Vincent van Gogh,
Pretend you are going on a picnic in the place pictured in van
Gogh's painting. What kind of clothes would you wear? What could
you find to do here? Does it look like comfortable grass to lie
down on? If you stayed until the sun went down, do you think it
would still be a nice place to be?
Do you ever associate colors with moods? If you were in a yellow
mood, how would you be feeling? How about a red mood? A pink mood?
A blue mood? Lines can also express a mood. What sort of mood might
a jagged line convey? A smooth line? What sort of mood is van Gogh
expressing through his colors and lines? How does he achieve this
| ART ACTIVITIES
Van Gogh felt that colors had symbolic meaning. To him, yellow symbolized
love and light, red and green conveyed passion and conflict, blue
was infinity, and gray was associated with surrender. Using colors
as symbols, make a painting that expresses an emotion.
Ever-changing Moods: A Study in Color
The kinds and combinations of colors van Gogh used helped intensify
the feeling in Olive Trees. Create a painting using a monochromatic
(tints and shades of only one color) color scheme. Do a second painting
of the same image using only cool colors (blue, green, violet) or
warm colors (red, yellow, orange). Do the same painting again using
complimentary colors. How does the color scheme affect the mood
or feeling of the painting?
LANGUAGE ARTS ACTIVITY
Description and Expression
- Van Gogh almost always painted out-of-doors or directly from
nature. Yet he distorted objects and colors for expressive purposes.
Writers often do the same. Pick a scene outside and first describe
what it looks like, making a list of everything you see. Can this
list describe how you feel about the view? Add descriptive words
to show how you feel about the view.
- Find and read a poem by John Keats called Autumn.
What can you tell about the way Keats feels about the subject?
Make a list of all the descriptive words Keats used in this poem.
How has Keats given autumn a personality? In what way is this
similar to the olive orchard pictured in van Gogh's painting?
How has van Gogh given the olive trees a personality? Whose personality
do you think it is?
- Van Gogh once wrote: "My brush goes between my fingers as a
bow on a violin." What elements does van Gogh's painting share
with music? In what way might his painting be musical? What kind
of music best fits the mood of this painting? What kind of rhythm
and movement does it have? Write a short melody that describes
the mood of this olive orchard as seen by Vincent van Gogh.
- Impressionism was not only a movement in art, but in music
as well. Listen to a piece of music by an Iimpressionist composer,
such as Debussy's La Mer. How would you describe the
mood of this piece? How is this mood created? How would you describe
the atmosphere created in this piece? In what way is this atmosphere
similar to the atmosphere created in van Gogh's painting? Compare
the effects created in La Mer to Mozart's Eine kleine
Nachtmusik. How is the mood of this piece different than
that of La Mer? How might this be similar to Canaletto's
painting of the Grand Canal? Try "drawing" each piece of music
to explore the different effects.
The difference between description and expression is often in the
way it is presented. For example, Canaletto's Grand Canal
is painted exactly as it looks; It is a description of the scene.
Van Gogh's painting has exaggerated elements to express emotion.
Try to say the following sentence descriptively, in a way which
simply describes the situation, then in a way that expresses a particular
"The man walked in the door, took off his hat, and sat
down on the couch."
Try the following emotions: surprise, danger, sadness, expectation,
Set up a color lab in your home or classroom. Use the scientific
process to find the formulas for various colors by conducting an
experiment in which you mix drops of food coloring in a glass of
water. Every good scientist forms a hypothesis, conducts his or
her experiment, then draws conclusions based on the experiment.
Good record keeping is essential. What is the formula for each secondary
color (green, orange, violet)? What formula would you use to change
the intensity of a color (make it less bright)? How would you make
it lighter or darker? Does the formula change if you start with
more drops of one color? Try to invent as many kinds of blue as
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