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The Starry Canal

The Starry Canal
oil on canvas, gallery wrapped
12x16 inches / 30.5x40.5 cm

Today is Vincent Van Gogh's Birthday.  He is in my top 5 favourite painters, but not for the reasons one would think.  Not because I am 'supposed to' or he's 'all the rage'. But because his starry night changed my little mind forever.

When I was in Grade 4, my teacher Miss Woodman, gave us an assignment to color famous paintings from a colorless photocopied version. We were encouraged to colour it as close as possible, but didn't have to. We were free to express our interpretation.

Now I must explain something before I go any further.  I grew up in a small town that under-appreciated Art and over-appreciated Crafts. They did not encourage artistic talent. I had not been pre-exposed to Old Master paintings and was only aware of the art that happened in my home. My Mom was the original Scrapbooker and she is a VERY creative woman. My Dad made (and still makes) amazing things with wood, the way he touches the wood during a project has left  me smiling and speechless. And they encouraged me to be just as creative and more. But I was always under the impression that it had to be practical. Not because they told me that, but more of a community impression.

So when I was handed a colourless Starry Night by Van Gogh and shown the real one for reference, something in my heart set on fire. (even now I am getting choked up at the thought of it, a little more than I expected actually).  I didn't know, but that changed me so deeply.  I am sure it was 'random' that I got that one, and perhaps if I had received a different one, I would feel this way about that one. But I didn't. I was handed Van Gogh.  And I colored the crap out of that thing!

It was the first time I realized there was Art. Someone made a picture that moved people and inspired them.  I wanted to do that!  I told my parents I wanted to be an Artist when I grew up and requested paint by numbers for Christmas (which I never finished but still remember the smell of).

After Grade 6 there were no more art classes in my school.  I eventually felt it wasn't practical to be an Artist, art was a nice hobby so I only did a bit of sketching and 'useful' projects. This makes me sad every time I think of how much further I would be if I had not let myself believe that and just found a way to get an art education. I even applied to college for Interior Design just so I could justify drawing. Thankfully I didn't get accepted.

But here I am!  I am an Artist! And I feel more complete in the last 10 yrs because of it. I found myself in that moment of my first painting, I felt that same excitement and sense of purpose that had been lit so many years before, and I still do.  Damn here I am all teary eyed again.

So Marion Woodman, if you are out there, Thank you!  I know you didn't know where your influence would lead for any of us, but your simple assignment shaped my very being.

How awe inspiring it is to realize all the things set in motion that affect our lives!

Happy Birthday Vincent!