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Van Gogh's Waves
Van Gogh silently gathers his art materials into a large pile. He finds his paint brushes ---there is still wet dark blue paint on them, and they are scattered around the easel ---and his palette and, of course, has paint on it. Paint tubes are strewn on the ground. He sighs, and tries to clean up, but stops after a few moments. Seriously, he is tired of painting in the field of Mrs. Rossi’s farm all day long, and the weather is so hot that his shirt is completely wet from his sweat.
Plus, tomorrow is a big day, he has to get a good rest tonight, he thinks. He is going on a trip with Raphael, who is also an outstanding artist. Well, he is not very familiar with him, but he met him in a few art salons and, somehow, they’ve decided to travel and paint together. Erh, he is too exhausted that he cannot remember anything. Van Gogh leaves his huge pile of supplies on the ground and hops in his bed.
He feels some wet paint on his sheets, but “whatever”. Good night.
On the other side of town:Raphael leaves Luti’s bakery and struts quickly down the street. It is the middle of June, and he feels a warm breeze blow by his face even though it is already midnight. He is supposed to stay with Luti, but he remembers his trip with his new friend Van Gogh. Well, Raphael met him in an art salon, and he really appreciated his unique painting style and techniques. His stunning brushworks and combination of colors really amazed Raphael, who, as a famous realist painter, had hardly ever tried impressionistic drawing before. Hmm. Maybe he could learn something from Van Gogh, and become a double-style artist. That sounds good, right? Raphael ponders.
In the early morning, while Van Gogh is lying on his bed and struggles to wake up, Raphael is already standing in front of the mirror and brushing his shiny hair. The train is at eight, which means he has one more hour of bumper time. He checks the drawer of his easel again, where his paint tubes, brushes, palette, blenders, pastels, and colored pencils are lying neatly. He finally closes the drawer and folds the easel, and squeezes it into a black bag. Of course, he doesn’t forget his canvases. But it is such a pain to bring them, thus he decides to leave them behind and buy some on the trip.
Perfect, time to meet together, he thinks happily.
Van Gogh is awakened by the strong sun light caste into the windows. He rolls over on his bed and refuses to get up. Oh well. Just one more minute. When he finally opens his eyes, it is only five minutes from the time they are supposed to meet. He slips on his clothes quickly and begins packing up---yeah, he was too lazy to pack yesterday. The paint tubes and brushes are scattered everywhere, and he furiously puts them into a clothes bag. Then sketch papers, chalk, palette knives and the palette go into another bag. He stares at the pastels and colored pencils, and reluctantly grabs some and put them into the third bag. Erh. I hate packing up, he complains silently. Then he suddenly remembers the canvases, and wastes another good minute glancing at them. Finally, he puts three medium-size ones under his arms and drags the three bags out of his tiny house.
Nice weather, though.
Raphael stands impatiently at the train station. Come on, he wouldn’t forget the trip, would he? Raphael is not even sure about the answer to his question. He blames himself for not reminding Van Gogh yesterday, and decides to wait twenty more minutes. Whatever.
Rushing into the train station with his huge pile of stuff, Van Gogh crashes wobblily into a young man. The young man has light brown hair to his shoulders, and a pair of clear dark eyes. The man stares back at him and speaks loudly:
“Where the heck were you, Van Gogh? I have waited for you for like an hour.”
Van Gogh suddenly realizes that the young man is Raphael. Oh well. He is probably late, but not too late.
“Sorry. Don’t have the habit of waking up early. Plus, I am old.” He pats Raphael’s shoulder, who is disgusted by the dark paint on Van Gogh’s hands.
Raphael doesn’t respond. He just drags Van Gogh to the green train, and they disappear at the entrance.
After six hours of travelling, they finally arrived at Positano, a small but peaceful city along the Amalfi Coast. Neither of the two exhausted artists desire to paint on the first day, so they rest in the hotel. It is perhaps the biggest bed Van Gogh has ever slept on, and the smallest one Raphael has ever slept on. But they are both too tired to notice.
The next day, Raphael wakes up early and begins to wander around the hotel. He wonders what he should paint. Maybe something interesting or fun? He thinks. His paintings are usually about religion and portraits, and he has an extremely realistic and accurate style. He uses the smallest paint brushes - as small as needles - and spent hours to depict a detail that is so small that people barely notice. But it was those tiny elements which make the paintings “perfect.” Oh well. Maybe that’s just his way of expressing things. He sighs and returns to the room.
