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This week the Gallatin Rest Home celebrated Art Week (intended to “focus attention on how artists make the world a better place”) so we did a project involving a recognizable masterpiece. I had seen student art projects that cut a work of art into a grid, then have each student paint a piece. I thought this would work well for our group of seniors citizens, so we undertook Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”

I cut an image of the original painting into a grid of 15 squares.
I sized each square at 4 inches and placed them on 8.5×11″ sheets for easy desktop printing. I also made a printable “coloring book” version of the 4-inch squares with black outline only, to give the painters a bit of a head start.

You can download the colored 4″ “puzzle pieces,” the 4″ “coloring book” squares and a printable example sheet PDFs here:

Since the rest home activity director wanted to do something more special than just painting on paper, I took the project a step further, and transferred outlines to 4″ mini canvas boards (purchased at the craft store). I coated the back of my 4″block print-outs with powdered graphite and traced on top with a pencil to transfer simple outlines to the 15 canvas boards. (Graphite is messy, so carbon paper is a good option, if you have it!)


  • 15 numbered Puzzle Piece example squares (from the PDF above)
  • 15 4″ mini canvas-board squares (or the 15 printed 4″ coloring book squares from the PDF above, printed on card stock or some other paintable surface)
  • Smallish acrylic brushes, water cups, smocks, paper towels
  • Acrylic paint: Phthalo blue, white and yellow. (I also provided black and violet to artists painting dark areas along the left side.)
  • One black canvas (20″x 12″ or larger) to mount the finished canvas squares on when done.  (A black poster board or foam core would be good alternatives)
  • Glue or heavy double-sided tape to mount squares


I printed out one copy of my painting puzzle squares, cut them out, numbered them 1-15, and temporarily attached them on my black canvas using double stick tape.

I also numbered my corresponding “coloring book” pieces on the back. (If you don’t think your painters need guidelines, you could just provide a colored example square and a blank canvas)

We showed the painters the entire painting-puzzle, completed, and asked each to select a piece to reproduce as an individual painting.

Next we gave each painter the black line “coloring book” square that corresponded with the example piece they selected.

Each painter received a paper plate palette with blue, yellow and white paints, and those who selected darker parts of the painting also got small dots of black and violet.

Volunteers and rest home staff passed out brushes, water, paper towels and smocks. We helped the painters get started by pointing out a place to begin, and continued encouraging them keep painting as needed. We also demonstrated how to mix colors, as needed.


Participation was good. Four-inch squares were enough to keep our senior painters busy for the whole hour. Some people had time to do more than one. It was fun to see how they all looked when reassembled and mounted to the black canvas.







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