you're reading...
Art, Challenges, Drawing a Painting

Take 1 of 13 – A Starry Night, Van Gogh

Immediately after publishing the last post describing the challenge I had decided to take on, I felt dread. I honestly did not believe I could pull this off, and I felt a tad foolish for talking about it so publicly and making such a formal announcement as that only leads to disappointment. It’s bad enough disappointing yourself, but disappointing others with you? That’s just stupid.

What were you thinking, Suad?!

So I sat there, with a blank sheet of paper, my pencils, the elected paintings, my laptop, my coffee and I was all set to go. I picked out Vincent Van Gogh’s A Starry Night for my first drawing. I was at once stuck. I didn’t know how to go about doing this at all. I looked at the painting, in all its glory. The colors, the shading, the swirls, the transitions, the way it was all made to look like one continuous movement. Beautiful continuous waves of color and shades.

All I had on me were a piece of paper and an HB 2 pencil. That’s it. But I went ahead and gave it a shot anyway. I started by drawing out the shapes, always an easy place to start, right?


Once I had a general outline of the painting, I was stuck yet again. At this point all I could think was, What the hell did I just get myself into? I was starting to feel overwhelmed, there was no way I could make this look even moderately good. I tried to stop focusing on the fact that it needed to look exactly the same. I began to reason with myself:

1. Suad, you’re no Van Gogh, no matter how this turns out, you can never compare it to the actual painting.

2. This is supposed to be an interpretation of the painting, so accuracy should not play a big factor in how the drawing turns out. Might as well give it your own touch.

3. You are literally using just the pencil, so there’s only so much you can do.

4. You can do it! Stop whinging and go for it!

With all of that being said, I took a deep breath, a long break, got a little feedback from my sisters, and broke out of that box, expanded my mind and let my imagination and creativity – if you want to call it that – do its thing.

The end result? See for yourself.


What it first looked like when I started to panic

Working on the drawing after my moment of woosa.

Working on the drawing after my moment of woosa

Several alterations later...

Several alterations later…

The final version: my adaptation of Van Gogh's "A Starry Night"

The final version: my interpretation of Van Gogh’s “A Starry Night”

I can’t say I am entirely pleased with how it turned out, but considering the mental process I was going through, I say it came out better than I expected.

I realize picking a Van Gogh as my warm-up piece was not the brightest idea, but a good counter-argument to that is that I have chosen thirteen of the most brilliant paintings out there. They are all mostly on par, so I was bound to go through that regardless.

I would love to hear what everyone thinks of this first piece. Both positive and negative feedback is welcome. I can take it. However, please make any and all criticism constructive, otherwise, I will hunt you down and shoot you. Just sayin’. Not really. But seriously, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


About smshamma

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle, but if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." - Marilyn Monroe


25 thoughts on “Take 1 of 13 – A Starry Night, Van Gogh

  1. I love it! Good job, you. I think it looks great.

    Posted by Andrea Anastasiou | April 5, 2013, 20:41
    • Thanks Andrea!! I had a bit of a hard time with this one, but I think a lot of it had to do with a fact that I haven’t done this in ages. Glad you like it :)

      Posted by smshamma | April 5, 2013, 20:53
  2. I do :-) How long did it take you to draw?

    Posted by Andrea Anastasiou | April 5, 2013, 21:22
  3. I immediately sent your sketch out to select friends who I knew would be intrigued. Some of them will send their thoughts soon and I’ll leave them in your comments later. A few just did and here is what they had to say:

    “Wow! That’s a lovely drawing! Has a definite likeness to the original. Has she thought of coloring it with colored pencils or watercolors? Very lovely in graphite too. The sheen from the graphite gives it a sparkle of its own. It really is lovely :)” – Marcela Correa, from United Kingdom

    ” Well done! It’s not a simple reproduction, It’s something personal. I like it. It’s her vision of the painting.” – Valeria Festinese, from Italy

    “Yeah, I like it, an interesting interpretation, rather than an exact copy. The elements appear to be flowing in a more pronounced way. I especially like the sharp contours, the objects pop out in a clear way. I like it, good work :)” – Rashid Al Marri, from United States

    I’ll save my thoughts on the sketch for last. Your first curious sketch and this delightful post with the scrapbook like photos makes it feel like a stroll on the streets of Paris passing by artists along a boulevard. Seeing your sketch develop is like a daydream for art majors. What is so palpable is that your whole post is so sincere, so enthusiastic, about your sketching these bright stars of art.

