The Van Gogh Method

by Genevieve

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been a little preoccupied with–get ready, it’s shocking–school work. For those of you who haven’t heard my long, tired spiel already, the reason I get to travel around Europe this summer is to work on an independent study abroad project. My idea was to basically retrace the life of Vincent Van Gogh. Backwards, from Arles to Zundert. Along the way, I would write my own creative stuff, trying to put his super-emotional, tortured-soul sentiment into poetry.

I have to admit, Van Gogh is exhausting. Spending even an hour concentrating on his haywire feelings and catastrophic creativity makes me feel like silly putty for the rest of the day. Confession–when I first walked into the Van Gogh Museum a month ago, I watched the introductory video, made it halfway around the first floor, and walked out. I promptly bought a bag of paprika-flavored chips at the Albert Heijn down the street, and sat in the park, loathing my own inadequacy and eating my feelings.

It would be cheesily reassuring to write that I then wiped the orange crumbs from my hands and face, grabbed my precious Moleskine, and marched back to the museum, where I wrote a 10-page epic poem that is currently awaiting publication. Unfortunately, that’s not the Van Gogh Method of problem solving. The Van Gogh Method goes something a bit more like this:

1. Feel surge of positive energy from nature

2. Come up with new project idea

3. Tell all your friends and family that you are half-way to success

4. Begin project

5. Good-naturedly muddle through early obstacles

6. Expect praise from friends and family about how good-naturedly you’ve been muddling through obstacles

7. Begin to feel unsatisfied with friends, family, and project

8. Blame as many other people as possible

9. Abandon project and go walking for 40 miles without shoes and/or remove ear

10. Repeat

You see why it’s hard to get work done.

The last week or so in Amsterdam, I was having about as much success as Van Gogh himself, circa 1880. Luckily, I was able to relocate, just south of Barcelona. Being a bit farther away from my combined research topic and source of inspiration is proving to be very beneficial. Barcelona may have nothing to do with Van Gogh exactly, but he was a big believer in traveling and working outside. Granted, he preferred to talk punishingly long walks alone in the winter, and I took a high speed train, but hey. That’s just my method.

Smith & Naifeh’s biography of Van Gogh (AKA: my bible)

P.S. Since that first day, I have been able to make it up to the third and final floor of the museum on two separate occasions.