Van Gogh is already painting on his canvas when Raphael returns. He is a quick painter, and he can finish three or even more paintings in one day. He sketches the coastal line and houses in red chalk, and begins using pencils to add more details, such as the windows and the waves. Although the hotel is small, it is facing the sea. He definitely enjoys the wonderful scenery and wants to record it with his paint brushes. While Van Gogh is squeezing a bunch of blue and white paint into the palette, Raphael suddenly has an idea.
“How about we paint one together? I mean, we have significantly different painting styles and expressions, so it would be really interesting to see them in one artwork.”
Van Gogh raises his eyebrows. That is a crazy idea, but it doesn’t sound so bad. Plus, he is as curious as a kitten to see the results.
“Hmmm. But I’m sure that we will have a lot of fights…” Van Gogh hesitates. Although he has already overcome his biggest mental breakdown - remember his forever-gone left ear - so he is still afraid that everything will stimulate his disease.
Raphael immediately understands what Van Gogh is trying to say. He gives him his best smile, he usually doesn’t smile, and promises him that they will have discussions instead of fights. Sometimes Raphael sympathizes with Van Gogh because of his horrible and lonely early life, but he is also a bit jealous of that. The terrifying experience has given the artist more mature insights and dark elements to his work, while Raphael’s are often described as “positive” and “innocent”. Puff.
The two artists begin to concentrate on their artwork. It doesn’t work well at first. It is only a medium-size canvas, and they have trouble not crashing elbows. Finally, Raphael, is determined to buy a huge one on the street, comes back with a canvas as big as the door of the hotel room.
Van Gogh starts off with a small yellow house, which reminds him of the yellow house he rented in Arles. He makes a series of warm-colored paint mixtures and brushes long thick lines of paint on the canvas. They seem random, but in fact form a nice, circular texture. He smiles.
Raphael is still using his small needle brush. He looks at the blue apartment again and again, and finally determines that its main color is lake blue plus some violet purple plus some titan white. He carefully dots the paint on a corner and fills a small area. He then switches the color again because of the sunlight in the apartment.
When Van Gogh finishes five buildings, Raphael is still working on his blue apartment. He is amazed by Raphael’s accuracy and patience, but still rolls his eyes.
“Humph. Too slow, buddy. We are not painting pictures, Raphael.” Van Gogh looks at Raphael seriously, then leaves the room.
Raphael stands back and looks at the painting. Van Gogh’s buildings are all a bit swirled and distorted. His brushworks are small and random, and he uses colors that are not even in reality---the yellow house is somehow reddish and brown, and the white one is light greenish blue. But they have an amazing overall effect. Raphael gasps. He scratches his head confusedly, and tries painting the way Van Gogh does. His hands are shaky, and he becomes more relaxed as he continues using the colors that exaggerate reality. The final result is not bad, and he gets excited about his new style.
By the afternoon, the painting is full of three kinds of style---pure impressionism, an exotic mixture of classic and impressionism, and classic. Van Gogh is actually fine with Raphael’s new skill. He just wants to finish it, that is all.
As it becomes darker outside, the two artists have to imagine the scene on their own. Van Gogh is completely fine with it, but Raphael has serious trouble. He cannot draw anything without a reference.
“Think, Raphael. Anywhere that has a sea and some idyllic houses. Or just imagine your own perfect place.”
Raphael nods. He puts down his tiny brushes, and steals a big rough one from Van Gogh’s pile. He squeezes some violet, blue lake, crimson, burnt sienna, phthalo blue, orange, medium yellow and nearly every color he has onto his palette. He has never had the feeling of controlling the colors before, but now he does.
“You know what. You can keep your style, but add anything you want to express, to tell others in the painting…” Van Gogh is already finishing up the sea. Waves are running after waves. They are free to go anywhere, so do the two artists’ minds. Great image!
The last brushwork! Raphael cannot not even hold the paintbrush correctly. He is too tired, and his arms are sore, but he really wants to finish.
They stand back. Hundreds of old houses and apartments and stores are scattered along the coast of Amalfi. The sky seems to have thousands of colors, so does the sea. Sun is shining brightly and warming up everything on the shore.
Van Gogh and Raphael breathe deeply. They are still standing before the window, but the scene is completely new and different now. They are seeing through their own windows and through each other.