Van Gogh inspired Starry Night Lunch Box.


Ever look up at the sky and wonder who else, at that same exact moment, might be looking at the very same starry night sky?

My mind went in this direction when I was recently asked to collaborate with a Sudbury, Ontario company that has been producing lunch boxes since 1956. (This post was first published in May, 2022)

But let me start at the beginning…

Dad’s lunch box.

When Dad retired, he gave me his lunch box. I wrote about the lunch box in one of my first posts, “Drawing in a journal – a memory keeper.”

Pablo Picasso had it right when he said that “painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”

As I sketched and painted the lunch box, so many memories came flooding back...

...the lunch box on the counter at the end of each shift,

...the smell of the wood chips from the paper mill where he worked lingering in the lunch box,

...the stickers from the Chiquita bananas that made their way to the exterior of the lunch box.

I know the importance of keeping sketchbooks particularly of places visited, for example. These sketches do sharpen remembrances of the past.

The urban sketcher, for example, has time to absorb all the sights, the sounds, the smells, and remember them much more clearly while observing people and places during a sketching session.

The same happened to me while I sketched and painted Dad's lunch box.

two L.May Manufacturing lunch boxes 65 years apart
New L. May Lunch Box on left and Dad's 1956 lunch box on right. 65 years difference between the two.

The Miner’s Lunchbox.

The Sudbury company had a rebirth of sorts when Catherine Langin, the lunch box inventor's daughter and owner of L. May Metal Fabricators Ltd., appeared on Dragon’s Den hoping to transition the family business into a global brand. Arlene Dickinson loved the story. “Sometimes a brand is more than the bottom line.” This iconic Canadian product was pitched as a great opportunity to “bring the company to the next level.” The pitch was so compelling that Brett Wilson, investment banker, philanthropist, author, offered to invest in the company.

Mr. May designed the lunch box in 1956, and that is the same year that my dad bought his lunch box. As stated on the website, almost all of INCO’s workers carried that lunchbox to and from work for their entire mining careers.

More than two million L. May Miner’s Lunch Boxes have been sold around the world since 1956.

My sketch and story of dad’s lunch box was shared on the company’s social media sites. When the company contacted me to paint an identical lunch box as the one dad had carried around all his working life, I was all in!

Painting challenges.

I have been asked several questions by different artists so I thought I would add a few details on the challenges I faced.

This was the first time I painted on metal. I found a product that was supposed to work to prime the metal surface for the paint. It wasn’t great. I would never use it again for this purpose. However, after several layers followed by two coats of the old standby -  gesso, I was able to begin the fun part.

The other challenge was to take into account all the moving parts…that is the hinges and the clasps. I left the handle in its original state as well as some of the other metal parts. The paint did not adhere very well to any moving parts.

This lunch box now becomes a decorative item rather than a functional one. It can still be used to store mementos and any other precious objects but will not stand up well to everyday use as it was originally intended.

Starry Night Lunch Box Idea.

When I was approached to paint the lunch box, I was sent a few ideas from Pinterest. The lunch box references had flowers painted or collaged on them.

ornaments and lunch box
Decorative lunch box with painted ornaments - a giveaway collaboration between artist and manufacturer.

Last year I saw the interactive Van Gogh exhibit here in Ottawa. I had always wanted to try his impressionistic technique.

I often examine the night sky and wonder who else is looking up to the stars. And from there my mind went to Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Since I knew that this was going to be a Mother’s Day giveaway, as I painted, I thought of Ukrainian mothers who looked to the sky and saw danger rather beauty. Perhaps women thought of their sons, daughters, husbands who were fighting under these dark, ominous starry skies.

Thoughts of a starry night.

But then I remembered a nursery song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, one of the first songs mothers sing to their babies. And I thought about the magical sky we see as children – all the constellations that light up the night sky, beautiful aurora borealis, and wishing upon a falling star…

Later in life, the sky of course becomes the scene of many romantic evenings: dinner by the stars, skinny dipping in a moonlit lake, evening concerts, etc.

And so, those were the images that inspired this Starry Night Lunch Box created for L.May Manufacturing this Mother’s Day.

The contest winner has been notified and we are waiting to receive confirmation before mailing the prize.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone celebrating this holiday.

tulips by Louise's ARTiculations


10 Responses

    • The story behind any art is what makes the art more appealing to me anyway and that is the reason I follow many bloggers such as yourself. Thank you for leaving me a message Catherine. I appreciate it very much!

  • Fantastic Van Gogh inspired artwork you’ve painted on this Miner’s Lunchbox, Louise, and such an honor to be contacted by the company!!!

    • I was very happy to be asked to paint this meaningful item that holds so many memories for those of us whose fathers worked in the mines or the paper mills of Northern Ontario. Thanks Phil for stopping by!

    • It is the one and only. I did wonder though why the company wasn’t adding patterns or illustrations to their lunch boxes. I imagine it might have to do with cost/ profit. Having said that, the lunch boxes now come in a variety of very attractive colours which was not the case when dad bought his lunch box in 1956. Have an awesome week Graham!

    • I think as we age, we look back to all those memories from our childhood and linger over them much more than when we were younger. They seem to become sharper with time. It’s an odd thing and certainly must have to do with the nostalgia and the fondness that are brought to mind by a simple object such as a lunch box! Thanks Vivienne.

  • What a great post Louise, reading the story of the beginning of this lunch box and including your dad’s part in it also. I nearly wrote listened rather than read as I can hear your voice in these lines. I know the winner will be rapt to receive this box, please let us know who he/she was. Happy Mother’s Day ❤️

    • I can still hear your voice as well when I read your comments. Hopefully we will meet up again some day soon! The winner must contact the company as they are the ones who organized this contest. I look forward to hearing from that person as well. Thank you for stopping by! ?

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