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Situating the Researcher Self Study: Painting Reflections

Jessica Evangelista
EDTL-601-001 - Cross-Curriculum Teaching Methods
McGill University

My Creative Process by The Sarcastic Dragon (found on Google Images)

To me, paintings are the most important interesting thing in the whole world.
Robin Williams, What Dreams May Come

Reproduction of van Goghs Starry Night, 1999, Medium: Acrylic on Canvas, High School Art Class

Why I chose to tell my story through paintings is simple; I believe I am an artist. I still
have difficulty saying this statement to this day. I kept denying it. Declaring oneself an artist is
difficult since it is loaded with many connotations and assumptions. One might ask the following
for proof; Is art your career?; Is your work in a museum?; Have you ever sold a painting or made
a living selling your work?; Do you have a degree in an artistic field? To each of these questions
my answer would demonstrate that I am not one. If one would ask if I am passionate about art,
then one would receive a very different answer.
14 years ago, I encountered a course that changed me. It was thanks to my Secondary 2
art class that I discovered the pleasure in paintings. I remember taking that class more seriously
than any other classes at that time. I was always fascinated, learning about art techniques and the
greats which explains why my first acrylic painting is a van Gogh reproduction of Starry Night. I
kept all my work in a folder along with all my other drawings and paintings I have made during
the years in high school. As I look through the crumbled up edges I can see the red corrections
made by the teacher here and there, often correcting little details, but most of the time

congratulating me on the hard work with a B for Bien in French. I liked that teacher, I can
remember what she looked like but I cant remember her name because I am horrible with
remembering things like that. She was very knowledgeable about art history but without
overshadowing her appreciation for her students effort. After that class I tried to take as many
other art classes offered as I could. At the end of high school, I wrote in my high school yearbook
that my goal is to be an artist. Some might say that I am not one but I believe I just have to adjust
that title to include ESL teacher.
Why didnt I venture down the artistic path all these years? For various reasons including
that it was useless. I ended up studying different things and held a variety of jobs in and around
Montreal. I always felt that I needed something different without knowing what I really wanted.
Art was always in the back, like a dormant animal. It was thanks to serendipitous events that led
me back to school to study Linguistics in 2008 and to where I am now studying Education. It
might sound clich but I feel that I have come full circle with different realizations. One of them
is thanks to an article I found on the connection between art and languages. Carr (1996) noticed
a link between Gardners spatial and linguistic intelligence by explaining the following:
Art and language have very common aspects. Painters as well as writers are
composers. [] In writing and painting the reader and viewer have to read or see the
whole finished product to understand its message and meaning. One randomly chosen
word from a text does not reflect the story, nor does looking at one single square
centimeter on a canvas show the whole image of the painting. The composers use their
spatial designs to reach a final product, while the viewer can take the position of
interpreting the final product. A difference between reading a story and looking at a

painting is that the painting shows the overall concept in a very brief period of time,
measured in seconds. (p. 11)
I am able to time travel as a student throughout all these years thanks to a medium that collapses
time in a single image. I would claim that this time travel is imperfect since my memories decide
what happened.
For the purpose of this self-study, I will present my interpretations of my 6 paintings.
Each painting is accompanied by a famous quote which guided the process. I also provide
information of the analysis and composition. I invite the viewers to examine each painting before
understanding my perspective. I hope one can first get creative with thinking of various
meanings to draw from them.

Picture of Jessica Evangelista with van Goghs The Starry Night, MoMA Museum NYC, March 21 st 2005

Painting 1: Lunette
My painting carries with it the message of pain. Friday Kahlo

Lunette, 2014, Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Transparency Film, Self-Study Collection

This piece represents a negative experience from when I was in high school. To provide
some context, I attended a French school in the South Shore of Montreal. Since I spoke Italian
and English before I learned French, I always felt uncomfortable speaking French outside of the
classroom. Usually, I was a hard working student who wanted to achieve but I often balanced
this with a less serious side of myself that manifested in various ways. I liked to joke around a lot
and did not care about things that were out of my comfort zone. In classes that I found
challenging, the joking around was combined with sitting as far away from the front as possible
to isolate myself. On several occasions I butted heads with one of my science teachers but it
never went as far as a verbal warning. I was often lost in his class since I could not see his
handwriting on the overhead transparency sheets. At that time, I assumed that he wrote so small
on purpose just to annoy the people in the back. One day, when he was picking students to
answer questions from the transparencies, he pointed at me to provide him a response. I replied
with a smirk that I could not see his writing from where I was sitting due to his small

handwriting. He responded in an arrogant manner: Tout le monde peut voir, je pense que tu as
besoin de lunettes, Jessica. (Everyone can see it, I think you need glasses, Jessica).
I remember being embarrassed since he was right and I was wrong. I was in complete denial that
I needed glasses; after a trip to the optometrist I inevitable got my first pair. He put me in my
place which made me dislike him to the point that I resented the sciences altogether. This
bitterness manifested in mathematics as well and lead me to choose an arts concentration in
Secondary 4 and 5. Reflecting back on this memory, I believe that there was a serious lack of
respect between both of us. The teacher never tried to approach me or call me out on my
previous misbehaviours nor did I try to ask him for help. He had let my passivity become the
norm which lead me to reject his instructions. I fear this might happen to me when I start
Composition Explanations:
Dark tones in the backdrop reveal a negative environment. The main image is an abstract
representation of my 1st pair of glasses which were blue. The glasses are off-centered and
disproportionate, showcasing my feelings of being an outcast at the time. The green and yellow
inside the glasses represent my overall confusion and disgust with math and sciences. The green
inside the glasses also resonates with the color of the chalkboard. There is an actual lens on the
glasses which are cut out transparencies. The writing in French is a part of what the teacher told
me; it also represents my current reflection of the experience: I think. It is written in cursive,
which is a writing style I stopped using after high school. The title of the piece, Lunette, is
missing the s which is grammatically incorrect in French. It is intentional since I struggled with
French grammar in high school. The overall message might seem negative but in essence I am
embracing my unconformity.

Painting 2: Egg
If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice
will be silenced. -Vincent van Gogh

Egg, 2014, Medium: Magazine Collage on Paper along with Acrylic on Canvas, Self-Study Collection

This piece represent the many layers of justifying the value of my artwork. As a kid, I
always loved coloring and making arts and crafts in and out of school. As I mentioned in the
introduction, my Secondary 2 art class made me realize that Ive finally encountered a subject I
felt passionate about. I made several pieces that year that I was proud of. My father was a source
of inspiration for me; he used to paint when he was younger with attention to detail and
precision. When it came time for me to pick a career, I kept hearing from everyone including my
family; forget studying art and being an artist, youll be poor, you will be miserable, etc. These
internalized into choosing a different path.
For a while, there was a time where I had a negative view of school. I saw higher
education as a burden rather than opportunity and decided to do a quick technical program in
CEGEP so I could get a job faster and make money. I worked for several multinational

corporations and realized that those jobs made me feel miserable. When a co-worker encouraged
me to go back to school thats when my ideas started to change. School became a safe haven
from the mundane office work I was accustomed to. Since I went back to school at a later age, I
became much more serious about studying and could see new pathways and opportunities for me
down the line.
Egg shows my appreciation for being true to myself and disregarding negative opinions.
It showcases the importance my university education has been for me these years, a place for me
to express myself and embrace different perspectives. Knowledge has helped me realize that I
want more than an office job. It guided me to where I am now.
Composition Explanations:
Collage. The collage rectangle was made in a Research Methods class. The idea was to
explore what we would incorporate into our Capstone. The centre piece which is the collage is
made up of images that all relate to the inclusiveness of art: diverse colors, symbols of growth,
possibilities, embracing variety, happiness, etc. I also made it a point to disregard numeric
assessment by having 100% with a X on it.
Painting. The details of Egg is explained in a cellphilm where I describe the process of
why I created the painting:
I added The World is Yours at the top part of the painting which is a famous quote from the
movie Scarface. Its meaning in Egg can be interpreted in 2 ways: the first is to showcase
whichever path one takes, its up to them to take ownership over their path: the second is a
negative connotation linked to greed and power. I believe the following quote fits along with it:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely - John Emerich Edward

Painting 3: Ideas & Trees

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously - Noam Chomsky

Ideas & Trees, 2014, Medium: Acrylic on Canvas, Self- Study Collection

This painting is an homage to my bachelors degree in Linguistics. I remember flipping
through the program pamphlet before registering and thinking, Ive figured it out, I want to work
with languages. During a syntax class, we learned all about syntactic trees. This notion boggled
my mind since it was a way to make a visual representation of what happens when one organizes
sentences. It was then that I was able to fully grasp the structures and logical thinking behind
languages. Without realizing it at first, I was involved with learning about math and science
concepts throughout my studies. It made logical thinking fun; it felt like solving a puzzle with
Linguistics will definitely shape the way I will teach ESL. The concepts I learned will
inevitably show up in my everyday teaching. What I loved about my undergrad was a sense
equity in relation to studying various languages. One did not judge languages based on emotions
like one often does; e.g. Mandarin is hard, Italian is romantic, Latin is useless, etc. Instead
languages were regarded as data to be analyzed and questioned. We were able to strip away
connotations and see uniqueness and value in each of them.


Composition Explanations:
Ideas & Trees refers to two specific linguistic terms; semantics and syntax. The
background is tranquil with a blue and white sky which represents tranquillity. There is only a
branch sticking out from a tree that is missing from the frame. This is done on purpose to signify
that I am focusing on a section of linguistic knowledge since I chose to focus on syntax and
semantics for this particular painting. The actual painting is on a smaller canvas than the other
paintings to show this narrow focus of the field of Linguistics.
The branch itself makes references to the syntactic trees we had to perform in various
linguistic classes. The small nodes all link to the branch to show the links to a common structure
for classification. There are several colors within the branch to demonstrate diverse languages
and possibilities of constructions. The leaves contrast with the branch with the green tones and
hints of yellow and blue to signify consistency of the output of sentences.
The weird looking bubble cloud with the ZZZ is a homage quote from Chomskys
Syntactic Structures: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. It demonstrates a grammatical
sentences making no sense semantically. This famous linguistic quote is an example of refuting
behaviorist theory since one can create unique sentences never uttered before. The bubble is
painted in a way as an attempt to visualize the significance behind something that has no
coherent meaning. The background of the bubble is a mix of grey and white to show overall
confusion. The three Zs represent the word sleep from the quote. The green and yellow letters
are linked to the leaves by color since both are actual words of a sentence.


Painting 4: Wavy
Painting is just another way of keeping a diary Pablo Picasso

Wavy, 2014, Medium: Acrylic on Canvas, Self-Study Collection


Wavy is an homage to math and science. This painting is a current response to the
painting Lunette. I am aware of my bias against those fields however, I have come to embrace
them throughout the years. It is thanks to the people I have met, including my partner, that have
shown me the value of these subjects. I can now see the interconnectedness of both math and
science and how, when bridged together, they produce wonders. They are part of our everyday
life whether we pay attention or not, almost everything we see around us has been measured and
built in a way thanks to those field. In nature we can see science, math and art almost in
combination with one another. They are interconnected in a way that is often inexplicable.
Art itself is dependent of those fields. The intensity of the brushstrokes, symmetry, and
perspective all involve calculations in some way. The textures, pigments, colors involve science.
When one restores a painting one has to be aware of the chemicals needed to bring the painting
back to its original look.

Composition Explanations:
The name Wavy being an adjective and not the noun wave is to shows this disconnect
that I have with math and science. The painting style is an impressionist fashion since it
represents the lack of clarity I have with those fields. I compare both to a type of refined art that I
do not fully comprehend. I have conscientiously chosen for them to be unattainable throughout
my life.
The composition of this painting variation of Hokusais, The Great Wave, 1931. I chose
this painting in particular since a classmate pointed out to me that in the Japanese painting, there

are mathematical concepts known as fractals which are infinitely complex patterns that are selfsimilar across different scales (Fractal Foundation). I recommend exploring and making artistic
fractals online at
Similar to the original painting, I kept the mountain in the back being superimposed by
the massive waves with boats going through them. I used a variety of colors mainly variations of
blue and white for the sky, water and mountain to blend different natural elements together. The
boats riding through the waves ties in with my interpretation of resilience in times of trouble. As
a whole it carries this message of mystery of both those subjects. Will I continue riding the wave
or will I one day plunge in and explore?

Painting 5: Student Teacher

Art is never finished, only abandoned Leonardo Da Vinci

Student Teacher, 2014, Medium: Acrylic on Canvas, Self-Study Collection

Analysis & Composition Explanations:
Samaras & Freese (2006) recommend doing a portrait for self-study since it may generate
data useful for teachers professional knowledge (p.167). After reading that section I was
compelled to make one. I noticed that I can paint many things but have a lot of difficulty
depicting myself. Reflecting on the portrait, I do not think it even looks like me. Though I spent
hours and different sessions painting it, I just can seem to get it right. I am tired of trying to paint
that person in the mirror. For those who dont paint, this might seem like a decent image.
Nevertheless, I am disappointed with my work since the artist in me is not satisfied. I have
decided that the artist cannot win this battle since I know I can keep spending hours on it and still
remain unsatisfied. I decided to follow Da Vincis quote Art is never finished, only abandoned
and let it be. I think there is a lot of difficulty in trying to convey who I really am. Its more than
practice or technique. This section at first showcased my frustration but my critical friend
pointed out to go beyond this difficulty. It would be more valuable to dig deeper and find out

who one really is. We sometimes put up barriers to hide our insecurities. Its impossible to expect
perfection at all times; this will be even truer when I will be teaching.
Samaras & Freese (2006) explain that one should questioning their portrait and interpret
what they see from a teaching perspective (p.167-168). My identity is revealed since one can see
a woman with brown hair and brown eyes. But I am more than my appearance in this painting:

I come from a middle class family where I am the first to pursue university studies. My
parents both did technical programs and my grandparents barely have a grade 5 education. I
still cannot believe I am a grad student since I never envisioned myself doing this nor did I

think it was possible.

Before applying to the masters degree, I worked for a community center that helped children
and teens in a struggling neighbourhood. I believe those 2 years taught me more than any
textbook on education ever will. That experience pushed me to go back to school and become

a teacher.
In the image, I look healthy and happy. I question if this will cease to be once I am
overloaded with work as a teacher? I worry that my kind and caring nature will change once I

am faced with 30 different faces 3-5 times a day. Will I be able to keep going or will I fail?
My bias is that I believe students will love learning about languages through creativity. Since
my capstone is heavily focused on art, I worry that I will assume all learners can benefit. I
know art can lead to an inclusive environment but I have no clue how to achieve one
successfully. I think its wrong for me to assume all students will be passionate about art like
I am.

I have to accept that I am a work in progress. Though this painting in my eyes is complete, my
beliefs and experiences arent.

Painting 6: Burning Questions

The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.
-Vincent van Gogh

Burning Questions, 2014, Medium: Acrylic on Canvas and Markers on Cue Cards, Self- Study Collection

What fascinates me about art is the many ideas one can explore at once. Visually
representing abstract thoughts enables multiple interpretations. When I paint, I often enter an
artistic trance where I am immersed in my work; the concept of time disappears and so do other
needs. I am able to express myself in ways that seem infinite to me. Text and speech can only go
so far.
Sometimes I have too many ideas which are hard to put into visual forms. Writing it out
helps make sense of it. Thats what this painting is: a mix of both text and form. I have a lot of
concerns with the upcoming stage in January. Though I have experience working with kids and
teenagers, I feel that there is a lot that I still do not know. The questioning demonstrate that

Composition Explanations:
In Burning Questions, the main focus is the raised hand which is the symbol of asking for
the right to speak, to question, to comment, to share, to answer. The hand echoes the background,
which is a mix of red, orange, yellow symbolizing fire. I tried to make the art look like it is in
flames; in a way I am showing how chaotic and uneasy I feel about the idea of starting stage.
On the right of the canvas, I used cue cards to write questions I have about stage and my
future in education. I usually use cue cards for presentations or for study notes and I thought this
would be appropriate here. I cut up each questions individually since I did not think listing in a
linear fashion would work since the idea was to show them in an unorganized manner. I included
#newteachersquestioneverything for the audience to decide to answer or ask additional questions.
I create a space for them to voice their opinion.

Carr, I. (1996). Visual art and the teaching of English as a second language.
Fractal Foundation. (2013). What Are Fractals. Retrieved from:
Samaras, A. P., & Freese, A. R. (2006). Self-study of teaching practices primer. New York: P.