Cloud Watching

Today on the school program tour I led at the Winnipeg Art Gallery we looked at the connections between literature and art. In the Group of Seven Exhibition Hall I read the children the book It Looked Like Spilt Milk. 

Published in 1988 it is a classic about cloud watching. None of the children on my tour today had heard the story, nor had the majority of them ever tried cloud watching. The text of the book is simple. On each page it repeats itself. 

It looked like a flower, but it wasn’t a flower……..

It looked like a rabbit but it wasn’t a rabbit……….

The book follows this pattern for a whole series of images and then on the last page you find out that the shapes you have been seeing are actually a cloud moving and changing to form different silhouettes. The children at the art gallery today easily keyed into the book’s pattern and began reading along with me. 

Clouds, Lake Superior- by Lawren Harris 1923

The whole time we were reading the book we were sitting in front of Lawren Harris’ painting Clouds- Lake Superior. When the story was finished I asked the kids to turn around and look at Harris’ painting.  I asked them what the cloud in the painting reminded them of?  I received all kinds of interesting answers mountains, a sea-gull, a sea shell, waves, a unicorn’s horn, a screw, a crescent moon and a fluffy croissant. I encouraged the children to do some outdoor cloud watching of their own in the future to see what shapes they could find in the clouds in the Winnipeg sky. I remember many happy times as a child lying on my back in the grass and looking for shapes and stories in the clouds. It was even more fun to cloud watch with a friend, sibling or cousin because they would find pictures in the clouds I hadn’t imagined; but could easily see when they pointed them out. 

Dr. Melissa Lem, a Toronto family physician in an interview on the David Suzuki Foundation website says cloud watching is a great way to get kids to replace screen time with green time. 

I’ve given my grandson the French version of Eric Carle’s book Little Cloud. It is a charming story about a cloud changing into all kinds of shapes. The book ends with the Little Cloud joining together with his cloud friends to make rain.  I’m hoping my grandson will want to be a cloud watcher when he gets a little older. 

And in case you think cloud watching is just for kids check out the video Instant Relaxation where a therapist recommends cloud watching as a way for adults to relax and get rid of stress. 

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Two Diverse Members of the Group of Seven

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Filed under Art, Books, Childhood, Education

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