    As always your winsome humility shines a light right back at us all. If you could wouldn’t you want to somehow meet these artists when they didn’t yet think of themselves as legends? You’ve got ambition and I have a hunch you would have fit right in with them. Just imagine you could be back in Paris right when Van Gogh was starting and chit chat with him about a starry night.

    I don’t mean to up the ante by saying it but this sketch has become another treasure for Just Sayin’, and you the artist have invited us into the parlor for an auspicious occasion. I hope you’ll broadcast all the 12 curiosities because all of us will be there to tune in at a moment’s notice. I don’t know if you would agree but in a way you seem to have a bit of the icon Gertrude Stein in you: an American will to do the right thing, practical, no-nonsense, possessed with a nose for talent, kind, patient. Something like the Stein evoked by Ernest Hemingway in his memoir A Moveable Feast.

    You’ve transferred a little something of your spirit into this sketch. That’s why it wouldn’t have worked if you tried to be accurate. There’s a part of you, the depth with which you see things, now etched, defined and delicately infused with the landscape of Starry Night. Your touches have redrawn the viewers’ gaze and I notice other things start to surface that were buried in Van Gogh’s colors. You give objects their own weight with pencil fillings and that gives them character. Color gave depth to the night but you’ve given it character now. Did you ever read and see the illustrations of author Chris Van Allsburg in the children’s books Jumanji or The Garden of Abdul Gasazi? Yours reminds me of Allsburg’s fantastic black and white illustrations. I’m sure you saw them in books when you were younger.

    I’m weary of art that is tailored for “everybody” — which means, nobody in particular. You didn’t give your interpretation a title so if I may I’ll just say “A Curious Case of Starry Night” is for me, in particular, and that’s just fine with moi. It transports me beyond the feeling of loss. A dear person who I knew, admired and read for years passed away yesterday in a struggle with cancer.

    Thank you for beginning this journey Suad.

    Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 00:02
  4. Here’s another thought on your sketch from a friend of mine:

    “It is good – recognizable but still very much her own. It’s a creative rendition. Quilt-like. Josh (my husband) says, if she were to add more line – like continue the trapezoidal shapes from the bottom left on the other side- it would add more depth to the piece.” – Erin Dixon, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 06:35
  5. And another thought from a different friend of mine:

    “I like it! Doing it as pencil sketch gave it different beautiful feeling. The one who has done it is for sure very talented.. I luv it❤” – Enam Al Hanach, from South Korea

    Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 06:40
  6. Another thought on your sketch from a different friend:

    “My first impression of her sketch is that ‘her original painting skill/style must be a realist, but she’s trying to do surrealist painting,’ I said that to myself because I saw her attention on putting the details on the small houses and the fire/tower perks. So I say to her, ‘keep up the good work, stick to your style.’ If she’s going for a realistic feel, try to look at the works of Meredith’s (my wife) aunt Kali Marquardt who is an artist living in Italy.” – Ismail Fahmi, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 06:47
  7. Another friend just sent this in about your sketch:

    “The drawing is very detailed and looks very much like the painting. Take the moon out of the picture and it could be the dawn breaking way of the night.. its like a story book of good and evil. This girl is a very talented friend.” – Sandra Knapton, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 06:56
    • Sandra just wanted to add more to her first comment:

      “I was almost asleep when I got your message so it came at the perfect time. My mind was clear and my heart open. I hope it gives her encouragement to continue drawing. It was really lovely and I will fall back asleep with the penciled image lighting my dreams. It gives me thoughts of fireflies & fairies to carry me there. The sketch has made for a good night already.” – Sandra Knapton, from United States

      Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 07:06
      • Thank you Ballad, it really is great to hear all this feedback. I appreciate the effort you’re putting into this, and I do hope you tell each and every one of them that I am very grateful for the time they’re taking to respond.

