Staircase Starry Night Mural

6 Materials
16 Hours

During college, art history was my absolute favorite topic. I was particularly drawn to Van Gogh after seeing a featured Van Gogh exhibit with dozens of his paintings at the Seattle Art Museum in 2001. The way he used layers and layers of paint was always just amazing to me. The paint seemed almost an inch thick in places.
I have always had more professional artists tell me I use too much paint, or my paint is too thick. When I remember his art, it gives me more confidence because he has proven that there is no right or wrong way to paint.
Fast forward from my awkard teenage and young adult years to my current life: Boring mom of too many kids, funky 100 year old house that has great bones, but boring walls. Let's add a bit of color, shall we?
To start with, almost every wall in my home was painted the same brown shade. I have been repainting them all differently. Everything is very eclectic and bright and unique. June of 2016, it was my staircase hallway's turn.
Looking Up The Stairs
Step One: We need to buy some supplies. Let's go shopping. In my other mural post, I discussed a bit about the absolute cheapest place to buy paint in my area. Unfortunately, I despise the store. It happens to be Walmart. A gallon of navy latex interior wall paint will only cost $15 (compared to $30 at Lowes or anywhere else). You might need to ask half a dozen people in blue shirts before you find an employee trained in the art of dropping dye in paint and pushing a button to mix it. For this project, get your navy paint color picked and grab a few tubes of acrylic while waiting for the only paint department specialist to get back from lunch.Acrylic paint is also half the cost at Walmart. It's only 50 cents for 2oz tube ($1 at craft stores) and $2.50 for an 8oz tube ($5 at craftstores). You will need 8oz tubes of yellow, black, light blue, grey and white. Also get small tubes of red, orange and maybe a few extra fun shades of blue or lavender. Gold would also look great, but I did not use it on this project.If you want to, grab a tube of glow in the dark paint. I used it on my mural and it lasted about six months. It was really quite amazing to see starry night lit up like that at night though.Regarding paintbrushes, you can buy a standard cheap art looking variety pack at Walmart if you wish, or buy the three pack of large paint brushes at the dollar store. You can also buy paint rollers, painters tape and paint trays at the dollar store. The Dollar Tree is my favorite place to buy painting supplies because I tend to get distracted a lot and forget to wash my brushes and trays at the end of a project. This is NOT something I recommend leaving around with toddlers in your home. I actually had to paint this mural twice because my twins decided to cover up Van Gogh with their own version of Jackson Pollock. They also used my acrylics to Jackson Pollock my dining room.... twice. So instead of going on a tangent regarding the wide variety of things my twins used to paint my home with, I'm going to just stop now and move on to
Corners To Tape Off
Step Two: When you get home, please tape off the corners/floor/ceiling of all the walls you don't want your mural to bleed on to, unless you plan to either paint the ceiling and floors/stairs or wrap the mural around all the walls. I chose not to paint the ceiling because of the original 1920 fir paneling on my upstairs ceilings. The previous owners almost painted them white. I'm very glad they didn't. Step Three: Paint the entire wall navy blue. Use your paint roller and tray. Use the brushes to get in the corners. Don't stress about the previous color showing through. This doesn't have to be perfect. Everything will get coated with more paint anyway.
Largest Swirl Going From Landing Over Stairs
Step Four: Get your phone and google 'Starry Night'. Find an image with good resolution and just look at the paint strokes he used. I am not patient enough to put as much detail into my art as he must have been. The swirls and the lines he used were amazing.I wanted a similar feel but with less effort, so instead of painting individual swirled clouds, I decided to focus on the largest swirls and stars with a dark clouded sky backdrop with primarily horizontal lines. I squeezed some black acrylic paint into the top corner of my navy blue paint tray and grey in other corner. I took my brush and would dab the end in two colors at a time and just smearing hprizontal lines onto the wall. The colors would mix, right on the wall and add depth and dimensions to the background clouds.I kinda took a step back and realized that I only need to do this to the top 2/3s of the wall, because the dark hills cover up the bottom. I smeared a guide line with my dark cloud paint where I could stop for the hills.
The Swirls Were The Most Fun Thing To Paint
Step Five: This part is really fun! You get to make the large big clouds next! I set down my paint tray and opted for my quirky scrap wood painters palette. I have two of them actually. They are just scrap pieces that I used to mix paint on. I never wash them. The paint just keeps adding up until I end up peeling layers away. I initially started with just white, grey and light blue. I would dab my brush into multiple colors at once and just make large wide sweeping motions with my arm. It's the exact same feeling you get when you stir up a huge bowl of neopolitan icecream, all the colors mix together and it's just fun. Don't mix them into a solid color though. Of you do, just paint over the top. So glance at your image and just keep adding more paint to the swirl until you feel like it's done. Seriously don't worry about it being perfect. Just make sure you are enjoying the sensation of making a huge mess that people will consider art. Throw in some of the darker navy if you feel like it's too light. You can also add in some purples or lavenders, whatever you believe will match your home best.Don't add yellows or glow in the dark paint until your swirl cloud dries. Sometimes we forget that yellow and blue make green. The only time I've seen green clouds is right before a tornado hits.... and although it was a very exciting sky, it isn't what I'm going for here.
The Moon and Some Stars
