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We Are Impressionists

November 16, 2022 | Nathan Johnson

Perhaps you have spied a picture or two of Art Class on Seesaw!

If so, you will have seen pictures of First Grade artists working on their self-portraits!

And as any artist will tell you, 

A Self Portrait is a daunting thing …

So they employed some help!

They asked their old friend Vincent Van Gogh

(many First Graders remember his “Starry Night” from their Kindergarten Light Study)

to show them how he created a self-portrait… 


And they noticed that …

He used bold short, curvy strokes!

He didn’t mix the colors at all!

He piled them all next to each other and on top of each other!

He didn’t use any outlines!

His shadows were blue! 

He is an impressionist!

The First Graders agreed they wanted to be impressionists too.

Many Impressionists used oil paints, so we would use oil too — Oil Pastels!


With him as our guide, we got to work!


Mapping out the face in first drafts…



Starting a final draft with a sketch in white-on-black

Noticing the colors in their skin…

The colors in our hair and in their lips …

The colors in our shadows and in their shirt…

Until it was finally time to add the eyes.

Finally! They’ve waited so long …


(It really makes them pop!)

(Here are some finished ones. The rest of us finish tomorrow!)

Stay tuned for a complete display of every First Grade face…

Coming to a hallway near you! 

Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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