Monday, September 5, 2011

Starry, Starry Night...

My friend recently showed me her new "Samsung" cell phone with all its features. Suddenly, a photo of Vincent Van Gogh's painting, "Starry Nights", popped up on her screen. I noticed it immediately as it brought back a few memories.

I remember viewing my first real Van Gogh work at an art gallery. It was one of his landscapes, a farm painting. I didn't always appreciate this particular artist, until I saw one of his pieces close up. The lines and strokes were fantastic and intricate. When viewed from a short distance away, the combined brush strokes created a masterpiece.

While teaching in later years, I had the idea that it wouldn't hurt to expose 4 and 5 year olds to more sophisticated levels of art, poetry and music. I thought, why not broaden their awareness during the "formative years" when the bulk of their learning as humans takes place? I was fortunate to be able to acquire a few childrens' art books, stories and calendar reproductions during one of my own gallery visits. These helped me with my presentations. It was great to have some resources to which these very young children could relate.

I taught them a little about a number of artists, but they seemed particularly interested in Vincent Van Gogh. Perhaps it was the flow of the name which they seemed to enjoy repeating over and over. "Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Van Gogh."  When we looked at a picture of his sunflowers they tried to reproduce it, as a group, in mural form. I had pre-sketched the blooms and it became a paint by numbers type exercise which gave them some idea as to the intricacies of his work. When they each wanted to create their own "Van Gogh", I gave them an simple outline of "Starry Nights" and some pastels.  Many did a wonderful job combining the blues and golds in their pictures.

Some time later, I remember reading the class a story. It was about a group of children going on a field trip to a farm. The illustrations were simple, appealing and cartoon like. When I turned a page, one of my students, Alex, piped up saying, "That picture's just like starry nights". This was one of my fondest teaching memories. Alex, had made a connection. After all, that's what learning is all about, making connections. He noted that one of the illustrations had the stars and swirls in the sky very similar in style to Van Gogh's "Starry Nights". Fantastic! I hadn't even realized it myself.

Since that time, I have become more observant. Thanks to Alex, I have been seeing "Starry Nights" everywhere...on dishes, on note cards, on jewellery, on a poster advertising the movie "Midnight in Paris", on my friend's new phone and on youtube.

Thanks to Don McLean, who wrote this haunting song, "Starry, Starry, Night" about a creative, sad, yet important life.

*** Added Comments  - I always print my blog and insert the pages into a three ring binder. As I did that this evening, I noticed that the cover of my 2011 blog binder has on it a rather lovely reproduction of "Starry Night." I had forgotten that.  Also, feel free to ignore or click off the ad for "Chinese lady for dating" that appears when viewing the youtube selection. That is of course, unless you are interested.

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