Published in a Journal: A Continuation of Art

Here’s to another addition to 500 Days of Van Gogh!  Granted it has been a while since the last post regarding anything about Van Gogh’s work, yet, I can’t continue the art conversation without always raising the suggestion that art includes so much more than pictures and media.  It is ingenuity, hope, effort, and faith in the arising.  

The earnest process of Van Gogh’s work helps to illuminate the possibilities within all of us to change our lives and the lives of others for the better.  The better perhaps being just as complex as creating a work of art.  

That being said, I just got my first publication in a journal today!

Click here to see my submission: White Sky

Alright, while I acknowledge that the path of active publication isn’t my long term goal in life, the visual sensation of seeing your work in a literary presentation is pretty awesome.  For some reason, it felt as though being presented with a poem I had created added a new perspective to the creative process of writing.

I’ve had artwork presented in shows and competitions, however the nature of words and their meaning beyond the ink and spacing seems much more personal.  I am a quiet character by nature, so the vehicle of writing is a God-send for me to communicate my thoughts and feelings.

Often times, very quiet or sentimental people (official term: introverts) are criticized for not actively seeking out social engagement.  I don’t think that this type of preference is a negative attribute.  In some manners, the act of being alone to think or regain energy is similar to a type of mental and spiritual growth beneficial to all people.

This is not to say that the exchange of ideas and communication isn’t essential in life either.  However, the act of taking time to reflect and formulate individual opinions is also very essential in progressing in a certain project, situation, or in this case, a work of literature.

I offer no deep, personal explanation of this poem as the purpose of the White Sky (blank canvas, sheet of paper, the beginning) is a place to develop and challenge new ideas of your own.

…sporadic thoughts on life…

 

White Sky

White Sky

That my imagination

would leave room for the imagination.

A canvas to stretch and prime.

I move the sun above the earth and stop

Like an architect at her blank table

The mistakes of my ink bleed across the sky

Red, orange, blue, and white.

My favorite mistake is white.

Like the paper airplanes and

the lilies and the snow, new.

Daring me to try again and again,

I dash my pen and burn my eraser

Against the indomitable wall of white.

My mistakes cannot be forgotten.

They cannot be erased.

But they can be transformed.

Like the demeanor of a white sky

Listening to a heartbeat at peace,

It waits for the winds of something new

Stirring the clouds until pieces of blue break through.

~ Keys2Change

A Walk to Remember: Vincent Van Gogh, Part One

Two Cut Sunflowers August-September 1887 Arles, France

It was as if a grand chasm had opened beneath us and the name was trapped reverberating over and over again Vincent, Vincent.  

“Hey, ” my hand wavered in the air, this guy looked familiar, “your last name isn’t Van Gogh is it?”  Social grace eludes me in the most opportune moments.

He looked surprised, “yes it is, do I know you?  I should think that I know most everyone around here, even if not on the best terms.”  His eyes implored acceptance and I noticed that his shirt billowed freely against his thin frame.

“What year is it?” I inquired  Of course it was impossible that this could be THE Vincent, but what else could I assume?

“1888,” he looked at me curiously as if to make sure I wasn’t mocking his sensibilities, “and what is your name?”

No, this isn’t happening.  Words wouldn’t come.  I’m just dreaming and soon this Van Gogh will morph into something else.  A shiver knocked my gaze to the ground and Vincent stepped forward offering a steady hand.  “You must be freezing.  Where are you staying?”

The night was chilly and I could see our breaths puffing rhythmically in the air.  “I-I’m not sure,” I answered.  Standing there in my night pajamas I felt ridiculously small.

“Please, don’t be afraid.  My cottage isn’t too far away from here.  You can stay for the night.  Come.”

Deep inside my head, my voice pounded against its catatonic walls ripping itself to shreds with the stabbing pains of exhaustion and helplessness.   I’ve always had a difficult time managing situations, but this, this I should be able to handle.  It was just a dream after all, wasn’t it?

“Good then, it’s settled.”  He didn’t wait for my answer and I proceeded to help collect his fallen belongings.

If this was a dream, shouldn’t I have the control? Shouldn’t I have the power?  The wind blew again and for the first time I felt the cold bite through my thin pajamas and settle into my bones.  If this really was THE Van Gogh, then maybe everything would be fine.  Only morning would tell.

Bedroom in Arles, October 1888
Bedroom in Arles, October 1888

He walked fast.  I was trailing behind carrying some of his jars and boxes.  They jostled and clinked together as I more stumbled than walked through the dark woods.  After a period which seemed like eternity, I imagined that I could see the glimpse of an outline of a house.  But judging by moonlight isn’t particularly easy.

“We’re here,”  he had stopped and I peered around trying to make out the ethereal form of a door.  I heard a creak, and for a moment I was alone outside.

Then, all of a sudden the scene was illuminated before me and in that moment I thought my eyes were literally going to fall out of my head.

They didn’t.

But my jaw had dropped and the cold dissipated for a split second.

