Monday, December 29, 2008

More Interesting Quotes from Vincent Van Gogh

Some more interesting quotes from painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890).

Talking about light, in a letter to painter Émile Bernard in 1888, from the south of France:

"Oh! that beautiful mid-summer sun here.  It beats down on one's head, and I haven't the slightest doubt that it makes one crazy.  But as I was so to begin with, I only enjoy it."

Regarding the night sky, in a letter to his brother Theo in August 1888, he wrote that he saw:

"...the mysterious brightness of a pale star in the infinite.  ...You must be able to live on a piece of bread while you are working all day, and have enough strength to smoke and drink your glass in the evening....  And all the same to feel the stars and the infinite high and clear above you.  Then life is almost enchanted after all."

In another letter to Theo:

"Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.  Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?  Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star."

And to a Paris newspaper critic who had praised his work, he wrote:

"It is absolutely certain that I shall never do important things."

If only he knew!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Fragrances of Nature

Have you ever noticed the smell of cement after it rains? Or the odd scent in the air right before it snows?

There are so many fragrances in nature that are lovely and interesting...

The heady scent of gardenias in the early evening.

The sweetness of pink jasmine at night.

The delicate perfection of a good rose.

Salt air at the beach.

The musty smell of old pine needles piled up and moistened by a morning rain.

Rock rose bushes, whose waxy leaves have a most wonderful scent.

A freshly picked eucalyptus or bay leaf, torn in two.

The pure freshness of an early morning.

Isn't it wonderful?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bitten by an Ostrich (and an Armadillo, too)

I just wanted to mention that I've been bitten by an ostrich in my lifetime. And also by an armadillo. I believe this to be a distinction that not many can match.

These incidents both occurred during a trip to a petting zoo when I was six years old.

The ostrich was a hungry bugger. I was holding a hefty hunk of bread in my hand, which was hanging by my side as I was checking out some rather unattractive turkeys. The ostrich snuck up behind me and the next thing I knew, my whole hand was in his mouth. He got the bread, and I got a bandaid.

The armadillo incident was negligible and without effect.

I'm actually pretty proud of all of this. I mean, who do you know who can say they've been bitten by an ostrich? Or an armadillo? Or BOTH?

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh

I recently read a fascinating article in Smithsonian magazine's January, 2008 issue, entitled "Letters from Vincent".

Something which caught my eye was his lament that he had difficulty in creating from imagination, relying more on painting scenes which he saw before him:
Arles, c. April 12, 1888 My dear old Bernard, ....I sometimes regret that I can't decide to work more at home and from the imagination. Certainly—imagination is a capacity that must be developed, and only that enables us to create a more exalting and consoling nature than what just a glance at reality (which we perceive changing, passing quickly like lightning) allows us to perceive.

A starry sky, for example, well—it's a thing that I should like to try to do, just as in the daytime I'll try to paint a green meadow studded with dandelions.

But how to arrive at that unless I decide to work at home and from the imagination? This, then, to criticize myself and to praise you.
He was a great artist, living a tortured life. I wonder where he is now, and whether he is still painting.