Writing from Colville

If you’re not familiar with the work of contemporary Canadian artist Alex Colville, take a minute to search for his work on Google’s image search.  Colville died on July 16 but his 70-year career leaves us with lots to look at.

For more on his life and art, I’d recommend this article from the Toronto Star, but searching Wikipedia and other sources will provide more background if you’d like it.  The focus of this post will be on how Colville’s work can be incorporated into the ESL classroom.

Paintings by Alex Colville, like Truck Stop above, are typically spare in both the painting style and the story being told.  There is usually a bit of mystery — Why does the man have a cast on his arm?  Whose dog is that? — that remains unresolved, which is why so many of his paintings are so compelling.

These paintings make excellent jumping off points for storytelling.  Students can search for Alex Colville to see a number of his paintings (be warned that there is occasional nudity, but nothing too graphic) or provide access to an online gallery of images of his work to students.  From there, students can write or tell stories that answer some of the paintings’ inherent questions.  As a creative exercise, Alex Colville’s paintings provide plenty of inspiration.

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