Silencing the Voice of Doubt

I have a great appreciation and fondness for artist Vincent van Gogh. When I’ve seen the question that asks, If you could spend time with a historical person, who would you choose? Vincent tops my list. This misunderstood artistic genius created an amazing body of work in a little more than ten years, with most of his art completed in the last two years of his life.

Vincent’s work includes 2,100 pieces of art, 860 of those oil paintings. His style of painting was bold, colorful, and expressive, and became the foundation of modern art. And yet…in his short lifetime his genius went unrecognized, and he did not receive fame or financial gain while he lived. He was considered, by many, to be a madman. Vincent described himself as one in which “madness and creativity converged”.

Silencing the Voice of Doubt

I not only love Vincent’s art, I love the way he viewed the world and life. Films such as the incredible animated film, Loving Vincent, and even the Doctor Who episode, Vincent and the Doctor, pierce my heart with their beauty and poignancy. I am drawn to Vincent’s words as well and tonight’s blog post is inspired by this artist.

Silencing the Voice of Doubt

Vincent believed in creating and living his dream. If any artist had to learn to overcome self doubt, it was this man. Although his brother Theo supported him and encouraged him, no one else believed in Vincent or appreciated his unique views of reality that he transformed into art. Vincent struggled with depression and poor health, however, he knew what he wanted to accomplish, artistically, and lack of recognition and support didn’t stop him from creating. I’ve thought about his words from the quote above and the deep truth contained within them. We must believe in our abilities to do the things we dream about doing, and silence the voices of doubt, from without and especially from within.

Vincent…this is for you.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot sing’, then by all means sing and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot write’ then by all means write and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot act’ then by all means act and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot cook’ then by all means cook and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot create’ then by all means create and that voice will be silence.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot dance’ then by all means dance and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot travel’ then by all means travel and that voice will be silenced.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot do THAT’ then by all means do THAT and that voice will be silenced.

It is up to me, and up to you, to silence the voice that says ‘you cannot’. Others may cheer me on, and I am grateful for them, but ultimately I am the one who silences doubt by taking action, by doing the very thing that fear soaked doubt hisses is impossible or not for me.

Vincent had excellent words also about the process of moving from doubt to living in dreams that are coming true. He said, “Great things are done by a series of small things that are brought together.” Nowadays we call that baby steps…doing what we can…action steps. So far ahead of his time, was he, and so able to see in a bigger, magical way.

I’d love to give Vincent a hug and then sit quietly out of the way and watch him create. Instead, I’ll say “thank you, Vincent”, and slay doubt with my actions.

Silencing the Voice of Doubt

Movie Review: Loving Vincent

A cold kept me from seeing a one time showing of the independent film Loving Vincent Tuesday evening in the Joplin area. I was very disappointed, as I have long appreciated this amazing and often misunderstood artist. I checked to see what nearby cities might be showing this unique movie. Springfield, Missouri, a little more than an hour away, had a 3:30 showing today, at a arthouse theater in the historic downtown area. Feeling much better, and armed with natural elderberry and zinc cough drops, I had the privilege of watching this beautiful film this afternoon, in a very cool setting. I am grateful to Greg for encouraging me to go and for accompanying me on this adventure.

Loving Vincent, while not a live action movie, used actors to portray the characters and supply the voices. The filmed scenes provided the artists who created the movie with foundational material. Actors include Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Cezary Lucaszewicz. This biographical animation was written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. It carries a PG-13 rating, for mature themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes.

What makes Loving Vincent so unique is that it is the first story depicted entirely in oil painting animation. Over a six year span, more than 100 artists created the paintings, in Van Gogh’s artistic style, that became the 65,000 frames of the movie. Van Gogh’s landscapes and buildings come to life, and his portraits become the characters who are telling Vincent’s story.

