Painting a Song

Truthfully, I always wanted to write songs like Vincent van Gogh painted. In vibrant colors, with palpable emotion, bigger than life, scenes slightly off-center of impressionistic, loving characterizations of world-weary heroes and heroines.  I remember seeing an exhibition of his paintings when I was 20. I had books of his paintings as a teenager, I would make rough line drawing copies of some. But I was unfamiliar with a series in the exhibition that showed his early years, imitating, or should I say expertly executing, the Dutch Masters typical style. Up until that moment, I had always thought van Gogh painted the way he did because he didn't have a more refined technique. When in fact, he broke free of that technique, the subtlety, the blended neutral palette, the dark hues, for something less refined, a hyperbole of reality, bright, and alive. There was a truth to his swirling, bold portrayals, to a story, less concerned with the facts and more focused on the feel. That's how I have always thought of songwriting. In colors, in space, in the bold strokes. I'm painting a story in a three dimensions, maybe four. So what would I want to paint? How would I want to feel? Does it strike a certain emotional reaction? What colors do I see when I hear the music or sing the melody?  And that's how songs usually come into form for me, as a mood, with certain details... and then the canvas begins to fill in, with more and more details. Many years later I took my first workshop from Mary Gauthier and as a pre-requisite she asked everyone to read Brenda Ueland's book 'If You Want to Write'. Throughout the book Ueland makes references to van Gogh over and over again. It confirmed something for me. That I had been on the right track all least for my artistic compass:  It's about wanting to share the beauty, or the sorrow, or the details of the moment so vividly, that someone else can feel it too. And part of the journey is this: to get bigger, we have to break free. 

- Octopus Ink -  

India purple, blackwater sundown  

I am returning to my den  

why do you follow?  

my love is not yours to capture  

I give freely or not at all  

I am a whisper onto white sky   

I am a song carved in ochre veins  

I am the three fingers of my right hand  

stained with octopus black ink  

do not confuse my flesh  

with the delicacy I serve to others  

I am not the story I tell  

I am the freedom   

that is born  

from telling it 

- C. Terrones  


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