My wife and I just returned from our honeymoon. Yes, it’s been a year and half since our wedding (aren’t more and more couples taking a later honeymoon?), but it couldn’t have been more perfect timing. As you might have read in my last post, I took a vacation from social media and blogging for the two weeks I was gone to rethink my writing priorities and goals, and I wanted to find a way to reawaken the artistic spirit, the sense than anything was possible with the written word.
When I left my MFA program at Florida International University, I had a novel in stories and a collection of poetry, and I thought that those two objects were the key to my future artistic endeavors. Many of those poems I have still not shared or tried to publish, but overall, I was not able to sell my novel in stories as a whole — just a few pieces. And since that time, I have focused more on journalism and radio shows and video production, and I have had some success, but before I left for the honeymoon, I could feel that my spirit for the written word, for creative projects, had been worn down by trying to take on too many things and achieve goals that were perhaps a distraction. I was working seven days a week and constantly looking at my phone for the next project, worrying about getting traffic, money, and more. But I found some places, some moments, during my honeymoon that helped remind me of the passion I have for creative projects, for the written word and for some new mediums, too.
The Architecture in Barcelona
My wife and I spent a few days in Barcelona, and I’ve heard so much about this city from friends and family that I already felt I had been to this city before. They all said I would love the place because of the art and the spirit of revolution (I’m the leftist in the family, I guess). It’s not often so many people talk with such gusto about a place. My wife, Heron, was particularly interested in the Guadi houses, so against every bone in my body that hates looking like a tourist, I reluctantly signed us up for a walking tour to see three Gaudi locations. I really didn’t know much about Gaudi at first, and honestly I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about architecture, but I found, like most people, Gaudi’s homes to be inspirations. I particularly liked the house above, which is called Casa Batlló. I love the colors and the sense of augmented reality, because that’s what I love about great art. I love writing and painting and music and design that moves the perspective of an object, an idea, a character, or a place flawlessly and seamlessly into the fantastic. I have plenty more photos I’ll be sharing on my Flickr page of Gaudi’s homes soon.
Of course, Barcelona isn’t all Gaudi architecture. Before I left for our trip, I was reading about Barcelona, and I came across the stained-glass ceiling above, and I couldn’t wait to photograph it. That’s my photo, and I’m proud of it, and I have many more shots of this ceiling. This stained-glass ceiling is in the Palau de la Música Catalana, which was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner — a rival of Gaudi. It’s truly a spectacular building that I recommend you see when you head to Barcelona, but it is way more expensive than it should be for a tour. The stained-glass is meant to resemble the sun, and once again, it’s one of those dream-like images, one of those cosmic visions of the sun emanating energy out into the world, a transcription of light and all that we can not see.
Museums: Centre Pompidou and Picasso
Throughout my writing career, I have always looked to paintings for inspiration. I have often seen writing and painting and music as the same thing. Without the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I’m not sure if I would be on the path I am today. In Paris, I’ve been to several of the art museums, including the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, but I’ve never been to the Centre Pompidou, and it surely didn’t disappoint. I was able to see a bunch of paintings by Matisse and Kandinsky and many others, but I was fascinated by all the old magazine covers they had around the building. I’ve been experimenting with design, trying to get much better. I started to look at all the older magazine covers, and I realized that I could do that on Illustrator. So I took a bunch of photos of the magazines I wanted to steal from, but I lost my phone with all the pics. I think that’s the art Gods telling me to be original.
The Picasso Museum was another artistic experience that proved to be inspiring. We went to the one in Barcelona, and what I found incredible about Picasso was seeing his work from the early part of his life. He was truly a genius, and painting seemed to come natural to him, but what I most admire about him and his art was his work ethic. That man painted with a fury, and he must have sketched the same scene or object a million times until he found the right one. The hard work he put into his painting led to that explosion of creativity in his later life. It’s obvious that hard work, even in moments of doubt, can lead an artist to a place that is unimaginable or unforeseen. It’s just about keeping the shoulder to the wheel; it’s about grinding; it’s about the journey.
Before I left for the honeymoon, I was contemplating whether or not I should bring my Nikon D7100, because I was a bit worried about it being stolen by the elusive pick pockets or burdened by having to lug it around. But I’m so glad that I brought it, because I’m learning that I love photography, and there were so many moments that I saw that I felt that I just needed to capture. In the past, this would have been moments of poetry, and I would have written them down. Maybe that’s taking me away from the writing a bit more, but I can’t help but think of photography as poetry, as story telling.
