Lesson: Remixed Masterpiece

I usually do not go to blogs for lessons, as stated here. However, sometimes you find that PERFECT lesson idea that you just can’t get out of your mind.  You have to try it, and it gets filed into the “I will do this someday” folder.  The perfect opportunity came about to try a lesson I’d been wanting to do for awhile.

Over on the Teach Kids Art blog (one of the very first art ed blogs I found and started following back in the day) I saw Cheryl’s  Van Gogh Auction lesson.  This lesson involves taking a famous piece of art and breaking it up into smaller squares.  Each student completes one square and the finished product is a full version of a famous masterpiece that can be auctioned off at your school. (yes, they are that cool).

Here is a sample of one of Cheryl’s auction pieces.  She truly is the master at this!

And below you can see my colleague and I’s finished pieces. We each tried this lesson with two different classes to be auctioned off at the school we share. (remember I teach at two schools). Mine was the Sunflowers, and hers was the Starry Night.  They are done with oil pastel on black card-stock.

Teach Kids Art gives a really detailed tutorial on how to do this project, so I won’t go into all of that, however, I will say we did a few things along the way to modify the lesson to work for us.  One of the best parts was the day it all came together. The photo below shows the grid I made, and put up on the white board. Students worked together to assemble their piece (which was numbered on the back) in the proper order.  Then, they were asked to match up to pieces next to theirs to make sure they colors and items lined up. I was impressed at the teamwork and problem solving I saw during this lesson.  We also taught students how to draw their squares using a simple grid to help ensure the proportions were correct. They did great with this as well.

This lesson takes quite a bit of beforehand prep by the teacher, however, the result was well worth it!  I am excited to see these displayed in the wing of the new addition at our school and to be auctioned off by the PTO.  At first, I thought the students would be bummed that they didn’t get to keep something they worked so hard on, but in fact, the opposite happened. Students were so proud to contribute to something larger, the quality was high and teamwork was outstanding.  This is one of my first attempts at collaborative artwork by students and I have to stay it was a success.  I will be trying this out with other grades/ schools in the future.

As you look closer, you can see the colors and shape matching aren’t perfect.  This is partly me giving up some control to the kids and partly the fact that theses aren’t meant to be perfect. This is the beauty of it.  Even though each square is a little different, when it comes together it becomes something even more.

Maybe I am biased, but didn’t they turn out great!?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • They are great! How long did you spend on this? I’ve wanted to do it before, just never have! This year we are doing an auction, so it’d be the perfect time. If you are willing to share specifics, I’ll take them! christy.vance@rpe.edisonlearning.com

    • Anonymous

      Great post, Jessica! I love your title choice and your projects look fantastic! Christy, I’ve done this project several times now (each time with a different masterpiece) and we always spend just one 50 minute period creating the “tiles”. The real work comes next when my awesome parent volunteers assemble and frame the picture! Hint: find a pre-made frame first and then work backwards to the size each piece needs to be to fit that. This will save you the cost of custom framing – we learned this the hard way!! :)

      • Great suggestion, Cheryl, we did the same thing – worked backwards. Glad we did!

    • Hi Christy,

      The time frame went something like this:
      1. Day 1: Introduction and draw on grid
      2. Day 2: Oil pastels
      3. Day 3: Finish Oil pastels and assemble.

      These were 45 minute class periods. It may have taken us a little longer since it was my first time trying it out. Once students get going, since the squares are small, the lesson goes quick.

  • I encourage more and more collaborative art projects! As a teaching artist the work I do with kids is often a collaboarative project. The social aspect has many affective benefits for kids as they learn to work together and strive to create something worthy of being shown to a wider audience. It’s also a very popular way for contemporary artists to work, so you can also share that aspect of contemporary art with kids.

    • Mariee,

      I like you ideas- I want to do more collaboration in the future. It just took me a little while to muster up the courage to get away from that “large group” mentality that I am so accustomed to teaching in. I also found I needed to be very strict and explicit with expectations during this time to ensure productivity, but the students responded very well.

  • Tracy

    I have been thinking about what Iesson I could use for a school wide family night, this is it. I have seen the grid art done before, but it struck me today at how this could be a great way to include parents who may not feel very confident in creating an artwork on their own. Displaying the work after the family night in school will bring an extra sense of community to our building. Thanks for the idea.

  • Priscilla

    Those are beautiful! Thank you for sharing – very inspiring :)

  • Marketa Vorel

    Jessica, great project, thanks for sharing. As a former teacher and an OCD grammarian, I do have to point out that the proper usage of “I” is never with an apostrophe. The proper way to say it is “my colleague and my” experience. Also, you are not “bias.” Although you may be “biased.”