Have you ever seen the Bedroom in Arles? He painted it in 1888 and it’s diagonal walls with bright colors all undulating in an upturned perspective has always captured me, and others, in fascination.  This is what I saw when he lit the lanterns in his small cottage.

“Well, uh, this is it.  You can have my bed, I’ll sleep in the living room. We can sort out this situation in the morning.”  He leaned on the door frame in an awkward stance.  

“Thanks for the room,” I said, and with that, he then turned and shuffled into the next room leaving the lantern to flicker around the walls, chairs, and bed.

Here’s the introduction! Click here

A Walk to Remember: Vincent Van Gogh, Intro

Alright so I’m trying this sub-series within the main series about Van Gogh.  My overactive imagination needs to go somewhere!

I fell asleep one night and woke up face to face with the heavens and the stars.  I was lying on my back as one usually does when sleeping, but I wasn’t in my bed.  I seemed to be on the ground.

A spider had crawled up my body and found a resting place on my cheek.  I shook it off quickly, or rather, I gave a yelp and shot up from the ground waving my arms like
a lunatic.

The spider dropped and scuttled away to look for a new resting place.  I could imagine it laughing at me.  I hate spiders, I mumbled, as if anyone were around to hear me anyway.  My voice echoed eerily among the dark silhouettes of trees that were all around me.  

A cold breeze blew my long hair back–wait! I stopped my thought process which was running away with itself again.  Where was I?  I turned about.

The hard dirt felt cold and uneven beneath my bare feet.  My hands swept the open air as I craned my neck upwards to a darkening turquoise sky.

Reasoning that no one, not even a lost person, should stand in the middle of what appeared to be a trail in the middle of a grove, I started to walk.   Maybe the other way is the right way? 

It’s funny how when one neither knows the circumstance nor the consequences right and wrong seem rather unimportant.  There was a rustling behind me and spinning around I came in collision with a man.  We both yelled in fright, both of us falling backwards.  The packages he was carrying sprawled out on the trail.

“Damnit!” cried the stranger.  I could feel my heartbeat racing.  All the warning signals about men were going off in my head.

“S-sorry,” I stammered moving backwards.  The man reached out and grabbed the tail of my shirt.

“Wait, who are you?”  Was this guy for real? I snatched my shirt out of his grip and found it covered in paint.  An artist?

“I’m lost, I think,” I said cautiously.  Things were beginning to become clearer and yet more confusing at the same time.  “Who are YOU?” I asked, trying to assert fake confidence.

By this time we had already gotten up and straightening up his back, he adjusted his jacket and extended his hand, “You can call me Vincent.”

Van Gogh and Millet: an Original Copy

Sower With Setting Sun, 1888
Sower With Setting Sun, 1888

Once upon a time, Vincent Van Gogh was an amateur artist.  Really?  Yes.  I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true. 🙂 Van Gogh started practicing his artwork with only paper, chalk, watercolor, and reed pens.  He even attended art schools in France (keep in mind that he came from the Netherlands) and made copy after copy of artists before him.  One particuluar artist that he loved, and influenced him significantly was Jean-Francois Millet.  His studies, like many of Millet’s were of the countryside such as the riverbeds, wheelbarrows, the poor, and of course windmills (heaven knows I love those windmills).

Quite often, Van Gogh is portrayed as the picture of an artist in pain.  However, this doesn’t seem to be the case if we delve a little deeper into his past.  Although he was indeed a quiet and forboding character, in his many letters to Theo (brother) he sounded so content, even ambitious and hopeful.  In these recollections of his daily routine, Van Gogh gathers the apperance of a man, a real and quite ordinary man before he became a legend.

“When it is not raining, I go out almost everyday, mostly on the moor.  I make the studies fairly large like a few you saw when you (Theo) were here.  One of them is a ‘hut at Het Heike’ (the little moor) and another a barn on the Rozendaal road that is known around here as the Protestant barn…Then the mill right across from there in the pasture, and the elms in the graveyard.  And yet another, with woodcutters working in a large clearing where a big pine has been cut down.  And I also try to draw the implements such as cart, plow, harrow, wheelbarrow, and so on” (Letter 145, to Theo, May 1881). 

I try to imagine Van Gogh as he was writing this letter.  Was he outside, working on a study of the fields? Or was the weather bad, and he was inside perhaps working on another copy of Millet?  Sometimes, through these letters, I feel as though I can catch a short glimpse of the man behind the paintings.

Van Gogh's Version of "The Diggers"
Van Gogh’s Version of “The Diggers”

Artists, critics, and admirers have their jargon and technicalities to contribute about him.  However, these are but their own versions of Van Gogh, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Actually, this is something we all do.  For example have you ever found youself in a situation where you stop yourself because you can hear your mother or father’s words coming out of you?  We often tend to emulate the people who influence us the most, whether they come from our experiences or through books and movies.

Millet's Verison (original and first) of "The Diggers"
Millet’s Verison (original and first) of “The Diggers”

Here’s something that I take away from Van Gogh’s beginning:

When we speak for ourselves, it’s not solely I or you speaking.  Our parents, our experiences, our role models have left an impression on us creating who we are.  When we speak, something is created that is both old and new at the same time.  “They” say that there’s nothing new under the sun.  While I think “they” have a point, every individual that comes along is a cumulation of all the events, characters, and stories of the past.  Yet, that individual is new, and different, and with purpose.

