Vincent's Yellow

a[n] [auto]biography and a love story.

Phases of the Artist

Dear Reader,

It has been too long. I wanted this entry to tell you that I have scans of all my writing about Vincent in my hands, that the truly creative work has begun. Unfortunately, my patience has been tested these past two months in the scanning of hundreds of documents, the resizing and cropping, the two printing companies that said they would not print my project, and the three rounds of reformatting as each company has their way of doing things.  A week ago I thought I would have to rescan every document;  I felt a kind of mental claustrophobia that I can’t remember ever feeling before. I finally settled on ordering about half my scans, and fixing the images and re-ordering as necessary.

I so desperately want to get to the meat of things, but the grunt work must come first. Only today I remembered Vincent’s frustration during the early years of his career as an artist, when he was mostly teaching himself (with a few mentors here and there) how to draw and paint… It continues to be so very remarkable to me how our thoughts mirror each other from over a century away.

But then I loathe myself so much for not being able to do what I’d like, and at such moments one feels as though one is bound hand and foot, lying in a deep, dark pit, powerless to do anything. Now it’s over, inasmuch as I got up last night and pottered around a bit, putting one thing and another in order… (26 January 1882 to Theo)

Yes. These are the highs and lows of creativity — confidence and passion sometimes drives you to utter despair when things won’t work. I’ve begun to recognize my own phases now, which helps even them out. But now, I’d like to share a little something from the book with you.

Three pieces of paper reappeared in my life after an over two-year state of tucked-away-ness in a plastic bag with all the museum maps, tickets, and other paraphernalia I collected in YellowEurope.

But these words were written before that trip: the night before I reached Chicago, the day I left New York City for Vincent. New York had taught me more than I ever imagined, but to start my own theatre company, to produce my own work, I knew it was too rich for my meager wages. I left many things I adored behind, including my financial independence, to come to Chicago, live with my parents for a year and make Vincent’s Yellow happen. That is what I mean when I write to Vincent that I left New York City for him.

I hadn’t read these words of transition since I wrote them. When I read them aloud a few weeks ago, I began to cry. Not because of the memories – I hadn’t actually read the letter yet! I cried because even then I did not realize I was in Holland.

It was Holland, Ohio, yes — not Amsterdam where I would arrive five weeks later — but Vincent was already with me. Could Holland be a state of mind? I’ll be meditating on that. Here’s taste number two of my book.

My goal is to have put the first chapter together by the end of the year. My plan is to start publishing the book online for free for a limited time, if possible, while I’m pursuing book publishers. I’m toying with the idea of transforming this website into the book itself. If online, the book will be released in segments, in the style of Dickens. If you are reading this now, I hope you will also enjoy reading the book for free within the next year!

~~~~~~~VAN GOGH POPCORN~~~~~~~

If you haven’t heard about the new biography Van Gogh: The Life, you’ve probably been living under a rock. It introduces a new theory that Vincent did not shoot himself at all, but that some mischievous boys in Auvers shot him accidentally, and that Vincent (already feeling a burden on his brother with a new family) took responsibility for the actions instead of ruining one or more of those young mens’ lives by pointing a finger.

This theory sounds quite possible to me (without having read the book yet), the motivations fit more with Vincent’s personality… However, it seems to me that the fact remains that we will never have any conclusive evidence. Once I read through the theory, perhaps I will find it to be most likely.

The truth is… we’ll never know for certain. The gun was never found. But I certainly enjoy this alternative ending, and the questioning of his death.

Perhaps this new theory will mean Van Gogh will no longer be so defined by his suicide?

One can hope.

~~~~~~UPDATE 11/16/11~~~~~~

Scans of my journal entries about Vincent are in my hands!

The time to edit has begun.

251 pages of my writing…

Creativity engine — GO!

Fri, November 11 2011 » Personal, Popular Culture, Research, Writing the Book » No Comments

A Temple for Writing

We’re back! It’s been an intense time in my life since I last posted. Some major rearranging of my life took place, including a new abode, which needs to be talked about first.

When I first walked into my new apartment this past February, I saw the corner where I wanted to write my book, Vincent’s Yellow. I couldn’t help but picture the beautiful antique writing desk my boyfriend gave me for Christmas, nestled in a corner between windows. The room is big enough that I can do yoga on hardwood floors with trees all around me — being a third floor apartment, the view out the windows was full of naked tree branches in February. I dreamt of writing surrounded by green shimmering light.

Sounds pretty good, right? So we were supposed to be “just looking” but we couldn’t stop thinking about that space. Securing it filled us with an incredible enthusiasm.

I wanted to paint the walls (my first time!), and yellow was a natural choice. Purple, its complementary color, immediately came into my mind. After consulting at a paint store, I decided most all of the apartment would be different shades of the two colors. But the sun room, functioning as both living room and my office, needed the strongest hues. Vincent’s colors.

The Sunflower/Stars art piece had to go in the sun room (stars in the sun room, since they are the same), as did everything I needed for my book — my research, my map of the Current Locations of Van Gogh’s Paintings, my instruments, my painting — and quickly this room began to feel like a temple.

Vincent’s chair from the show became mine to make art in.

And from this spot, I can see the birds in the trees so clearly.

The first phase of work on my book is to gather the materials. Since the book will take scrapbook form, I have been scanning all my journal entries that mention Vincent. I am just finishing this today.

The earliest piece of writing I have about Vincent turns out to be a poem I wrote when I was eleven, in response to one of his paintings (now a favorite of mine). I now share it with you, reader… I hope you enjoy.

This is the first taste of the book to be shared! Exciting!

