Those of you who know me pretty well already know that I am an English major–two degrees in English I love it so much. I’m clearly not an art major, which is one reason why I respect to a great degree the knowledge and beautiful artistry of those of you who have studied art your entire lives.
I have to say, though, that I’ve always loved the process of creating art and of learning new things, and I’ve also included both art and music in the teaching of literature and writing in my classroom. I included as many of the arts as I could because I think they’re all related–and maybe sometime we can have coffee or tea or a glass of wine, and I can tell you how and why I think they’re all related.
This pandemic year presented me with an interesting opportunity. I received a call from a former student living in Maryland who said he was looking for a writing teacher to work with his daughter since they were teaching and learning at home, and his daughter–who is ten–loves to write. My student asked if I would work with her this school year. I was intrigued. I really like kids, and I miss working with them, so I said “yes.”
My student–Ashley is her name–is really remarkably bright. Her grandmother is an artist, her mother is a musician, and Ashley plays piano beautifully, and she also composes music. I’ve heard her play. She is amazing. Pretty good writer, too, for a ten-year-old.
You’re probably wondering why–if this is my blog post–I’ve placed a photo
of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” at the top of this page. It’s because “Starry Night” is our latest writing assignment. I say “our” because when I assign a written piece to Ashley, I write, too. “Starry Night” is one of Ashley’s favorite paintings, so for the last week or so (I meet with her on Zoom twice a week for about 30 minutes each time), we’ve been writing about our personal responses to the Van Gogh painting. This week we shared what we wrote and talked about how each sharing was different from the others (her mother joins us, too, in the reading and writing). It was interesting and fun. We decided that we would stay with our responses to the painting one more time, BUT the second sharing had to be different from the first. The first time I wrote about what I see as the sadness and turmoil in the painting, Ashley wrote about color and movement, and her mother wrote about losing herself as she moved into a closer study of the painting.
My written contribution this time is a poem–and I tried to write it as a painter. I don’t share my poems very often, but I’ll share this one because I think you’ll “get it.”
But that’s just my opinion. Paint beautiful things.
An Artist’s Choices
Cobalt, Cerulean, Quinacridone Gold
Van Gogh’s favorite colors are a joy to behold.
Aureolin, Alizarin, Titanium White
Are all colors he uses to capture the night.
The mountains he covers in Ultramarine.
The lower hills–Cobalt–complete the scene.
The cedar that fills the left of the view
Is painted in Sepia, Turquoise, deep blue.
The stars and the moon, they first catch the eye.
The swirls and the whites make us wonder why
He chose so much movement and so much light
Perhaps the night sky needed more bright.
The point of it all, or so it seems
Is to capture the night sky in yellow and creams
And blues and purples and all colors true
Which show to the viewer night’s beautiful view.