        Posted by smshamma | April 6, 2013, 17:39
  8. I just received a few more comments from three other friends about the sketch so I’ll group them together:

    “Oh wow, that’s really great! Tell her to continue, she has a lot of talent! :)” – Katherine Bettinghaus, from United States

    “The sketch is incredible mashAllah! The artist is very very talented! That’s one of my favourite Van Gogh pieces and the details she brought to it are incredible!” – Haif Abdulla, from France

    “It’s really impressive, I love the fact that she brought relevance to the sketch.” – Mohammed Al Mubarak, from UAE

    A few more still to come and I’ll be sure to convey your heartfelt thanks to them all :)

    Posted by Ballad | April 6, 2013, 17:51
    • This is so great. I hope you’re not keeping the negative comments from me haha :)

      Posted by smshamma | April 7, 2013, 18:06
      • Oh I would never do a thing like that … not after you issued the ‘hunt you down and shoot you’ proclamation like Elmer Fudd ;-) Am glad you’re getting comments like these and you deserve them :)

        Posted by Ballad | April 8, 2013, 07:40
  9. “Oh wow.. thislooks really good! I actually showed it to my dad’s since he’s an artist and he said the sketch looks good overall, but in comparison to the Van Gogh, the sketch can’t capture the stroke (which is what Van Gogh is famous for, according to my dad) … I’ve no idea about that but all in all I think the sketch is just great!” – Shereen Noorizan, from Malaysia

    Posted by Ballad | April 8, 2013, 07:21
  10. Here’s another thought from two friends:

    “Her pencil sketch seems amazing to both of us. However, as you well know, we are not art critics but encourage her to keep making and creating all the same. Carolyn (my wife) does see that this is indeed reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg.” – John and Carolyn Hackworth, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 8, 2013, 07:25
  11. And another thought from a friend on both your sketches so I’ll leave it in both posts:

    “Masha’Allah, I thought the sketch was remarkably good! In fact, in some ways I liked it more than the original as the black and white rendering was more dramatic.” – Meredith Cox, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 8, 2013, 07:30
  12. Here’s a terrific comment on your sketch from a good friend:

    “That is really great! I have a weird version of the painting done on a metal canvas and a canvas copy of the original. I like the weird one because its a modern look at a classic- I see hers the same way! Very cool to take something iconic and make it your own. The black and whites (or single color) drawings and outlines are really in fashion in the United States- especially in white or matching color frames- she’s onto something and could probably sell these on a site like etsy. I definitely think it’s right to encourage her!! I think it’s really cool (and I think others would completely agree!)” – Tearsa Storms, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 8, 2013, 08:35
  13. This comment is from my friend after she saw the Starry Night sketch:

    “This sketch is really beautiful. It captures the movement and the beauty of the original, re-interpreting it in a modern way. I’ve got to say the artist clearly has vision and talent, and I hope she continues to create!” – Pam Smith, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 9, 2013, 08:00
  14. Wow This is such a great piece of artwork! it’s really excellent :) Good use of tone, and technique!

    Could you checkout my fashion blog and sketches, also my about me page?
    I would really appreciate it
    remember to leave a comment too

    Posted by isimissstyle | April 12, 2013, 21:00
  15. My friend decided to break up her comments for each piece so here’s her comment for this sketch:

    “I have to say I’m not an expert in Art. I love it, that’s true, but I am not sure I am the most suitable person to critique someone else’s work. I will do my best. I think the drawings are good.

    With regards to the Van Gogh one, I think it is really hard for a sketch in pencil to capture the sense of movement that Van Gogh always portrayed in his drawings. However, the painter of this drawing managed to do it.” – Alicia Gonzalez, from UAE

    Posted by Ballad | April 14, 2013, 09:05
  16. Here are petite impressions from a person who I met on a flight to Los Angeles over a year ago and have been in touch with off and on:

    “This sketch is like the artist was on a cross country train journey in Italy and captured a kind of eternal Aurora Borealis under Italian skies. I wonder if she’s been to Italy or not but her impression captures a quality of land, sky and a fantastical starry phenomena that is very much Italian at heart.” – Laura, from United States

    Posted by Ballad | April 17, 2013, 21:20
  17. I can understand why doing this particular Van Gogh would be challenging . Even though it looks simple , it is anything but. You did a great job.

    Posted by Zona Elope | May 9, 2013, 19:12

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,097 other followers



My Goodreads


  • RT @Skullcat: These children can no longer know the fear of monsters in their closet or under their bed and how a parent can soothe them an… 1 day ago
  • RT @jk_rowling: The screams reverberating around the world are coming from terrified children in cages. What you’re saying here is that you… 1 day ago
  • RT @chrislhayes: Here's what is happening: the Trump administration took 2500 kids as hostages and now congress is negotiating the ransom. 1 day ago
%d bloggers like this: