Van Gogh." The teacher will display The Starry Night on the board. We will break the painting down into three specific parts – the town, the sky, and the tree. In the town, discuss with students about line, shape, and composition. The church and the houses are drawn showing line and shape. The mountain is added showing overlapping. The sky is shown using primary and secondary colors. Violet for the top, blue receding, and red and yellow for the bottom. The moon and stars show contrast to the dark void of space. Finally, the cypress tree is added showing texture, by layering the colors and lines using the oil pastels. 

    Allow students to recreate The Starry Night using drawing paper and oil pastels. Display The Starry Night throughout the process to inspire and encourage students to follow a basic guideline but also add their own unique vision to the piece. Students will learn about primary and secondary colors through mixing blue and violet on the mountains. In the stars, they will mix yellow and orange. The warm colors of the stars and moon will contrast with the cool colors in the sky. 

    Students will overlap the sky with the mountains and the mountains with the church. Then the tree will overlap the sky and mountain. Students will use line to create the tree along with neutral colors. 

    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Students will compare their work of art to the original to evaluate how well they followed directions. At the conclusion, students should be able to identify various types of lines, primary and secondary colors, and points of composition. 

    Students should be able to apply the appropriate vocabulary to their artwork and demonstrate:

    • Primary Colors
    • Secondary Colors
    • Neutral Colors
    • Warm Colors
    • Cool Colors
    • Value
    • Overlapping
    • Shapes
    • Background
    • Line

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    Students will need some background knowledge of primary and secondary colors. Students will need to know how to properly mix primary colors to create secondary colors.

    The teacher will need to be able to display a copy of The Starry Night.

    Students will need drawing paper and oil pastels. To assist the students in breaking the page down into the three segments, a line drawn on the paper where the top of the mountain goes will assist in getting students off on the right track.

    Digital Tools / Resources