Marguerite Gachet in the garden, 1890

Mademoiselle Gachet in her garden at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890

If you have trouble reading the following, click on the image below until eventually you’ll be able to zoom. Also, enjoy my poetry teacher’s commentary if that appeals to you. :)

I find it interesting that I put myself inside Vincent’s paintings in my first, eleven-year old encounter. I felt like Marguerite, exploring his garden. I still do.

Mademoiselle Gachet in her garden at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890

In my research, I’ve found that entering the painting is a familiar desire for many Van Gogh fans. It is a fantasy best exemplified by Kurosawa in a segment of  his film Dreams. If you haven’t seen it, watch it when you have ten minutes to spare. It’s exquisite!

Until next time, dear reader… I’ll be posting monthly from now on!

~~~~~~VAN GOGH POPCORN~~~~~~

Loopy Dave’s Mind-Blowing Illustrations

Image by Loopy Dave

Japan uses sunflowers to decontaminate radioactive soil

Okay, it’s not really Van Gogh related, but this article gave me fantasies of sunflowers as far as the eye can see… Also, sunflowers heal the soil? Of course! And let’s not forget that Japan and Vincent are kind of obsessed with each other… It makes me smile, anyway. I think Vincent is smiling too.

Bacon Starry Night

Yes, it’s true. The website even teaches you how to do it yourself.

I think some people have a sickness called Bacon.

On the other end of the cultural spectrum, there’s also apparently a Van Gogh Opera that went up this year in Indiana…!

Starry Night Nail Art

Another amazing DIY that I’m much more tempted to try… click for the instructional video!

Quilled Starry Night

To finish this entry off, an incredible work of art!

Great work Suzy! It’s beautiful! Painting with paper…

Many thanks to Canan, Jeremy, Ivan and others for the links!

Thu, August 25 2011 » Artists Inspired by Vincent, Personal, Research, Writing the Book » 1 Comment


Vincent gave me the stars.

That might sound like an aggrandized statement, but I must admit that it is terrifically honest. I did not know stars, did not love stars before Vincent, and I am incredibly glad that he taught me to hold them very dear. Though perhaps he just pointed them out; perhaps I followed the path.

That same night I looked out of the window of my room onto the roofs of the houses one sees from there and the tops of the elms, dark against the night sky. Above those roofs, one single star, but a nice, big friendly one. And I thought of us all, and I thought of the years of my life that had already passed, and of our home…

-Vincent van Gogh, 31 May 1876 to Theo

Could Vincent have known, for instance, that the sun is a star, and so that blessed sunlight which he so worshiped was, in fact, no different from that distant, friendly twinkling – the stars above which slowly seduced him over time?

…the sight of the stars always makes me dream in as simple a way as the black spots on the map, representing towns and villages, make me dream.
Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France.
Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.

-Vincent van Gogh, 9 or 10 July 1888 to Theo

Stars are the afterworld to Vincent… and isn’t this in keeping with religions across practically all cultures? The stars, the heavens, the above… the eternal dome that we cannot shape despite our increasing power to move all else. Stars always return to greet us, every night as we turn our back on the closest one.

I also need a starry night with Cypresses or — perhaps above a field of ripe wheat, there are some really beautiful nights here.

-Vincent van Gogh, 9 April 1888 to Theo, from Arles

At last, they become a subject for Vincent in 1888, he turns his eye upon them, he wants to capture them, his afterlives…

But when will I do the starry sky, then, that painting that’s always on my mind?

-Vincent van Gogh, 19 June 1888 to artist and friend Emile Bernard

…the colors of stars.

If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expatiating on this theme it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.

-Vincent van Gogh, 9 and 16 Sept 1888 to sister Wil

When I read this, I began to squint up at the night sky more often. Could it be true? I read that some stars appear more red, others more blue, depending on what kind of star they were and their distance to the earth. Vincent got me curious, and I went on a search for a book about stars; I found something even better: A View from the Center of the Universe. A book that “connects matters of cosmic significance with the environment and the fate of life on planet earth,” as one Nobel prize-winning chemist puts it.

That doesn’t stop me having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion — so I go outside at night to paint the stars…

-Vincent van Gogh, 28 Sept 1888 to Theo

In this book, I learn that all complex matter in the Universe comes from the explosions of stars – that the atom for carbon could only be created by stars, and was not present in the first moments of the Universe’s life. This is what it means to be stardust, all living things on this Earth may call the stars their ancestors. And when someday our most beloved star devours our earth and solar system, all the matter that is our bodies will return to the stars once again.

In other words, we take death to a star.

Vincent’s insight, along with this book, shifted my whole world view. Starlight itself is a peek into the past — with the light we are looking at sometimes a few thousand years old. Stars are a magic, a religion I can believe in…

A last try – a night sky with a moon without brightness, the slender crescent barely emerging from the opaque projected shadow of the earth – a star with exaggerated brightness, if you like, a soft brightness of pink and green in the ultramarine sky where clouds run.

-Vincent van Gogh, 17 June 1890 to Gauguin

Road with cypress and star (May 1890)

It is for this reason that when I first saw my locket, I knew it was meant for me, and realized that I was meant to carry Vincent’s paintings in it.

star locket

It is for this reason I ended my theatre piece under the stars.

And it is for this reason I recently chose this item to tell me the time, wherever I am.

I now wear stars around my neck and wrist every day. It is part of Vincent’s legacy in my life.

Someday down the line I realize now that I will do a theatre piece entirely about stars. Vincent will make a cameo.

After all, it was Vincent who gave me the stars.


In other news, I’m gearing up to start work on my book this week! I know where to begin now, so no more wasting time. Hopefully I’ll be able to post about the process soon!

Sat, January 15 2011 » Personal, Popular Culture, Research, Theater piece » 2 Comments