Over the weekend my husband and I went to the “Becoming Van Gogh” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The concept was brilliant — here’s how the DAM described it on the website for the show:
An in-depth exploration of Vincent van Gogh’s unconventional path to becoming one of the world’s most recognizable artists, Becoming Van Gogh examines critical steps in his artistic evolution. Becoming Van Gogh brings together loans from more than 60 public and private collections throughout Europe and North America to tell the story of a number of key formative periods throughout the artist’s career. Denver is the only venue for this exhibition. Not only is Becoming Van Gogh a worldwide exclusive, it’s the first-ever exhibition of Van Gogh’s work in the Rocky Mountain region.
Through more than 70 works by Van Gogh and close to 30 works by other artists he responded to, Becoming Van Gogh takes a completely new look at the artist’s largely self-taught stylistic development.
His life journey took many turns before he eventually settled on becoming an artist. This exhibition’s insightful narrative strips away the myth surrounding the man and reveals the artist as a thoughtful, rational, and methodical individual who produced a staggering amount of art in a relatively short, 10-year period of time.
Van Gogh turned all of his creative energies towards mastering the tools that would enable him to render the visual world as he saw it. He did so by learning as much as he could about the formal elements of art, color theory, painting techniques, compositional methods, and more. Perhaps surprising, he taught himself to draw while taking advantage of a do-it-yourself drawing course which offered the novice images to copy in an effort to learn how to draw. Van Gogh copied one such manual three times in a little under nine months to hone in on the technique.
Here’s a Denver news article about the incredible amount of effort it took for the DAM to borrow the pieces for the show.
Here’s an article that talks about the Van Gogh story expressed through the exhibit.
I am so inspired by what I saw in the sketches and paintings, and by Van Gogh’s dogged pursuit of his craft. He took drawing classes, he followed several “teach yourself” programs in books — he didn’t know that he’d only create for ten years, but he certainly worked as though he did.
My favorite pieces in the show were The Poplars at Saint-Rémy (1889):
Undergrowth with Two Figures (1890):
Landscape from Saint-Rémy (Mountain Landscape Across the Wall, 1889):
I’m kicking myself for not writing down some of the great Vincent Van Gogh quotes that were part of the show. Ah well. Here’s a great one:
Occasionally, in times of worry, I’ve longed to be stylish, but on second thoughts I say no – just let me be myself – and express severe, rough, yet true things with rough workmanship.Letter to his brother, Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Saturday, 11 March 1882.
I enjoyed this post about blogging “lessons learned” from Mandi at Vintage Revivals.
My particular favorite was her item number four, which states:
We have all heard a million times to Be Yourself. So many times in fact that we don’t even hear it anymore. But guess what? As amazing as other people are and as much as we want to be like them…we can’t. So don’t even attempt it. Hands down my favorite compliment to get from a reader is when they say “You are EXACTLY like you are on your blog.”
There are a bazillion bloggers writing on any given subject. Sometimes when I’m trying to come up with ideas, I get bogged down in that sad thinking of, “That’s been done before!” Well, IT’S ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE! Humanity is forever re-hashing the same ideas. So you listen to music on an MP3 player now or read books on a tablet — music and books have been around since before men strutted about in togas and straw flip-flops. Just because there’s nothing new for humanity doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be gained by our individual journeys of discovery, and our efforts to share our experience.
When I was debating whether to start a blog or not, my friend Kari pointed out that blogs may be done to death, but no one has ever written from my perspective before. As the little black fish Swimmy says in the children’s book by Leo Lionni, “Let’s go and swim and play and SEE things!”
I have been enjoying the HGTV show, The High/Low Project in which designer Sabrina Soto creates a high-end room for a family, then re-creates it on their budget. A typical bedroom or dining room project will cost $20-35 thousand for the high-end look, but the final room is finished for $5 thousand or less. I often wonder which websites Soto is shopping from when she finds the less-expensive furnishings. Well last night while perusing some furniture websites for a family room sofa (I’m in the “hunting and gathering” mode — can’t afford a new sofa yet, but want to build an inspiration board so I can decide on some cheaper things like paint color and throw pillows) I stumbled upon this groovy “look for less” and had to share:
Here’s a look I love — the Bantam Sofa in Fabric from Design Within Reach, for $1,853 on sale:
And here’s the Clare Fabric Sofa from Macy’s, for $900:
Neat, huh? Even better is the fact that Macy’s will inevitably put this baby on sale. Just gotta’ hope that when that happens, I’m ready to strike. Though the idea of getting my huge old sofa out of the living room is enough to make me procrastinate a few hundred years…
I’ve probably quoted this bit from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project before. Here I go again, without apology, because it’s something I need to be reminded of again and again:
Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice. Therefore, career experts argue, you’re better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that’s where you’ll be more eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage.