That being said, the average individual can be one of the most puzzling and yet enriching studies.  Just one individual! Whether you’re the next Van Gogh, astronaut, Steve Jobs, or sales clerk, remember that who you are is supported by all those who came before you.  So don’t ever give up, and if you don’t like it, then change it, find other voices that let you express who you are.  Copying is a great start, Van Gogh did so, but don’t forget to jump out of the nest! 🙂

What’s your favorite painting by Van Gogh?

Mouling de blute-fin
Moulin de blute-fin

This is one of my favorite paintings ever done by Van Gogh.  Pictured is a windmill in Montmartre, France where he spent a good deal of time not only because he loved the scenery and the people, but also because it was cheap living.  🙂  I saw the painting in an art museum once and for some reason it stuck with me throughout the rest of the exhibition.  Maybe it’s the colors of green, yellow, and blue that attract me to this piece.

However, I think it’s due to just a teeny tiny bit more.  The way it draws you into the scene: the foreground is all green grass and as we move to the background, the scene becomes busier, but smaller and smaller in detail.  It’s like Van Gogh is making us chase the life that he could see on that simple little hill, and the chase, knowing that I’ll never get close enough, is all I need to keep going forward into the painting.

Then, suddenly, the painting is no longer there.

I’m running toward the windmill.  The sun beats like a drum against my skin.  The green grass is soft beneath my bare feet, and the wind carries me closer and closer to the life that I perceive is hidden there.  Just a little bit closer; I’m almost there!  But in my heart I know I never will be close enough, and the loss compared to the small victory of living the scene’s story is enough to keep me there, standing in front of that painting; lost and yet found, over and over again.

So! What’s your favorite painting by Van Gogh?  If it’s not even Van Gogh that’s okay too. 🙂

Until next time! (I’m working on a draft that is requires some further research and composition: Van Gogh and Millet!)

Van Gogh and Van Gogh: an Identity Crisis

“I am so glad things have been arranged so that I can work here (Etten) quietly for some time; I hope to make as many studies as I can, for that is the seed from which later the drawings will come” (Letter 144 to Theo, brother, May 1, 1881).

van gogh self portrait blue1889
Self-portrait in front of easel, 1889
In the mental asylum Saint-Paul-de-Mausole**

Before Van Gogh became the great artist, before he was even born, there was another Van Gogh.  His name was Vincent too.  The first-born child of Rev. Theodorus Van Gogh and Anna Cornelia Corbentus, this “to be Vincent” came first to the world as a stillborn.  Upon their second child, the one we know, they decided to bestow the same name as their first.  Thus, a second but singular Vincent Wilhelm Van Gogh came into the world.

Van Gogh (artist) was always plagued by the fact that his older brother had the same name as he.  He felt rather more like a replacement child and his ambitious, all-or-nothing enthusiasm for life is evidence of his strides toward overcoming the ghost of the past.

When I read about this I couldn’t help but think of another artist who had the same crisis: Salvador Dali.

Dali, too, was the first/second child.  His parents had their first child whose name was, can you guess?  Salvador Dali.  Unfortunately their son died after 9 months due to illness.  Like Van Gogh’s parents, Dali’s gave him the same name.  Perturbed and expressive about his constant struggle to win over his brother’s shadow, Dali painted a picture (masterpiece 🙂 ) representing the overlapping waxing and waning of his brother’s identity with his own.

Portrait of My Dead Brother, 1963
Portrait of My Dead Brother, 1963

I’ll just give a quick rundown of this piece.  The face is made up of both dark and light cherries.  The dark cherries represent Dali’s brother and the light are his own face.  In the upper lip, if you look really closely, just above you can see two cherries connected at the stem.  This is Dali’s connection to his brother.  For more information on this picture see source: http://thedali.org/exhibits/highlights/portrait_of_my_dead_brother.php (if you ever have the opportunity, go visit the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL it’s definitely worth seeing in person).

Both Van Gogh and Dali struggled daily with ascertaining their own identity from that of their older deceased brothers.  This only adds to Van Gogh’s character as a universally relatable personality.

This theme of identity and “becoming” is so relevant to all of our lives that whether it’s a voice from the past or from the present, we might be able to settle on the idea that this crisis is an integral part of who we are as human beings.  This, we can share then beyond borders of nationality and opinion, so let’s take that chance (Van Gogh at 17) and keep in mind to help others along the way.  The Key2Change might well be found in the struggle to find ourselves.
🙂

P.s. 1881 is the year that Van Gogh finally decided to become a full time artist. We’re on our way!

Sources:

http://thedali.org/exhibits/highlights/portrait_of_my_dead_brother.php

The Complete Van Gogh, Jan Hulsker

**http://www.nortonsimon.org/van-gogh-s-self-portrait-1889-on-loan-from-the-national-gallery-of-art-washington-2