The world is your oyster!: Gaga for Van Gogh        

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gaga for Van Gogh

Every Tuesday, I walk across Brigham Square and into the JKB, straight up to room 3115 for my elementary school art class. We do all kinds of things in this room, everything from shading practices and still-lifes to watercolors. It is a three-hour art class and, usually, we spend about an hour working on our project for that week. The rest of the time is spent trying to understand the assignment.

My teacher, Sister Bradford, is a lovely lady with straight blonde hair that she wears tied up in a sparkly black scrunchie. Every week, she walks around the class on 3-inch platform shoes and hands out a packet, that describes in all caps how we are to complete that week's assignment. It stresses me out a little. I know it is not the tone that she wants to take, because in real life, Sister Bradford is very sweet and soft-spoken. I just wish I had an explanation for her packets.

This week, a man opened the door for me as I walked in the JKB. I thanked him and then went upstairs. He went upstairs. I walked down the hall, and so did he. Finally, I walked into my classroom, and he walked in right behind me, his black boots clicking with each step.

As it turns out, Sister Bradford couldn't make it to class this week and had a guest artist come in in her place. He followed me to our classroom, waltzed in with his paint brushes and his gouache, and in a matter of minutes, he had the entire class in the palm of his hand.

I don't know exactly how he did it. I put down my bags, left for a few minutes to get a snack from the vending machine, and when I came back, the class was all huddled around a table where the substitute was. He had a palette with three different purples in it, and he had just started demonstrating how to use watercolors. The class was captivated! Not a sound was made as he lightly stroked the paper with his brush. Magically, the watercolors did exactly what he wanted.

We watched as our substitute leaned back, adjusted his beret, and looked over his work with thoughtful eyes. "You see," he said, "It's not so hard. I just kind of lightly tickled the page."

"You tickled it good!" said one of the girls. Our substitute smiled and started swirling his brush in the water, ducking his head. "You can do it, too," he said.

His brush swept over the paper and everyone shuffled forward to try and see better. As we watched, a collection of sighs, oohs, and whispered compliments bubbled up from everywhere in the crowd. "Can you come back when we have to learn ceramics?" several people asked. "That looks amazing!" "I wish I was this good of an artist."

It was as if Van Gogh himself had entered our classroom and taken over. The girls were ecstatic to have such a competent teacher. They unabashedly lavished compliments on him, and I don't think he was really sure what to do with all of them.

Van Gogh took some questions, did a little more by way of a demonstration, and then sent us back to our seats to work on our watercolors there. He walked around, offering advice and encouragement and answering whatever questions people still had.

His presence had a soothing effect on our usually tense class. We chatted about our weekend plans. We complimented one another's artwork. We freely asked whatever questions came to mind.

Van Gogh came over to my table and looked down at my nearly-finished rose. "Wow," he said. "Did you do all this in one class period?" I had. "Do you think I need to do anything else on it?" I asked. "Let's take the tape off," he suggested. I beamed. I pulled the tape off and showed him.

"That turned out really nice!" he said. "I like how you did that. Doesn't that look cool, with the complementary colors? Good work!"

Never have I felt like such a competent artist as I did then. I took my watercolor home and hung it on the fridge :)

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