Starry Night in Ballarat

Term: 2 Year: 2011
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Ballarat with its gold mining past and known for its grand historical architecture became the focal point for a
thematic unit of work titled Environment – Where we live and how as artists we view our world, for our Year 7 Visual
Art students at Mount Clear College in Ballarat.

The iconic Town Hall a monumental feature of Ballarat’s main street, Sturt St was used to teach the
student’s how to look, to visually observe a subject.

Photography was used as a means of recording the grand site, the students used a range of these photographs to
sketch from and explore designs in their visual diaries. Planning was vital and four different viewpoints were
required, two portrait and two landscape formats. Drawing line was the preferred art element to be pursed and used.
A discussion on our local history, the gold rush, the purpose of the town hall and makeup of the local council was
informative and gave our students a real sense of our past and present time and place.

A visit to the Art Gallery of Ballarat  allowed  our  students to also look at how various artists
perceived our local landscape over a period of time as well as how they have interpreted the world in which they have

An Artist focus was included in this unit by observing the French Post Impressionist  artist Vincent Van
Gogh’s  very famous painting titled “ Starry Night”, using this painting  students were
introduced to key art vocabulary words teaching them to better understand how to begin to analyse and interpret

Starry Night was an important tool in teaching students to learn about the development of technique and style in

Visual Diaries were used to trial Van Gogh’s broken colour technique before commencing a final piece. 
Viewing Starry Night was essential as students applied in dabbing strokes of white, yellow, purple and blue acrylic

Students were then ready to commence a final painting task that incorporated the two concepts taught; visual
observation and broken colour technique.

A piece of A2 paper was given to each student. Students then had to choose one of their town hall designs as a
starting point for their subject matter.

Students lightly pencilled in their designs and then a yellow fluorescent wash was painted over the entire
surface. This allowed a nice ground for students to work over.

Blue markers or black paint was used as an outlining tool to highlight the main subject matter: the town hall.
Tonal value was added to the building and the concept of using tone to create form was explained to the students.
Deep yellow gold or a strong orange were the colours of choice.

The technique of broken colour was then applied to the sky using short dabs of vibrant colour by the use of thick
and thin brushstrokes

Swirling and directional painted lines were achieved by students sketching in lightly pencilled lines for them to
follow when painting

Culturally and artistically our students engaged in this task, creatively demonstrating a real difference and
diversity in their approach. This demonstrated their willingness not only to be creative, but to be more informed
about the world in which they live through artistic eyes.

Debra Johnston 
Visual Art Teacher
Mount Clear College
Suitable for Level 7