Coloring inside the lines with new shades of brown crayons
Black art teachers influence support for black artists
Vincent van Gogh was one of the first artists I remember learning about in elementary school. The explanation regarding his chopped left ear was also the first time I heard a story that made me question artists’ mental health. I thought about him recently while watching VH1’s “Family Hustle.” One of rapper T.I.’s youngest sons King asked his little brother who is his favorite artist. Major, being snarky as usual, said van Gogh’s name. King pondered on it for a minute and said he didn’t know who that was. When Major explained the joke to him, knowing full well King was asking about a rap artist, it was yet another reason I agree with Tip about King staying in school. Although I can’t say van Gogh influenced me in any way, shape or form as an adult, I think fondly of the painter because I recall the teacher who taught me about him.
She also came to mind last week when I read about Crayola’s new “24 colors of the world” crayons. My skin color is somewhere between Deep Golden and Extra Deep Golden, but my art teacher — a black woman — long ago showed me how to use traditional crayons to create my actual complexion with a mix of several colors. In her class, I learned about van Gogh and making papier-mâché dogs. But I also was introduced to the kinds of artists that were featured in various episodes of “The Cosby Show,” including that main painting — “Funeral Procession” by Ellis Wilson. I admired colorful art I could relate to, like Marvin Gaye’s cover of the “I Want You” album — “The Sugar Shack” painting from Ernie Barnes. It was impossible for me to not see how these artists colored black people in their own work. I took notes.