Monthly Archives: October 2021

Art Activity for Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower Paintings

This paint activity based on Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings is all about experimenting with color.

When van Gogh began painting he used dark colors. But when he moved to Paris and saw the colorful, light-filled paintings of the Impressionists, he began to lighten his palette (the paints he used). Some of his sunflower paintings were painted during this time, and they were experiments in using lighter colors.

Have fun mixing different colors with yellow. Think of your papers as pages from an art sketchbook, and label the mixtures. Make notes of what you like and what didn’t work.

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step directions
  • Helpful hints
  • Clean-up tips
  • 5 Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • 6 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development
  • Vocabulary
  • Molly photo

Let’s get started!


  • Sturdy paper
  • Tempera paints work best for mixing
  • Brushes in a variety of sizes
  • pencil
  • White paper plate for mixing tempera paints


Paper preparations

  • Draw a big sunflower, or part of one in one part of the paper, leaving space for the color mixes
  • Draw separate petals or boxes for trying the color mixes

Tempera Paint Experiments

  1. Pour several small puddles of yellow on your paper plate.
  2. Add just tiny drops of red to one yellow puddle, tiny drops of brown to another yellow puddle. Mix before adding any more of the darker color.
  3. If you want a lighter yellow, (a tint) pour a small puddle of white paint and add just a few drops of yellow. Mix.
  4. Label your color swatches with what you did.
  5. Paint your sunflower with the mixtures you like best.
  6. Use lots of paint and let your brush strokes show like van Gogh.

Hints for Tempera Paints

  • Always add just a little of the darker color at a time to the lighter color and mix in between each addition. You may be surprised how little of the darker color is needed.
  • Don’t wet your paper before painting.
  • Tempera paints dry quickly, so if you want to blend different colors, you’ll need to work fairly quickly. Experiment.
  • To create a textured center, use a small piece of sponge or round-tipped brush to paint the center of the sunflower. Go up and down with the brush or sponge.
  • Don’t have any brown paint? No problem. Just mix a little yellow, red, and blue (the primaries) to create brown. Experiment with different amounts of the 3 colors to make different browns!

Clean up Hints:

  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Have lots of paper towels handy
  • Have a wastebasket close for paper plates and paper towels
  • A dish washing tub is great for gathering all supplies for washing
  • Lay brushes flat on paper towels to dry so they keep their shape

5 Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  1. Some children may prefer to just paint swatches of their color mixtures all around their papers, without drawing boxes. Many artists do that as they experiment.
  2. Older children may really enjoy seeing how many different color mixtures they can create.
  3. Paint a sunflower on another paper  and make it into a card or poster.
  4. Paint the background around your sunflower a bright blue.
  5. Children may want to experiment with mixing other colors, too.

6 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

  1. This activity will give children lots of ways to experiment with color and show them why artists do these experiments to decide which mixtures best fits their projects.
  2. Children will also develop fine motor skills as they mix and paint.
  3. Discussing the colors they choose and why builds vocabulary and social skills.
  4. When children make choices in creating art, it enhances problem-solving skills, and helps them see that trying different colors and paints can be fun.
  5. Art gives children opportunities to explore their interests and talents.
  6. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.


  • Palette—what we mix paints on—such as a paintbox cover or a paper or plastic plate
  • Palette can also mean the colors that an artist uses for a painting. We might speak of a light palette for many Impressionists, but a darker palette for an artist like Rembrandt.
  • Hue—an undiluted color
  • Tint—a hue plus white

Before You Go

Molly and I would love to know if you enjoyed this art activity and any variations or other ideas you came up with!

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. Add link

Molly hopes you enjoy mixing color combinations and painting a large sunflower! We hope you’ll come back next time for the beginning of a new series on a great artist!

Molly thought you’d like the gold rabbit brush against the dark green cedars in this photo taken today.



Devotion based on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings

One of my children’s art classes once began a sunflower project based on Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. They looked at the flowers up-close, and saw that sunflowers have huge round centers and large petals. The children decided they should use curvy lines to draw the petals, and that some had rounded ends, while others came to a point.

Sunflowers, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain


While the children drew large sunflowers, they chattered about the bright yellows and oranges they’d add next time.


But then we missed class for 2 weeks. And in those two weeks, all the sunflowers lining our roads and looming tall over gardens had mostly disappeared and those that were left looked like this painting of sunflowers done by Van Gogh.

Sunflowers, 1887, by Vincent van Gogh, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

Have you ever started an art project but for some reason, couldn’t finish it right away?

Do you sometimes wish summer and the colorful flowers God has created could last a little longer?

Isaiah may have wished that, too, but the changing seasons reminded Him of something that doesn’t change and will stand forever—God’s Word. He wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV)

Even though we had to use photos to finish the pictures, they turned out beautiful. God has made flowers beautiful to look at. They satisfy our love of color, but a flower’s beauty does fade. The beauty of the Word of God never fades, though, because it teaches us about the Lord and leads us to the living Word, Jesus Christ, and His love and forgiveness.

Match the following verses to what they tell us about God’s Word:

Psalm 18:30                                    We must correctly handle God’s Word

2 Timothy 2:15                                Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Psalm 119:11                                  God’s Word is a light for our path

Psalm 119:105                                God’s word is flawless (perfect)

Matthew 4:4                                     We must hide God’s Word in our hearts

Discuss why we need God’s word even more than bread (food) and how:

  • To correctly handle God’s Word
  • To hide it in our hearts
  • It is a light to our path.