If only someone, anyone, had clued me into this fact back in elementary school when I loved art class and excelled at it, but I had this impression that Being An Artist Is An Extremely Risky Way To Earn A Living When You Grow Up. Or in high school when I was obsessed with journalism but again came to feel that it was Too Risky. Or in my late twenties, when I was filling out applications for law school… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s much, much riskier to hope that you can white-knuckle your way through a vocation you don’t enjoy than to live and breathe one that resonates with you.
Happy new year!
I love the new year so much, I celebrate it twice — the calendar new year on January 1, and the start of my personal new year on my birthday in August. I really get a boost from the symbolism of the start of a fresh new year, full of possibilities. That’s part of what I love about making resolutions — I see them as goals that will support my personal growth in the coming year. I try to keep my resolutions just “out there” enough that I will have to stretch myself to attain them, but ultimately do-able. For instance, one of my goals this year is Streamline Housekeeping. Am I going to master housekeeping this year — perhaps to publish the definitive text on the subject?! No way. Instead I am giving myself permission to hone in on this aspect of domestic life for the month of January in hopes that I will figure out some tricks and clear out some stuff so that the rest of the year I will have more energy to invest in joyful work and play!
Ultimately it doesn’t matter to me when my attention to the pursuit of my resolutions begins to flag, around Memorial Day… I feel that I get a lot of benefit from this winter exercise of considering the year ahead, what I want to achieve, and writing it all down even if I don’t complete the exercise. Plus I usually choose to “reboot” at my birthday. Having said that, I’m going to print out this year’s resolutions and put them in the binder I use every week to keep tabs on papers and dates and things for the family. Out of sight, out of mind is definitely true for me.
Here are my “big picture” goals for the new year:
- Streamline Housekeeping
- Automate Dinnertime (i.e. get back to a monthly menu of meals, including at least two vegetarian meals per week)
- Get Outdoors (camping, bird-watching, sightseeing, hiking)
- Make Things (buy a sewing machine and sign up for classes!)
- Work Out (develop a strength-training routine and yoga practice)
- Invest In Adventures (time and money, a trip to Maine is on my mind…)
What do you want to accomplish in 2013?
I had a liberating experience recently: I accidentally discovered two websites written with the sole purpose of ridiculing and trash-talking two of my favorite bloggers! I was horrified, then relieved. If Amanda Blake Soule and Ree Drummond have haters, well, LITERALLY ANYONE IS PRONE TO GETTING TRASHED WHEN THEY GO ONLINE. And… it’s OKAY! Honestly, you must be doing something right if your blog is so popular that other people try to suck some popularity in their own direction (like vile parasites) by creating their own blogs dedicated to hating on you! Wow. I feel empowered. And this seems like exactly the time to trot out this gem:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
- Bernard Baruch
Won’t it be a nice world when the grumpy, uninspired trash-talkers experience some happy things in their lives? In the meantime I’m so grateful that fun, inspiring, creative content is abundant online and that people like Soulemama and The Pioneer Woman are so busy with their successful careers and happy families that they just keep on keeping on without skipping a beat.
I love this time between Christmas and January 1st — we don’t have anything scheduled so we’re free to go off on an outing or relax at home, and the kids have plenty to occupy them after the holiday gifting if we decide to hunker down indoors.
I’m in-between novels right now – reading them, not writing them (?!) – and was having a hard time winding down after the Christmas fun last night, so I picked up the copy of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project that I read last spring then stored in my nightstand. Ah, it’s the perfect book to read this time of year when the 12 months of 2012 are winding down, and the next 12 are around the corner, shiny and new and unblemished by the mistakes of the old year! I’ve got visions of new year’s resolutions dancing in my head, and can’t wait to freshen up the place with a ruthless decluttering, for starters!
Meanwhile, I must share these bits from Chapter 3 of Rubin’s book — absolutely perfect for the new year:
My research had revealed that challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction. If you do new things … you’re more apt to feel happy than people who stick to more familiar activities. This is one of the many paradoxes of happiness: we seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness.
One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition. You become larger. Suddenly you can do yoga or make homemade beer or speak a decent amount of Spanish. Research shows that the more elements make up your identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is threatened. … Also, a new identity brings you into contact with new people and new experiences, which are also powerful sources of happiness.
Of course we dabblers are aware of the thrill that comes from dabbling the new, but it’s good to be reminded of it again and again and again!