Van Gogh Painting With My Girl


I dream of painting and then I paint my dream. - Vincent Van Gogh

There’s no doubt about it: Out of all the master artists, I love Vincent Van Gogh the best.  His work has always resonated with me even long before I understood art theory and history.

I’ve read books and watched documentaries all about him. And, I always get a special thrill every time I see his original work in a gallery or museum (my first one at Musee d’Orsay in Paris!). I even like works based on him (songs, Doctor Who episode…).

That’s why I have done several homage pieces using his work as my inspiration. And, even my kids know about Van Gogh at an early age. In fact, my darling girl once told me that I was “half as good as Van Gogh.” Bless her! I know I’m nowhere near that, but then, she also thinks I’m more beautiful than Megan Gale, so there. Gotta love having a daughter who sees the best of me!

Anyway, when this same loving daughter told me that for art club this term, they’re learning about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Starry Night paintings, I was pleased for her. She was also thrilled.

Except, art club happens on Wednesdays. And, by sheer bad luck, she has missed a few of those art club sessions because I was once sick and the hubby was away overseas for work so she couldn’t make it to school. And, she was sick a couple of Wednesdays too.

Believe it or not, there were a few tears shed on those Wednesdays as the girl really hates missing school. Especially on art club days.

So, I promised her that between her dad and I, we’ll do what we can to help out. So, hubby talked to the teacher and explained the situation. She then agreed to send back the canvas that they’ve been working on. I promised to help her finish the painting by teaching her what to do.


The canvas came to our house with just a basic outline of the Starry Night With Cypress painting and some dabs of paint (a little bit of yellow in the sky plus a layer of red on the cypress). And, over the weekend, we did a bit of work on it.

First, I showed her the book on Van Gogh that I have in my personal library. We looked at the different paintings, talked about them, and also discussed his life and why I love his work.

Then, my girl and I talked about what was already on the canvas and what the teacher has taught her so far. We also talked about acrylics – and the basic differences between acrylics and oils (the current medium I’m using to paint on canvases). The teacher has asked the kids to paint in acrylics, so we worked with this medium.

From there, I started mapping out what we were going to do. Nothing formal. Just a casual step-by-step instruction on what she can do next – from finishing her drawing on canvas and painting the background to creating an initial layer of paint. Just making sure that the canvas is covered in paint, using the original Starry Night painting as our guide.

After the initial layer, I showed her how to do some outlines, based on the original painting, and then taught her how to work in the lines and details.

By this stage, the look on my daughter’s face became priceless as she saw the painting take shape and come to life. She then turned to me and said: “Mum, I didn’t realise I’m capable of doing something like this!” (Yes, her words!)

“Mum, I didn’t realise I’m capable of doing something like this!”

My heart felt so full in that moment.

Those words, her beaming smile, and the gleam in her eye just filled me. It’s the kind of moment that I dream of, both as a parent and as a teacher. Super cheesy, I know. But, I am just so pleased that I was part of that – that moment when my daughter realised she could do much more than she thought. I loved it. I hope to be part of many more moments like it.


Today, she brought the finished painting to school, as the art club students are preparing for their first art exhibit on their first day back next term.  Her class teacher apparently was so thrilled when the girl brought the painting to class, so the teacher asked my girl to show it to their class and talk about it. She was so excited and proud. And, I was really really happy for her.

It’s her first “proper painting” on canvas and she can’t wait to show it during their art club exhibit. They’re putting the piece up for sale as a school fundraiser and of course, we already promised to buy it and hang it at home.

Here’s the completed painting:


I think she already paints so much better than I did at the same age. 🙂


About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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