Activity: choose one of the verses to hide in your heart this week. To help you memorize it, write it out and decorate it with bright colors.

Prayer: We thank you, Lord for Your Word that lights our path and tells us of the hope we have in Jesus, the Living Word. In His name we pray, amen

Van Gogh’s father was a minister and not long after his death, Vincent painted this still life of his father’s Bible.  Vincent, himself had once ministered to poor coal mining families in the Netherlands.

Still Life with Bible, 1885, by Vincent Van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Before You Go

My fall newsletter is all about a time when beautiful copies of God’s Word were threatened, and a courageous man and woman rescued one book, the Codex Aureus. Over a thousand years later, we can still see the Codex Aureus! Sign up above for my newsletter, and I’ll see that you not only get the free guide to help make museum visits a fun masterpiece for the whole family, but also my fall newsletter.

You may also want to visit the kids’ corner page on my website to download a template for writing and decorating a Bible verse.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. We hope you’ll come back next week for a fun art project also based on the paintings. Better yet, subscribe to our blog and never miss another post!

Van Gogh’s Sunflower Paintings

Vincent Van Gogh loved the color yellow. When he moved to Arles in southern France, he painted his house yellow and decorated it with his many sunflower paintings. He wanted the house to become a studio center for artists, but like many other things in this troubled artist’s life, it was a disappointment.

The Yellow House, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, but today his paintings sell for millions and brighten the walls of major museums all over the world. Amsterdam, in Van Gogh’s home country of the Netherlands, has a state museum dedicated to Van Gogh’s works, and his paintings are among the most recognized and loved everywhere.

The post includes:

  • A short bio of Vincent van Gogh
  • Information about the painting, Sunflowers
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand the painting, Sunflowers

The Artist

Born in the Netherlands in 1853, Vincent loved art and literature. At 16 he went to work for an uncle who was an art dealer. While in the London office he fell in love, but his proposal was rejected, and Vincent sank into a time of sorrow.

After a short time in the Paris office and a time working among poor coal miners, Vincent decided he could better serve people through art and returned to Paris in 1886. There he discovered the Impressionists and the works of Seurat, and his paintings changed from dark to bright colors. He moved to southern France for the rest of his short life.

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In Arles, he found the landscapes and people he wanted to paint, and he often painted all day and night without stopping to eat. He stuck candles onto the brim of his hat so he could paint at night.

Vincent began alternating between depression and periods of hyperactivity, but he continued painting even during times in hospitals. In those last years he produced an amazing 800 paintings, sometimes, one a day, and as many drawings. In 1890 Vincent, feeling like a failure and a financial burden on his brother, took his own life.

The Paintings–first a little about Van Gogh’s painting style

Portraits: In many ways, Van Gogh’s work followed in the footsteps of an earlier great Dutch artist, Rembrandt. Like Rembrandt, Van Gogh painted many portraits of the ordinary people of Arles,

Portrait of the Postman, Joseph Roulin, 1888, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, public domain

Van Gogh painted 40 self-portraits, almost as many as Rembrandt. Also like Rembrandt, van Gogh wanted to show what was going on inside people and once said, “I prefer painting people’s eyes to cathedrals.”

Landscapes: Van Gogh painted landscapes that show his swirling brushstrokes, bright colors, lots of movement. Like Rembrandt, van Gogh used thick impasto paint that creates textures. Van Gogh wanted his landscapes to show the healing power of nature.

Wheat field with Cypresses, 1889, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, public domain

Now the Sunflowers!

Still Lifes: Van Gogh probably grew up seeing many still lifes, as these were a big part of Dutch art. He enjoyed painting flowers, in gardens and in vases. Even these still lifes vibrate with color and the textures of thick paint.

Still Life Vase with Twelve Sunflowers 1888, Vincent van Gogh, Neue Pinakothek , Munich, public domain

Sunflowers, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore this Beautiful Paintings

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Look for details, such as:

  • Does it look like a photo or is it fuzzy?
  • Could the subject be real or not?
  • How does it make you feel?

1.You might compare and contrast these 2 versions of van Gogh’s sunflowers.

 2.The Sunflower paintings (there are several versions)  are great for discussing color and texture with children:

Color: Van Gogh loved the bright sunshine and colors of southern France.  With your children look at a few portable colorful objects (such as apples, toys, flowers, fall leaves) inside, then take them outside to look at how the colors intensify in sunlight. Take them into the shade and see how the colors change again.

The Impressionists studied the effects of sunlight on color, and Monet, discovered that when he went to the south of France, the sun was so much brighter, he had to adjust his colors to reproduce what he saw. The American, Winslow Homer, who painted his northern seascapes in oils, had to switch to watercolors to show the bright tropical sunlight of the Caribbean.

Textures: Van Gogh used thick paint that shows the textures of how things might feel if we touch them. Send children on an indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt to find different textures and then use adjectives to describe the textures.

Before You Go

Here are some fall photos of Molly with sunflowers and among the yellows and reds of my fall garden.

Molly and I  want to share some good news with you , which also explains why this post was a little late. We apologize! But here’s the good news. In September, I was honored to sign with the Steve Laube Agency, a great Christian literary agency.

And I was a guest on Patti Shene’s Step into the Light podcast, sharing my testimony and and why I love teaching art! Here’s the link.  

It was so much fun!





If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for you whole family!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about Van Gogh and his art, and we hope to see you right back here soon for some devotional thoughts based on Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings.