Paint by Numbers – The Starry Night

So it’s taken about 5 to 6 months but we’ve finally finished our Paint by Numbers of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. I think I realised that Vincent Van Gogh was my favourite painter after visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam a couple of years ago and was just blown away by his art and tragic life story.

The Catalyst

Last September, we had planned to go to America to celebrate the hubby’s 30th birthday. We intended to soak up the history of Washington, which I haven’t been to before, and then planned to head to the glitz of New York. That would have been our second time in New York – the first visit being our honeymoon.

Alas, it was not to be. Our flights were cancelled – as were our hotels. Much like everyone else, we spent 2020 indoors in our own home. But I couldn’t let the birthday celebrations go amiss. If we weren’t going to Washington or New York, I was going to somehow bring them to us!

And that is how Paint by Numbers came in. We would have likely visited the Museum of Modern Art (“MOMA”) in New York to view Van Gogh’s The Starry Night in person – I remember being utterly perplexed as to why we didn’t see it displayed in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Turns out it’s displayed at the MOMA. And this was how I managed to bring a little of our New York holiday to our lives in 2020, and some of 2021, as consolation for not being able to actually go there.

We spent almost every weekend or every other weekend painting a little bit of this masterpiece. For those who are unaware, Paint by Numbers is a kit where you have an unpainted canvas with numbered patches and you paint that patch using the corresponding numbered paint pot you are also provided.

The Painting

It was really relaxing and super easy to do. A map of the painting is also provided with the numbers, so you can still see the numbers in case you accidentally paint a section using the wrong numbered paint, which I did a couple of times. I would have preferred smaller brushes, but we managed it ok in the end.

We thought it was a tower in the middle of the painting, but it turned out to be cypress trees. The view of the painting was from Van Gogh’s bedroom window when he stayed at the asylum before he died. Apparently he wasn’t allowed to paint in his room, so Van Gogh painted this view from memory.

I’m also reminded of an episode of Dr Who written by Richard Curtis, whereby characters go back in time and visit the painter. An interesting episode, which lightly touched on the painter’s mental wellbeing, as much as one can for a BBC production. But a beautiful episode, nonetheless.

The Audio 

We started listening to music whilst painting, and it added to the soothing atmosphere. Then we moved onto listening to Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman audio book. I had read a few issues but not all of them, whilst the hubby had read all the issues. It was riveting stuff, such high quality. As I painted and listened to the audio book, some parts were so well done, I actually remembered the images of the comic as I listened. I’m really looking forward to the next part – hopefully there will be more audio books.

Once we finished that, we moved onto listening to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld audio production. I actually met Terry Pratchett many years ago when he did a book signing, but admittedly that was before I had read any of his work. Since then I’ve read Good Omens, and the hubby has read to me many many excerpts of his writing. And I do intend to read more Pratchett, and Gaiman, in the future.

The Therapy

It was really fun seeing the progress we made each weekend. There were so many different shades of blue and it was quite soothing looking over and seeing the painting in progress during the working week.

I’ve written about craft therapy and being in a state of flow before. And I genuinely feel that Paint by Numbers was really helpful in allowing me to be more present and engaged during the darker months of the pandemic. I imagine it’s not too dissimilar from jigsaw puzzling or colouring in, which I’ve been told are also relaxing activities.

I highly recommend Paint by Numbers, be it as craft therapy, as a date night/ afternoon activity, or just to create something nice to hang on the wall. And that is where ours is currently. And I can look up at the painting during the working week, hoping that we will get to visit New York’s MOMA one day and see it for real.

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