A year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh (Gulaczyk), a young man named Armand (Booth) travels to the artist’s last hometown, at the request of his father (O’Dowd), who is a postman. He carries a letter that Vincent wrote to his now deceased brother, Theo (Lucaszewicz), in hopes of delivering it to a close friend of Vincent’s, Dr. Gachet (Flynn).

The doctor is away, allowing Armand time to explore Auvers-sur-Oise, and talk to the people who knew Vincent. He meets Adeline (Tomlinson), the honest barmaid who became Vincent’s friend, and the not so honest Louise (McCrory), housekeeper for Dr. Gachet. The Boatman (Turner) shares stories about Vincent and strong drink, while the doctor’s daughter Marguerite (Ronan) prefers to keep her stories to herself.

As Armand listens to the villagers’ tales, his curiosity turns to a realization that Vincent was more than a crazy or sick man. He recognizes the artist’s genius and his complexities. By the time he meets Dr. Gachet, Armand questions whether Vincent’s death was a suicide, or an accident, or even murder.

What an extraordinary film about a creative and enigmatic man. Visually stunning, Loving Vincent is a work of art, literally, and also a work of the heart. It was thrilling to see familiar Van Gogh paintings come to life through animation.

As the story unfolded, the present was depicted in color while Vincent’s backstory was presented in black and white images. I learned about Vincent’s unhappy childhood. And I felt his loneliness as an adult as he struggled first to belong somewhere and second to be appreciated for his art.

A prolific artist, Vincent created more than 800 painting in eight years. Although he gave away many paintings, and sent most of his completed pieces to his brother, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. He died unrecognized as an artist, not knowing the value of work.

And that has always broken my heart. I love the colors and energy in Vincent’s paintings. His words inspire me. For he was not only a prolific painter, he wrote hundreds of letters to Theo, detailing his life and his thoughts and his torments.

I did not realize, until I saw this movie, that there were suspicions around Vincent’s death. There is no proving any of them, then or now. But is comforts me, thinking that perhaps this talented, earthy and sometimes unsettled man didn’t take his own life.

The Moxie Cinema, in downtown Springfield, was the perfect venue for this film. Known as an arthouse theater, The Moxie has two intimate theater rooms, occupancy 88 people each, that feel more like home theater rooms. The seats are ultra comfortable, and the ticket prices and concessions are very reasonably priced. They offer healthy snack options, such as bottled water and almonds, or you can even sip on a glass of wine during the movie.

The Moxie showcases independent, artsy, classical and documentary films. I am thrilled to discover them and appreciate what they have to offer. I am grateful as well that locally, Route 66 Theater in Webb City is bringing in more independent films. Loving Vincent played there Tuesday evening. I look forward to seeing what they present next.

Greg and I arrived an hour early. We were joined later by more movie goers, of all ages.

Loving Vincent…worth the drive and the time invested. Because I do love this artist, and his authentic heart and work. I had tears in my eyes as the film concluded, with one of my favorite Vincent quotes:

“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply’, ‘he feels tenderly’.

You have, Vincent. I say, you did feel deeply and tenderly and you saw the world in fresh ways. I hope, oh I hope, that you know how much you have touched people with your art and your life. And you fit in, you belong and have a place, in the hearts of so many who appreciate your contributions to the world.

We are…I am…loving Vincent.

Journey 217: Vincent and the Doctor

Today marked a return to a more normal schedule, after a precious week of being with Greg’s dad before his passing. I worked this morning, in the heavy rain and lightning, showing property to a fun young couple who braved the weather. This afternoon, I had time to get back into another aspect of my schedule that has been so fun this summer….watching Doctor Who with Dayan. As surely as I needed rest for my weariness, after an emotional 10 days, and a return to my work schedule, I needed this time with my grandson.

vincent and the doctor poster

The episode that captured me and pierced my heart is titled Vincent and the Doctor. Dayan told me it is one of his favorite Doctor Who episodes. After watching, I can see why. The 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, and his companion Amy Pond, portrayed by Karen Gillan, travel to France to meet legendary artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Spotting an evil looking face in one of Van Gogh’s paintings in a museum in current time Paris, The Doctor is concerned about the intentions of the creature Vincent captured in his painting, and wants to talk to the artist.

