A Week Painting with Vincent Van Gogh

Above: Van Gogh style demonstration at the McSherryStudio by Kevin McSherry

Continuing my series of ways to get my students to loosen up in their painting, this week we tried painting in the style of Vincent Van Gogh. There’s no better way to force yourself to get away from slavishly recreating a photographic reference than the use wild colours, pay far less attention to the accuracy of the drawing, keep all your dabs discrete, and delineate elements in your painting.

It’s an exciting way to paint – liberating too. Everyone worked hard and enjoyed the results. Next week, we’ll take it that little bit further by painting with palette knives. 

The whole point is not to recreate a Van Gogh painting but to endeavour to put some distance between the photographic reference and your expression of it. I chose a different church to the one VG painted at Auvers-sur-Oise for a couple of reasons. The first is, I didn’t want to give students the reference of the church painting that he actually painted (pictured right). That would invite students to try to reproduce it which isn’t good for anyone. Hence, I chose another church from not far down the road, Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens in the village of Osny, also in Val-d’Oise. Perhaps it’s not as fancy architecturally but that’s probably a good thing. By the way, you can read a letter here, where VG talks about his church painting to his sister Wilemien

The second reason is that this is the church I was married in. It’s a beautiful little church – with a part of it built in the 11th century. Osny is the village where my wife grew up and one time, we did get over to see the rooms in Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh lodged at the end of his life. I must go back although none of my wife’s family live there any more.

The demonstration took me about 1 hour. Oils on canvas paper. About A4. I’ve added a few photos from the sessions. The main image is my own demonstration and if it’s something you like, you can buy it for yourself by auction at this link.