Tag Archives: Van Gogh

Van Gogh Painted the Sky Last: Thoughts on John Grochalski’s Winedrunk Sidewalk

2 Sep

vanGogh

So that’s a photo of a van Gogh painting that hung in the recent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new location, MET BRUER, called Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.

The whole exhibit was really fantastic but this painting really floored me.

Because van Gogh painted the sky last.

Last.

Something about this strikes me as counter-intuitive. I mean, sky’s are a pretty integral and magical part of the man’s work.

and of course:

unnamed (1)

This got me thinking about artist process. How did van Gogh paint? How did Beethoven compose? How does art get made? And is there a right or a wrong way to do it?

I know how I do it.

I get up every morning at quarter to five and I write until it’s time to get ready for work. I do this five days a week, taking weekends (and of course vacations) off. This is also the schedule that John Grochalski keeps. In fact I got my schedule from him, and not just because he sleeps next to me in bed.

John decided that if he was ever going to get any real writing done he needed to make sacrifices and the sacrifice he chose was sleep. I thought he was crazy and watched for years as he pulled himself out of bed each morning and made something out of nothing.

Then I saw all the something he made.

See that pile there next to the computer?

14064060_10210249302491516_9098220108545517773_n

That’s a lot of poems.

Eventually I joined him.

In conjunction with this schedule, he created a blog called Winedrunk Sidewalk in 2008. He vowed to write a poem a day.

Every day.

And (with a handful of exceptions) he did.

For nearly 10 years.

This week John informed me he was done with Winedrunk Sidewalk, that it no longer served in the way it was supposed to. As he said on his final post:

But I soon developed WineDrunk into a poetry site, mostly to keep me writing regularly. I think I’ve achieved that. And it’s been really wonderful to have had people read and comment on the blog. I think of WineDrunk as a fine piece of digital art. But this year I’ve gotten rather restless with the whole thing. Concentrating on writing a novel while revising another novel lead to a lot of frustration on my part in having to post a poem daily and to try and have that poem at least maintain some quality, some shred of artistic value.

8 years. A poem a day. That is nearly 3,000 poems. Three thousand times that he crafted something from nothing and while the poems themselves are art, the blog, as a whole is also art. A testimony to the process of making art.

So how exactly does one make art? Pretty much everyone in the world has an opinion on that.

If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written. – Neil Gaiman

Solid advice but is that true for poets too? Should they only write when inspired? What constitutes inspired? What’s the difference between that and procrastinating? I know so many talented people who want to make art but don’t because they don’t make time or because the only wait until they are inspired. Is that better? Is the art better?

What makes you a good writer? What is the proper mix?

Much has been written about this. Charts have been rendered. Famous writer’s brains have been picked clean.

In the end, everyone’s routine is different but one thing seems abundantly clear. Without a routine, there’s no work. Without work, there’s no art.

Three thousand poems is an impressive feat and putting yourself out there every day takes real guts.

Everyone is going to find their own routine. Those that write every day might find the same kind of magic and frustration that John found creating Winedrunk Sidewalk. It’s never going to be perfect but it will always be true.

Sometimes we paint the sky last.

Sometimes we write a poem every single day for nearly a decade.

Either way, we make something from nothing.

Rest in peace, Winedrunk. You done good.

 

Bosch to Banksy: Amsterdam/Brussels/Bruges

18 Apr

Hello kids.

I’m back.

Before we dive into the traveling story, I’ve got many thanks to give. First off, thanks to Dead Snakes for giving these poems a home. And to Hobo Camp Review for taking these (none of which are about cancer, surprise, surprise) and to Your One Phone Call for taking Morning Commute.

In other writing news, I got the guts of a new poetry book back from my editor and man am I excited about this one. News on that soon…

So AMSTERDAM! and BRUSSELS! and….Bruges.

 

So first up….Amsterdam!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Amsterdam is beautiful and canal-y and picturesque and filled with WAY TOO MANY BIKES. I mean good god. You can’t take a step outside without some ringing their little bell at you.

I mean this is basically every corner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That said, it’s still incredible. Look:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

That’s a Van Gogh sky if I ever saw one. Speaking of Vincent, he and Anne Frank were my big must do’s in Amsterdam. We had tickets for the Van Gogh museum but not Anne Frank since they only sell a limited amount online. So we headed up there on Day 1.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I don’t think I’ll ever have the words to describe what it was like to pass through that secret door behind the bookcase and to stand in the Secret Annex. Photography is not allowed so I grabbed a few images from online.

annefrank1

The staircase behind the secret bookshelf that lead to their hiding place

Anne Frank room

Anne Frank room

annefrank3

Anne and Mr. Dussel’s room as it would have been furnished

annefrank4

The diary

I also found this virtual tour of the house.

It’s still hard to unpack what an emotional experience being there was – not only because reading her journal gives you insight into what a vivid person she was but because while it is very much a historical document, it’s also a unique insight into what it is to be a teenage girl. A girl who fights with her mother. A girl who crushes on the boy down the hall. A girl like we all were.

One of my favorite parts of the visit was at the end when her friends talked about her. About how she was certainly no saint. How she was a bit of a big mouth. A bit of a bossypants.

