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!

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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

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

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  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?