Friendship, Gratitude

Aaliyah Annie

Six years ago, when I was a Middle School Principal, I bought this ink drawing at a silent auction run by my school in Beijing. I didn’t know the artist but knew that she went to our Elementary School. I immediately loved her work.

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The following year, I was visiting a second-grade classroom when I noticed the name “Aaliyah” printed on one of the student’s notebooks. “Are you Aaliyah Annie?” I asked hopefully. At first, Aaliyah shook her head ‘no.’ She then shyly said that her mother sometimes called her that.

From that day forward, I have had the distinct privilege to get to know this incredible student and artist. At the beginning of third grade, Aaliyah created this painting for our school’s 20th-anniversary.


Below is a picture of Aaliyah and me at that celebration.


At the end of third grade, Aaliyah painted this piece as a farewell present for me. It is proudly displayed in our family room.



Although we now live continents apart, I’ve been delighted to keep in touch with Aaliyah and her family. Today, Richard and I met Aaliyah and her mother, Anna, in Vancouver. As always happens with good friends, there was not one second of lull in our conversation.


Aaliyah (who has just completed seventh grade) surprised me with another beautiful piece of her art — the fifth in my collection! I immediately found the perfect place for it in our home.


Aaliyah is not only an extraordinary artist. She is a bright, well-rounded student with exceptional integrity.

Richard and I had just been discussing how one small action can have huge impact on our lives. If I hadn’t successfully bid on Aaliyah’s artwork those six years ago, I might never have come to know this remarkable young woman and her incredible family. I am very grateful that I did.

69 thoughts on “Aaliyah Annie”

  1. What a lovely opportunity to re-connect with Aaliyah, Donna. So wonderful that you still had so much to talk about – and lucky you to have a collection of art that you love that also encourages this lovely young woman. Thanks for sharing the story behind the paintings x


    1. Hi, Leanne – Aaliyah and her mother are such warm, genuine people that there was never an awkward silence or lack of words. Quite the opposite – I wish that we had more time together as there was so much more that I would have liked to have asked them!


  2. Hey Donna! What a great story AND a great reminder to consider that each of of our actions, no matter how small, can ripple out in ways that we can never know. May we all make the most of them. And how great that you instinctually made the choice to bid on the print and that started the chain of events to begin with. May we all follow that same guidance. ~Kathy


  3. I love that 20th anniversary picture, I can see why you were so taken with Aaliyah’s pictures. A piece of original art by someone special is worth far more than the pieces collectors buy for millions of pounds!


  4. This post gave me goosebumps from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. Yes, one loving action can lead to a lifetime of joy for the giver and the recipient. In this case, you and Aaliyah are both giver and recipient of acceptance, appreciation, art-love, and friendship. And yes, Aaliyah’s art is exceptional


  5. A great story, Donna. This young lady clearly demonstrated her creative talents at a very young age. As her work continues to mature, she will be a force in the art world … and you saw it at the very beginning!


  6. Difficult to believe Aaliyah was only in Grade 1 and 2 when she created her first drawings (likely even before then). Her art has such depth, and that is on a computer screen. I agree how one small action can have a huge impact in our lives and create a ripple effect. I can’t believe how much Aaliyah looks like a young adult now. I also see the cast. There is likely a story behind that:) Thank you for sharing a feel good part of life, Donna:)


    1. Hi, Erica – You always have such insightful comments and questions. I asked about Aliyah’s cast when I first saw her yesterday. She shrugged it off saying that she had a small fracture. Our time together passed by so quickly, I didn’t get a chance to ask more about her foot injury.
      You are also very right about the computer screen (and my iPhone, and the reflective glass, and the poor lighting) all detracting from Aliyah’s paintings. As stunning as they are on the screen, they are even more captivating in real life!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Donna – how amazing … and yes how lovely to win a delightful piece of art and then be able to add to your collection. She is certainly talented – one can see the progression. What fun that they were able to get over to Vancouver to meet up with you and Richard … and what great memories. I can see more will follow via the wonderful rapport you both have for each other … delightful post – cheers Hilary


    1. Thanks, Hilary – I greatly look forward to remaining in touch with Aliyah and Anna and staying updated on Aliyah’s path from her. I have done this with some other students — it is always such an honour when they take the time to keep in touch!


  8. Donna, love the artwork and how amazing to be able to see the growth in the artist – both in her work and her as an individual. It is so wonderful you’ve been about to stay in contact!


    1. Hi, Pat – Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your feedback on Aaliyah’s work. Even with the best of intentions, losing touch is so easy to do. I am very grateful that Aaliyah and her family have taken the time to write. I look forward to our continued communication together.


  9. What a remarkable story, Donna. We never are really sure in education what impact we are having on our students…but this is a lovely example of the power of relationships to transform lives. In this case, yours as well as hers.
    Hold onto those pieces of art, I have a feeling that Aaliyah will be famous some day!


  10. This brought tears to my eyes. Such a beautiful story that you connected with her through art and maintained that connection over all the miles. Her style is very distinctive and she boldly uses yellow in her washes and subjects. So, so cool!! Some friends of mine from Calgary are going to China next month to teach. I’m going to share this with them.


  11. I loved this Donna and was smiling all the way through it! What serendipity to meet Aaliyah and her mother. The artworks are just amazing and show a great talent. Were they just visiting Vancouver for a holiday?


  12. Hi, Donna,
    What a blessing to have a relationship with a lovely young girl and have the opportunity to stay in touch as she matures into a lovely young lady. Thankfully, both you and Aaliyah did not let time and distance come between you. Thanks for sharing her art and your story with the rest of us. Joe


  13. One of the big rewards as a teacher or a principal is to see our students become successful and smart. 🙂 Aaliyah’s artwork is beautiful and it is fantastic that you managed to score so many pieces, which found a good spot in your house. Wonderful memories and such a nice surprise to reconnect. Do they have family on Vancouver or was this a surprise visit?


    1. Hi, Liesbet – Aliyah, her mom and her grandmother are visiting Vancouver and staying at a friend’s place. I knew a couple of months ahead of time that they would be traveling here, so we had lots of time to plan and ensure that we did not miss each other!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I love her art! Thanks for sharing it with us. She’s amazing and lucky you for having a collection of her pieces that no doubt will grow over the years!


  15. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. A good reminder how much our thoughts and actions can impact others. She is a very talented artist and I’m sure your early interest in her work help to encourage her creativity. I’m looking forward to seeing her work IRL.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Those are the most wonderful paintings! She’s sure to go far with her talent and her supportive mother. And it’s such a lovely story of your bidding on one of her very early paintings. Thanks for sharing this Donna – and have a lovely weekend.


  17. I was touched by your story, Donna, and by the beautiful artwork. What a talented young woman. I enjoyed being able to watch her talent mature through the years. Thanks for sharing! I hope you are having a lovely day.


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