But more than that, Anne was a writer. Prior to their discovery, Anne found out that Allies were interested in the journals of people who were in hiding for possible publication and she immediately started to write with an eye towards publication, editing and changing her work. I full believe that had Anne lived she would have been a writer.

I can think of only one other person who died without knowing the impact that their work would have on the world. And that would be Vincent van Gogh.

058.JPG

The museum was simply spectacular. Not only does it house a large quantity of his work, it’s got some of the most important pieces, like these:

van gogh 3

Self Portrait in Grey Felt Hat

van gogh 4

Almond Blossoms – painted to mark the birth of Vincent, Theo’s son.

van gogh

The Potato Eaters

And my favorite, the Yellow House

van gogh.1jpg

This image doesn’t do this painting justice. Vincent was a color theorist and understood the importance of color juxtaposition – that yellow is more yellow against blue.

Unfortunately The Bedroom was out on loan to Chicago. Sadness.

In addition to the amazing work, they also had audio recordings of many of the letters that Vincent and his brother Theo exchanged in their equally short lives.

Other cool things we did in Amsterdam was the Rembrandt House, which I recommend to anyone who visits, especially the demonstration on how paint was made in Rembrandt’s day. Needless to say, it wasn’t a simple matter of going to the store and buying a tube. A large amount of the color was achieved through toxic and in some instances, gross, means.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Making Paint

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rembrandt’s studio

And we also found this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

That’s the Amsterdam Hilton. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you then you’re obviously not a John Lennon fan.

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton,
Talking in our beds for a week.
The newspapers said, “Say what you doing in bed?”
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”.

It’s where this happened:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Other things, Amsterdam is full of: Tulips

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And of course we also found the…ahem…. “coffeehouses.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Oh and we stumbled into a massive pillow fight. Because why not?

 

Next up was a quick side trip to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, often called Dem Bosch to see the Hieronymus Bosch exhibit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Man of the Hour

In case you don’t know Bosch was a painter in early 1500’s whose paintings have informed our modern day imaging of hell.

bosch

And if you look really closely you’ll see some interesting things.

Like birds.

Flying out of butt holes.

bosch2

The exhibit was great – though really crowded which was hard because to really enjoy Bosch you need to get right in there and really look. For birds. Flying out of buttholes.

Or this guy:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Or this…whatever this is:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Next up was Brussels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grand Place

Brussels is a gorgeous city that, as you know, was recently the target of a ISIS terrorist attack. While we were there, they found the “man in the hat” which I can only imagine gave the residents much relief. That said, every night on the news, I heard about how Brussels was “reeling” but what I saw every night were people having dinner and drinks with friends. You know, living.

We did see the memorials that were set up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And we also saw a lot more ART including the Magritte Museum and a special exhibit of Andres Serrano, the photographer who did the now infamous Piss Christ

Piss_Christ_by_Serrano_Andres_(1987)

Yes that is a crucifix dipped in a jar of piss. Also on display was his Denizens of Brussels and Residents of New York, two series he did photographing the homeless, or sans abris as they are called in Brussels. But my favorite was the Morgue series: photographs of the dead, the caption of each image was cause of death.

serrano

Suicide by Rat Poison

Serrano also paid homeless people for their signs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

One of the most famous residents of Brussels is Manneken Pis – a statue from 1618 of a kid peeing. Apparently in the Brussels museum is a whole host of outfits that he sometimes wears.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

More recently in 1985, he got a girlfriend, Jeanneke Pis.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also found a studio where Vincent worked. The studio belong to his friend Rappard and had better light than the place Vincent was living at on Boulevard du Midi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a place where Byron lived

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And the infamous spot where Verlaine shot Rimbaud

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shortly after taking this picture the owner of that lace shop came outside and informed us that the plaque is a lie and that Verlaine shot Rimbaud about four blocks to the west but since this is where all the tourists are that’s where they put the marker. He also called Verlaine a disgusting old drunk. So there’s that too.

And we found the Royal Academie, host to nearly every great artist in Europe including James Ensor, Magritte, De Kooning and of course….my beloved Vincent who after a month quit when one of his paintings came in last in a contest. Oh, Vincent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And Brussels had some really great street art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All Truth is Negociable

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tintin!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a really really beautiful city which we left for……Bruges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

If you haven’t seen In Bruges, you should cue that up right away. It’s a dark comedy about hit men trapped in this medieval city staring Colin Ferrell.

And really it’s not Bruges’ fault. It’s a very pretty little city but short of looking at windmills there isn’t much to do. So we looked at windmills.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But we did go see the Picasso Expo which was fantastic and a chance to see the flower bunch, which as a child, decorated my sheets. My parents are very cool.

picasso

And his Don Quixote

picasso2

which my parents also had a print of…and his Dove

picasso3

 

So that was Bruges.

We took a train back to Amsterdam in time to catch the Warhol/Banksy exhibition at Moco Museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So there it was…from Bosch to Banksy. And in between, I ate a disturbing amount of fries and chocolate and waffles.

Because, waffles.

 

Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

%d bloggers like this: