Writing + Art: Listmania

People make lists for many reasons. A wish list conveys what you want for your birthday, a school supply list ensures that you have the materials you need for school, and a playlist keeps your favorites songs in one place. Each list has a theme.

William James Glackens (American, 1870–1938)
Breezy Day, Tugboats, New York Harbor, ca. 1910
Oil on canvas
26 x 31 3/4 in. (66.04 x 80.65 cm) framed: 34 7/8 × 41 × 3 1/2 in. (88.58 × 104.14 × 8.89 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald B. Abert and Mrs. Barbara Abert Tooman M1974.230
Photo credit: John Nienhuis

Choose a painting to start making your themed list.


Make a mental list of everything you see in the painting. Observe elements like the weather, the season, the time of day, the brushstrokes, and the colors. Identify a theme that unites some of the things you see. For example, with the suggested artwork here, you could write lists with themes such a blue, moving, or vertical.


Make a list of teh things in the painting that fit your theme. Your list can include single words or short phrases. Be descriptive. Give your list a title.


Read your list (but not your title). Can others guess what the theme is? As you read you list aloud, notice how it sounds like poetry!