Pomona Elementary students create their own 'Starry Night'

First-grader Oscar Solis stood onstage dressed up as Vincent van Gogh in an oversized brown blazer and ginger beard. He held a paintbrush and palette.

Then came the finishing touch for his head: a straw hat with three blue candles fixed on top.

"He liked to paint all night, and they didn't have electricity back then," said speaker Joan McMahan of Meet the Masters, an art education program that introduces students to artists.

Pomona Elementary School students from kindergarten up to sixth grade learned about the life, works and painting style of van Gogh during their first Meet the Masters assembly. McMahan will come back to the Costa Mesa school six more times this year to teach the students about Claude Monet, Winslow Homer, Pablo Picasso, Mary Cassatt, Piet Mondrian and M.C. Escher.

After the students learn about each artist, McMahan gives the teachers a lesson on conducting an art project based on the artist's style.

With van Gogh, the students will use oil pastels to recreate his most famous masterpiece, "Starry Night," McMahan said.

But, before that, the students learned about his life; it was a short introduction for the younger students then a 45-minute explanation for the sixth-graders. They also learned about his unique style using bold colors, heavy outlining and thick brush strokes.

"I want them to get a sense of who he was a person," McMahan said.

With copy after copy of van Gogh's work behind her, she said that van Gogh's style wasn't popular at the time and that he only sold one painting in his lifetime for the equivalent of $80.

"Van Gogh made his own rules, his own style, and people didn't like it," she said.

His style didn't hit the right notes for first-grader Itzel Trujillo, either, who called it "ugly."

Still, Itzel, who likes to do art at home, said she wants to learn how to paint like him.

She said, though, that it looks difficult.

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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