Step One (Introduction):
Introduce several of Van Gogh’s famous paintings, asking students to identify characteristics they see in his popular works. Focus on his night paintings, allowing students to identify some of the elements that make these works stand out: directional strokes, texture, exaggeration of effects of light against dark, warm colors, etc. Point out the absence of black in the colorful night scenes and note Van Gogh’s use of line to outline objects.
Give students time to discuss night scenes they would like to paint, particularly those that might involve exaggerated lighting (such as fireworks displays, fairs, amusement parks, city scenes, etc.). At this time, provide students with the opportunity to choose reference photos for their own paintings.
You may want to introduce the word impasto, which is a painting term denoting the use of thick paint applied heavily for extra texture.
Step Two (Presentation of Painting Method):
At this time, distribute copies of a simple drawing for students to fill in. Students can identify light sources in the drawings, and use oil pastels or crayons to fill in areas of color, using directional strokes of broken color to provide visual interest. Students should practice using bright color against dark, with warm lights radiating outward from the light sources similar to those in Van Gogh’s paintings.