Is it Van Goh or Van Goff? Or, possibly, Van Goch, where the ‘ch’ is pronounced like the ‘ch’ in loch – a kind of guttural, Scottish sound. According to Grammarphobia, this last one is the closest to the Dutch pronunciation. However you say his name, Vincent Van Gogh was one of a kind.
Once, when I was in New York City on business and had a few free hours, I walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I wanted to see the Exhibit on 15th, 16th, and 17th century armor. I figured I could manage that in a couple of hours. I never made it to see the armor; instead, I bought a ticket to see a special exhibit of Van Gogh paintings from the final months of his life, the months he spent in a hospital in Arles, France in addition to those final months he spent at the Yellow House in Auvers. It was an amazing exhibition and very vivid in my mind all the years later. Especially interesting were the self-portraits. The colors, sometimes strange, vivid, and the poses almost identical. There were maybe 100 of his 800 or 900 paintings in the
museum, all of them exceptional. To think that this self-taught artist completed that many paintings, not to mention drawings, watercolors, and even an etching, in such a short time – less than 10 years – is stunning. I spent my entire free time that afternoon looking at Van Gogh.
Today, I found a film – Loving Vincent – online and watched it. As the promotion materials says, “On 27th July 1890 a gaunt figure stumbled down a drowsy high street at twilight in the small French country town of Auvers. The man was carrying nothing; his hands clasped to a fresh bullet wound leaking blood from his belly. This was Vincent van Gogh, then a little-known artist, now the most famous artist in the world. His tragic death has long been known; what has remained a mystery is how and why he came to be shot. Loving Vincent tells that story.”
The story centers on Armand Roulin, the son of the Post Master of Arles. His father asks him who to deliver to Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, a letter Vincent wrote the week before he died. Grudgingly, the son agrees to deliver the letter. He finds, however, that Theo Van Gogh died soon after Vincent did, so there is no brother to deliver the letter to. During his travels to find Theo and deliver the letter, the Post Master’s son talks to people who knew Van Gogh and finds a mystery surrounding Van Gogh’s assumed suicide. The story line is intriguing.
The film production is nothing short of extraordinary. One hundred artists painted 65,000 frames of the film on Canvas, with oil paint in Van Gogh’s style. The result is a one of a kind, painted, animated film about Vincent Van Gogh. One of a kind, just like the artist. This film shows how the film-makers re-imagined the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh into the medium of film, using the very technology – oil painting – that Vincent used himself. You can find a lot more detail, plus paintings of the cast, at lovingvincent.com. The blogs are very interesting.
This feature-length painted animation - the first film of its kind - is an artistic experience in itself and I recommend you see it. It’s available for streaming on Kanopy, Hoopla, and Hulu. It’s also available for rent on Amazon.
After my first blog post about How to Jumpstart Creativity in the Now Times, I have a partial answer: friends, other artists, a calendar. I am an Artist. Before I retired, I was an Executive and my life ran by my calendar and my cell phone. It worked rather well, keeping me employed until I decided I didn’t want to be any more.
Being retired gave me a lot of free time and I used it to kick start my art which I had put aside when I moved to the National Capital Region, e.g. Washington, D. C. Getting back to the Pacific Northwest and the fresh air and water all around was one of the better decisions I’ve made. Getting back into Art was another outstanding decision.
Being under House Arrest/Isolation/ has also given me time since none of the groups I see are meeting and the friends I have coffee with are also housebound. I’ve been slacking off, art-wise. My calendar has cleared. So, I figured if scheduling meetings and interviews and meetings and lunches and meetings (there were a LOT of meetings) kept me on track in my office maybe the same thing could work for my Art. And, guess what? It does!
I belong to a couple of Art groups, including Artists United, so there are those meetings – coming to a computer screen near me via Zoom - to put on the calendar. Check. Then there are board meetings for those art groups as well (You guessed it. Computer meeting via Zoom). Check. Then I have invested a few meager coins in some on-line classes and these go on the calendar. Check. I support a couple of outstanding artists on Patreon and they do on-line and sometimes live presentations and tutorials so, again calendar. I think you can see where I’m going with this.
One of the first things I did was review my folder of “To Be Completed” projects. There are several. Most of us have a variety of UFOs* around the studio. I’ve decided to put those in order and actually finish them! Astounding, I know. But necessary. I have a thing about buying art supplies and I refuse to buy more with unfinished things sitting around yelling at me to finish them. And I’m running out of a particular kind of paper I especially like. So, in order to pry the coin purse from my tight fists, I need to finish these projects.
And, hence, the calendar. I enter a start date an approximate completion date. I make sure I have the supplies I need – since these projects are already ‘begun’, I do have the supplies. Then it’s a simple matter of opening up the calendar and setting to work. Tomorrow. I’m going to begin to finish one tomorrow. I can do this.
After all, I am an Artist.
*Un-Finished Objects d’art
Art is generally an alone pursuit. Artists work alone, take photographs alone (for inspiration or as art themselves), work in a studio alone. Basically, artists are more or less loners.
The reason artists join groups like Artists United Club is so they can be around other people who understand this ‘alone -ness’. Others who share their media, their joy when a drawing or a painting turns out. Others who know the crush of working on deadline when a commis- sion piece is looming. Others who know the agony of having no good ideas or of having too many good ideas. Others who struggle to sell their art in an age
of very short attention spans and instant
In the Before Times, we did gather with others to exchange ideas, reviews of new tools, to share works in progress, to talk about, well, art. In the Before Times, we would congregate, socialize and then go back to our alone spaces.
In the After Times, we can’t do that. We are self-isolating, self-quarantining, staying at home. For a while this might have been met with a shrug and a “I’m an artist. I work alone.” But the novelty of having all this time on your hands, no commitments to attend meetings or to ready pieces for a show, wears off. We substitute Zoom or FaceTime or Skype or other ways to connect while main- taining distance. And these are good things. They let you see your fellow
artists and meet and discuss and present and share. They also lead to what one fellow artist labeled “Zoom Fatigue”, especially if you have several Zoom meetings in a week. Another artist con- fided that she was having a difficult time working up the energy to do any art at all.
We all wish we still lived in the Before Times, but we don’t. So, other than working in your studio alone and joining in On-line meetings, what kinds of activi- ties have you employed to keep your artist spirits up? If you share your quar- antine space with other family members (especially those who are normally gone during the day), how do you create in that environment? Or maybe you aren’t having an attack of the blahs and are delighted to have few responsibilities except your art. Any advice for us dealing with the blahs? Have you tried out new things? New media? A new style? Become the next Kandinsky, perhaps? Or turned to self-portraiture? Let us know how you’re creating in the After Times. Send your comments, ideas and experiences to our Newsletter and Howler Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. He may well want to post them in the next newsletter.