Van Gogh Auction Project

Even Van Gogh him­self would be proud of this copy of his “Café Ter­race” paint­ing, cre­ated by our 2nd graders to raise money at our annual school auction.

Each year, our school holds a fundraiser auc­tion to raise money for spe­cial pro­grams. While many valu­able items are donated to be auc­tioned off, the items that cre­ate the most excite­ment are usu­ally our spe­cial “class projects”. These are art projects cre­ated as a joint effort by each class, with each stu­dent con­tribut­ing a part of the fin­ished piece.

This year our 2nd graders made a copy of Vin­cent Van Gogh’s “The Café Ter­race on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night” and as you can see, it is mag­nif­i­cent! Here’s how you can make one, too:

1. First, divide a fine art poster (you can find these inex­pen­sively at into the same num­ber of equal-sized sec­tions as you have stu­dents. (If the num­bers don’t work out exactly right, con­sider hav­ing the teacher, prin­ci­pal or other school “celebri­ties” cre­ate a sec­tion, too.) Care­fully cut the poster into sep­a­rate pieces. (It can “feel wrong” to cut up a per­fectly good art poster, but the end result is worth it!)

2. Next, num­ber the pieces on the back and draw an arrow point­ing to the “top”.

3. Now, cut heavy weight black paper to the same size and dis­trib­ute one piece to each stu­dent, along with their piece of the poster. Copy the num­ber and arrow from the back of each poster piece to the back of the black paper.

3. Then, have stu­dents use oil pas­tels to re-create their sec­tion of the poster onto the black paper. For best results, remind them to focus on just copy­ing the shapes, col­ors and place­ment of what they see on their poster sec­tion and to try not to think so much about what those shapes and col­ors rep­re­sent. Encour­age them to mix and their layer col­ors for a richer, more inter­est­ing effect and to cover the entire paper with oil pas­tel.… don’t leave any black paper show­ing!

4. Finally, reassem­ble the fin­ished pieces and use YES!” Paste to glue them down onto a piece of black mat board, leav­ing about a 1/4″ space between the pieces. (Frame your cre­ation with spac­ers along the edge between the mat board and the glass.)

Help­ful tip: You can save a lot of money by using a ready-made frame for your cre­ation, rather than hav­ing it custom-framed. To do this, it helps to find your frame first, then work back­wards to choose the size of your art poster, allow­ing for the 1/4″ space you will leave between the pieces. Posters can also be enlarged into murals using this tech­nique, but that project is bet­ter for 4th grade and up, as chang­ing sizes can be very con­fus­ing for younger kids.

Our very tal­ented 2nd graders, proudly dis­play­ing their fin­ished mas­ter­piece!
(It hap­pened to be “Crazy Hair Day” when we took this picture!)

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17 Responses to Van Gogh Auction Project

  1. Monica Crumley February 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    What a cool art project. I have a 5th and 7th grader and we’re always strug­gling with what to do for an auc­tion project. I think this would be great for any age.

  2. Heleen February 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    A great project!!

  3. Mary February 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    What a great idea! And the out­come is beautiful!

  4. marry March 1, 2010 at 12:24 am #

    Blogs are so infor­ma­tive where we get lots of infor­ma­tion on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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  5. the momma March 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    they did a fab­u­lous job!! I love it!

  6. Elissa March 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    It turned out great! Who­ever wins will be so lucky to have such a fine masterpiece. :)

  7. TeachKidsArt March 4, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Oh yeah, you were there the day we did this, weren’t you, Elissa??! It looks even bet­ter in per­son… it is AMAZING!!!! :)

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  9. Anonymous April 9, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    We are hav­ing an auc­tion next month. I am going to attempt this project with my class. I have no artis­tic skill, so hope­fully I can explain it to them and then fin­ish it off nicely. Any tips for some­one with no skill? What do we need to know when work­ing with oil pastels?

  10. TeachKidsArt April 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Annony­mous — That’s great that you’ll be doing this for your auc­tion! We’ve done it twice (once with a Van Gogh and once with a Monet) and both times it was one of our most pop­u­lar items!

    One thing we do is fig­ure out our frame and mat sizes first and work back­wards from that. If you can find a ready-made frame that’s large enough it will really help keep your cost down.

    As for work­ing with oil pas­tels, check out my blog post from 10/3/08, titled “Tips for Work­ing with Oil Pastels”.

    Good luck!! Let me know how it turns out!!

    ~ Cheryl

  11. Dissertation Proposal October 25, 2011 at 3:13 am #

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  12. Dissertation Proposal April 11, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    That’s look great that peo­ple would love to share their edu­ca­tional mat­ters and expe­ri­ence on inter­net, this would be good for read­ers who must face again this issues in their projects.

  13. laura minala November 24, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    um.….….….…. MAZING! love it! cool!

  14. Katrina W. March 11, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Thank you so much for shar­ing this amaz­ing idea!! I just did this with my daughter’s 2nd/3rd grade split class for our school’s upcom­ing auc­tion and it turned out so beau­ti­fully. They are so proud of their work and amazed by it too.
    Kat­rina W. recently posted..Word­less Wednes­day: Sum­mer Read­ing… The Royal Diaries seriesMy Profile

    • Cheryl Trowbridge March 11, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

      I’m glad you liked it, Kat­rina! I hope it does well at your auction!!

  15. tonia vassallo March 27, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    Hi Cheryl,

    I would love to do this with our 2nd grade class for our school auc­tion but our project must be on can­vas. Any sug­ges­tions on how to adhere the pieces (art paper vs. card­stock?) to can­vas to achieve the same result?


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