A Van Gogh-ish Bedroom

As part of our wrap-up of Van Gogh’s painting of the Bedroom in Arles, we learned that Van Gogh did not paint what he saw but what he felt. Many believe that the Bedroom painting is almost a self-portrait and tells us much about the man who painted it.

To teach that abstract concept, I ran across an idea on the website Art Explorer that suggested making a bedroom shadow box. It was so much fun, and extremely effective in teaching this idea.

Supplies: You’ll need a shoe box or something similar. I did not have a shoe box and had to improvise with lids from a box of cards and pieces of cardstock. You’ll also need paint, paintbrushes, and magazine pictures of furnishings.

Day 1: Because my kids are so young, I had pages of furniture pictures already torn from magazines and let them choose from the stack.

I tried not to intervene too much, since the whole idea of the project was to create a “bedroom” that was a self-portrait. It really was fun to see how much the “bedrooms” and their furnishings told of their personalities. I even let the Little One add a dog to her bedroom. After all, placing a large dog in the midst of the room did tell a lot about her. Though I did draw the line when my son wanted three beds in his room in case “the neighbors wanted to spend the night”; I did, however, let him choose a set of bunk beds.

Day 2: Taking a sharpie, I drew a box around the pictures that each of them wanted to use, making it easier for them to cut them out on their own. Little One still needed some help, but my son did most of the cutting himself.

Day 3: The kids chose the colors for their walls and floor, then painted away. I used plastic bags for their art aprons and a piece of Pallete art paper (similar to wax paper) that I had left over from college art classes. We really survived with very little incident.

Ready to Paint!
Pink walls, pink floor--no surprise to anyone who knows her. Very Van Gogh-ish.

This was the extent of the mess at the end of the day.

Prep for Day 4: Meanwhile, I pasted the magazine pictures to cardstock. Then, I cut out the furnishings once more, leaving about a 1/2″ of space at the bottom. The extra would be folded over and glued to the floor of the bedrooms to make a 3-D effect.

Day 4: Once the bedrooms were dry, we got out our furnishings and the hot glue gun. I pasted the pieces in where they directed, with only a little bit of suggestion and intervention. Then, with our completed projects, we had a little “show and tell.” They each presented their rooms (why they chose the pieces for their rooms), we got pictures, and then we closed with a short review of Van Gogh.

It was a great finish to our study, and I can’t wait to launch into our next Van Gogh painting study. Here’s a close-up of the end results.

The boy's room: minimalist, neat and ordered, with a little Curious George monkey in the corner
The girl's room: bright, fun, full, with a huge love of nature