Vincent, wonderfully fleshed out by Tony Curran,  is a ridiculed man in his hometown, tormented, struggling with low self esteem and depression. And he is brilliant, creating an enormous body of work, compelled to paint. No one appreciates his style of art. The Doctor and Amy are delighted to meet this man whom they admire, and they are touched and concerned about his mental and physical afflictions. In spite of his manic behavior, he is charming and curious and willing to assist the time lord in hunting down the alien beast who has become trapped on Earth. Only Vincent can see this creature. Others just assume the creature is imaginary and part of the painter’s madness.

vincent and the doctor painting

In the end, the beast is dispatched, and not without some sadness as The Doctor realizes it was alone and afraid. With the artist and his community safe, the pair from the future prepare to leave, but first, they have a powerful surprise for Vincent.

This is one of the episodes that makes me deeply appreciate Doctor Who, and my grandson who introduced me to this series. All the fictional elements aside, what I loved about Vincent and The Doctor is the way Van Gogh was portrayed as a troubled man who saw the world differently. He didn’t perceive in a wrong way. He saw with fresh eyes and captured nature and people in new and exciting ways. Vincent excitedly tells The Doctor and Amy that colors call to him. He can hear them and see them move and swirl in ways that must be painted to be explained. Vincent paints because he must and he is passionate about his work, even though he seems to be the only one who is.

vincent and the doctor starring at the sky

When Amy and The Doctor show amazement and appreciation for his paintings, Vincent has a difficult time accepting their praise, being unaccustomed to such compliments. The pair gently encourages the artist to keep going, keep painting, keep living. The Doctor has visited the artist just a few months before he commits suicide. Amy hopes that by encouraging Vincent, appreciating him and befriending him, he might live longer, creating more beautiful paintings as a result

The final scenes undid me. Unable to convince Vincent that his works are magnificent, The Doctor and Amy return to the Paris museum, in the present time, taking the artist with them. As they lead him to the Van Gogh room, Vincent is amazed, eyes wide as he looks at all the art around him. He is surprised when he finds himself in a popular exhibit of his own work. His paintings are hanging in places of honor on the wall. Crowds of people are admiring his work.

vincent and the doctor starry night

The Doctor asks the curator, played to perfection by Bill Nighy, to describe Vincent Van Gogh, in 100 words. The curator, Dr. Black, gives an emotional recitation of the value of Vincent, as an artist and as a man, calling him the greatest of the painters. Vincent listens, with his back to Dr. Black, tears flowing to hear someone speaking about him and his work in such a way. He returns home, excited about painting, and Amy is sure he must have lived longer and created more great works of art. She tearfully discovers on her return trip to the museum that Vincent still died at the age of 37, and did not create additional paintings. Crying, Amy wonders if they made any difference in the troubled artist’s life. The Doctor answers that “good things can’t remove the pain of bad things, but bad things can’t spoil the good things, and we certainly added a large amount of good to Vincent’s life.”

What an episode to ponder. I’m not a crier, but by the end of this story, Dayan and I both suddenly had the “sniffles”. We talked about this one, and how important it is to appreciate others and let them know that we do. It is also so vital to do what we are passionate about doing, whether anyone appreciates us and approves of our work….or not. The sorrow of Vincent, his madness even, did not stop him from creating. Lack of admiration and respect did not deter him. His ability to see differently produced such magnificent works as Starry Night, which was portrayed beautifully in a scene in this episode. I am grateful that the man painted with such abandon from his heart and his imagination, in spite of, or because of, his deep pain. Well done, Vincent. I hope somewhere tonight, you can feel my sincere admiration.

If you only ever watch one Doctor Who scene, watch this one!