The Bedroom by Vincent Van Gogh: Watercolor Salt Painting For Kids

In today’s art project, we’re going to put a new twist on a coloring page.  Instead of just using crayons or colored pencils, we’re going to paint this coloring page with watercolor and add textured details to our painting with salt!

Vincent van Gogh was born in the Netherlands in 1853.  Vincent spent his early adult years as a teacher, an art dealer, and a missionary.  As a young adult, he maintained close contact with his brother Theo through letters.  In these letters, he always included little drawings.  In 1880, his brother Theo advised him to concentrate more on his drawings.   This became a turning point in his life.

In 1881, Vincent van Gogh started painting at the age of 28.  Vincent’s brother Theo helped to financially support him as an artist.  Tiring of the frantic life in Paris in 1888, Van Gogh set out for the countryside and settled in Arles, France.

He rented four rooms in a yellow house.  His bedroom in this house became the subject of three paintings after a sickness kept him bedridden for a few days.

The Bedroom is one of Vincent van Gogh’s most recognized paintings.  All three versions of The Bedroom were brought together for the very first time in North America, at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016.

The Bedroom, all 3 versions.

They produced a wonderful set of little videos to give a little insight into Van Gogh’s bedroom.  You can watch them here.

For this art project, The Bedroom, 1888, by Vincent van Gogh is our inspiration.

The Bedroom, 1888, Vincent van Gogh.

The Van Gogh Musem in Amsterdam is the best online resource for information about Van Gogh.

The coloring book page for this project can be downloaded directly from the Van Gogh Museum here.

Supplies needed for this project are:

  • Mixed media paper (98 lb.)
  • Liquid watercolors
  • Paintbrushes / Palettes
  • Container for water
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • X-Acto knife
  • Cardboard (at least 8.5 x 11 inch piece)
  • Table salt (large container)
  • Tacky glue
  • Glue stick
  • Tray or cookie sheet

First, we need to print our coloring page on the mixed media paper.

Using the ruler, measure an 8.5 X 11 inch area and trim off the excess paper.

This paper should now easily fit into your home printer.  Be sure to check your printer specifications for the paper thickness your printer will allow (our HP allows up to 110 lb paper).

Load your trimmed mixed media paper into your printer and print your coloring page on it.

Once your coloring page is printed, trim a piece of cardboard to the same size as the backing to the page.  Apply the coloring page to the cardboard with the glue stick.

The cardboard is necessary to give you a stiff surface of the appropriate paper to support the watercolor and the salt /glue texture we’ll be adding.

Once your page is nicely attached the cardboard, it’s time to paint!

Paint your bedroom page with the colors of your choice in watercolor.  It’s a good idea to mix and test your colors before applying them to your coloring page.

Feel free to use Van Gogh’s bedroom as your inspiration for color, or choose your own colors.  Allow your watercolor to dry before the next step.

Now it’s time to add the salt texture!

The first step is to apply glue to any areas you’d like to add texture with salt.

I decided to use the salt to add an extra dimension to the furniture in the room and the details on the walls.  Feel free to add texture wherever you would like.

Once you’ve applied the glue to your painting, cover all of the glue with table salt.  Make sure to cover all of the exposed areas of glue with salt so it is completely coated.

You can stand the cardboard on its edge and lightly tap it to shake an extra salt from the glue.

Let’s add color to our salt texture!

To add color, first mix the color of your choice.  Next, carefully sweep your brush through the color and just barely touch it to the salt on the painting.  The salt/glue mixture will instantly absorb the color from the brush.

Be careful not to apply any pressure to the salt/glue mixture – remember it’s still wet and very soft.

Once you’ve applied color to all of the glue/salt areas, lay your painting flat and allow it to dry completely.

You will notice that the color absorbs more evenly as the salt/glue mixture dries.  The color also will dry lighter than it appears when wet so keep this in mind when mixing your color.

Our final framed bedroom.

The original Bedroom alongside our painted version.

Have fun decorating your own bedroom in Arles!

 

A few tips of what NOT to do!

  • Avoid using clear glue.
    • The consistency of it does not support the weight of the salt very well and ours spread out too thin when I tried to use it.
  • Do not allow the glue/salt to dry before you add the color.
    • Color is absorbed much easier by the wet mixture rather than dry.  I tried to apply color after it dried and definitely did not like the results.
  • Do not apply the glue/salt texture first.  If you try to paint around it, the salt areas can be disturbed and crumble/flake off.
    • If you try to paint around it, the salt areas can be disturbed and crumble/flake off.
  • Do not use plain paper that is supported by cardboard or something similar.
    • I thought the weight of the paper alone might hold up.  After I applied the salt/glue mixture, the unsupported paper was hard to manage and ended up folding in on itself. 🙁
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About the author

Crystal Foth manages 19 Southern California fine art studios for Mission: Renaissance Fine Art Classes. She spends her free time creating art, planning fun art projects and enjoying creative adventures with her family around Los Angeles.

View all articles by Crystal Foth

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