Step Six: Wait for all the blues to dry. Have a glass of wine or beer and maybe eat something. It doesnt have to be completely dried over night or anything, just dry to the touch. Pull out your Starry Night image again and decide which stars you would like to paint onto ypur mural. Compare the placement of the stars in the image to the composition of how you want them to be worked into your mural space. Dab yellow dots in the general location of each star you want. Take a step back, and make aure you are happy with their placement. If you want to change anything, nows the time to decide. To make a star, I would paint a yellow circle, using various sizes of fiestaware plates as guides. No, you don't have to buy fiestaware. Any type of circle shaped dishware, used container, or circular object will suffice.Start out just painting a solid circle. You can add shading with oranges if you would like. Then you can add small lines rippling out of the center circle also with yellow. You can vary the shades using white, orange, gold and red tones if you'd like.To paint the moon, add an orange crescent to one of your stars. If you havent added yellow to the large swirl clouds, you should do that now. Also now is a good time to smear glow in the dark paint all over your stars, and throughout the clouds.Before we put away the yellow away, paint ling yellow/white streaks above your hill line in the centerish of the painting. Look at the top image to see what I'm referring to. These are really long streaks that went along my entire wall, including above the village on the right.
Is This a Mountain or Tower?
Step Seven: I have never been certain exactly what the tall dark spire jutting vertically on the left of Starry Night was. *shrugs* To paint it, I used a solid black coat of paint and tried to emulate the general shape to the best of my ability. After it dried, I added small white verticalish lines throughout. If I were to repaint this now, I would probably mix grey and blue and black together and smear it over the entire spire using similar techniques as when I painted the horizontal background clouds, but with vertical curved strokes.
Base Hills
Step Eight: Dab your brush in black and navy paint and make a curved line at the top of your hill line (right below your fresh yellow clouds). Have this line stop toward the right, leaving room for the rows of trees and the sleepy village. After it is mostly dry to the touch, add white streaks for more dimension.
Quiet Sleepy Village
Step Nine: Almost done! Have another glass of wine! The village took the most attention. I started with the same technique with the dark background hill, trying to copy my phone Starry Night image as best as I could. I worked from the top down, layering the background pieces one at a time. Next I painted the bluer hill, with same brush strokes as we have been using.
I sat there really analyzing the lit street lined with rows of tree.s I used some more of my bright yellow and painted a lit bright street and another smaller one slightly below. I took my dark blues out and just painted a bunch of round circles as the tops of the trees. I painted black circles around each trees perimeter, and added some extra black to shade the bottom of each tree. I painted short black trunks connecting each tree to the street. I painted yellow light at the top of each circle to make it seem like the stars were reflected. Semi circles (representing trees) continue over the hill line, where the trees and road would continue into the distance.
Full View of Village
Step Ten: Before painting the houses in the village, and the church, really look again at your google image. Each small building is made up of simple shapes: squares, triangles and rectangles. The windows and doors are the same.
I studied each small building, before trying to just copy the basic shapes in the colors he used. I outlined them in black. If I was unhappy with one, I would paint over it. The church tower was fun because it reached so high into the sky. The windows and doors were just quickly dabbed simple rectangles.
Painted Partial Ceiling Section With Cloud
This was a pretty fun project for me. I completed the entire thing in one day, starting at about 7am and ending around 10pm.
If you are curious about the room at the base of the stairs, you can see it in my Monet Inspired Bathroom Tutorial.
I painted the stairs myself also, using a dark taupe on the steps with white boxes painted on each and I used light yellow and bermuda blue on the step facings. I used a morrocan trellis stencil and white paint over the bermuda blue. Originally, these stairs were all covered in white carpet.
I painted the alternating wall on the staircase a solid quiet rain color from walmart. I decorated with family pictures and painted all the frames white so they would look like they go together. I am not including a tutorial on the actual stairs or other walls today, just the mural.
Anyway, I hope this post inspires you to smear paint on things. I believe that each of us can use a bit of creativity and paint to surround ourselves with whatever kind of beauty and environment we want in our personal worlds/homes. I know this mural is a bit intense and too much for some, but all the people who live in my home (me and my husband and four offspring) feel that it adds just the perfect amount of whimsy and delight to our space.
If you are afraid that you are not talented enough to try something like this, I want to mention that my son's entire sixth grade class had to make their own versions of this painting on a much smaller scale. Some of these kids have more raw talent than others, but all of the students came up with their own beautiful masterpiece. Many were superior to mine. We are always our own worst critics.

You can see this project and others on my personal website:

Suggested materials:

  • 1 Gallon Navy Blue Paint $15  (Walmart)
  • Many Tubes of Acrylic Paint (see step one)  (Walmart)
  • Painters Tape  (Dollar Store)
See all materials

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Join the conversation

  • Wendy
    on Oct 22, 2017

    One of my favorite works of art! You are a real inspiration!
  • Vicky Corey
    on Dec 6, 2017

    WOW! Thank you for telling me about this too! It is beautiful just like the other's you painted! By the way, you aren't a boring old mom. I am a mom of 3 grown young men and there isn't a job in this world more demanding or rewarding! 😊
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