I’m loving shooting photos at night. Before I started reading about photography, I was always so blown away with long exposures — mostly because I had no idea how photographers achieved that effect. More than ever, I’m excited about light; I’m excited about the way it bounces off the water. I’m excited about capturing motion. I have so much to learn, but I’m exited to learn.
I’ve also started experimenting with black and white photography, and I still feel that I have so much to discover, but here are a couple of my attempts:
Yes, the picture of Heron above might be overexposed a bit, and I have a feeling the spot on the right of the frame is just too much, but I like the effect, even if it’s imperfect. Here is a color one from the subway.
My family and I went on a walking tour in Montmartre, and it was great to learn more about a part of Paris that I had fallen in love with many years ago when I was wandering around by myself. Of course, I didn’t know anything about it at the time, but I just loved walking around the neighborhood. I loved the Sacre Coeur and the view of the city. The walking tour company was called Culture Fish, and the guide was incredible. He showed us all around the city and places where Van Gogh had painted. In fact, he even showed us a place where Van Gogh had once lived. Notice the sunflowers hanging out of the window below.
What I loved about Montmartre was that it still feels like a city for artists, for writers, for intellecturals. Perhaps this is a bit of the “Midnight in Paris” syndrome made famous by Woody Allen, but the time where artists lived in Montmartre and the Lapin Agile rocked with music and madness seems like a hell of a time. Imaging a city, a world, where men and women lived and valued art so intensely was inspiring to me: to live in a place like that seemed incredible. Unfortunately, as my wife pointed out, there might not ever be another Montmartre or Greenwich Village — at least like it used to be. That community might have become virtual now. Artists no longer need to live next to each other to communicate. However, they do need to work at their craft. The spirit of this city, of the past, rushed into my brain and words, and it refreshed my creative mind. The reminders of the creative process, the joie de vivre, was everywhere in Montmatre, even stuck in the walls.
And I mean literally stuck in the walls. Above you can see a sculpture of the main character in Marcel Aymé’s story, “The Man Who Walked Through Walls.” I had never read the story before, but the tour guide had given us a synopsis. Basically, it’s about a man who learns he can walk through walls until one day he gets stuck. It’s obviously a lot cooler of a story than I’m given credit for, but after seeing this sculpture, I’ve decided to devour Aymé’s work, because it seems to capture that sense of bendable reality that I’m trying to attain in my work while remaining literary and engaging.
I knew I truly loved Montmartre when I saw the scene happen below which is told through a slide show. Basically, I noticed this Elvis Costello-looking guitar player. He was trying to get the attention of people, and I went over and snapped a picture. He started singing this song about Montmartre, and then another guy came over and started singing with him. Then that other guy who came out of nowhere started conducting an audience of strangers, and they all started singing. What a place. Honestly, what a place.
Here is one last photo I took while in Montmartre. I have many more you will be able to see on my Flickr.
The Seine and the Petit Pont
Finally, the most inspiring place for me on my honeymoon, besides anywhere I was with my wife (yes, that should score me some points, right?), was staring at the Seine on the steps near the Petit Pont. When I first went to Paris seven years ago with nothing but a backpack and my journal, all I wanted to do was be a writer, and I wrote in my journal everywhere I went, trying to capture what I saw, hopefully, the same way a painter captures a landscape. I sketched and I sketched, and because I didn’t really know anyone in Paris, I spent a lot of time alone, writing in my notebook. One of my favorite places to write was on the steps near the petite pont in front of the Notre Dame. One day, I was sitting there and writing in my journal, when a man came up to me and said, “If you keep a journal, a journal will keep you.” That’s always stayed with me…that moment.
So I returned to this spot on honeymoon on the last day we where in Europe, where this mysterious man said those words to me that have stuck with me for years, and it struck me how much time had passed. I was now with my wife. I was now older and more experienced. And yes, I am a writer in some way. I have published some great articles in cool places, but I still don’t have a book. And when I return to this place in the future, to this spot, perhaps with my children, I want to have a shelf filled with my writing. I found the inspiration again. I found the motivation. I am awake.
4 thoughts on “The Honeymoon in France and Spain: Reawakening the Artistic Spirit”
I really enjoyed this man!
Thanks for reading Brian!
Keep at the words, Joe. Tho’ only one of your many gifts, I think it is the most powerful… (well, I just thought of your fine rock n roll tenor… but, yeah, stickin’ with words.)
Thanks Jeffrey. I appreciate you reading and commenting — and listening to my tenor, too. Hope you’re doing well. Looking forward to music again soon.