On the Subject of Yellow Paint

There’s a story about how Van Gogh used to eat yellow paint. Yellow was his favorite color, and he thought it would make him happy “on the inside.” I think about that story a lot when I’m depressed, and I appreciate the story but not the way it’s usually told. It’s always treated like such a spectacle: look at how hopeless he was, a normal person wouldn’t do something like that. But what has always stuck with me is Van Gogh’s foresight. His actions aren’t madness, there’s an awareness – a acute knowledge of what’s to come. This story is a reminder, to me, of the hardships of happiness for those who are usually in pain. To have every moment of joy, comfort, and tenderness, always touched with the awareness that it will not last. We glorify the hardship of creation, we say that geniuses create art against all odds through their pain. But really, isn’t it easiest to create when there’s the feeling that it’s the only way to speak at all? Falling down, we will grab at anything to stop our fall, sometimes that ledge will be painting or writing, perhaps it will be sex or drugs. Sometimes it is yellow paint. What is the point of this? I’m not sure, I guess I’m just saying that the struggle of depression is not just a struggle of the “now.” It’s not just that I feel bad now, it is the knowledge that no matter what I do I will feel bad again, and I try to do everything I can to slow down that decline. It’s hard to control oneself from holding on as hard as you can to things that make you happy, even if you know you run the risk of dragging those things down with you, when confronted with the despair that happiness wont last.

One thought on “On the Subject of Yellow Paint

  1. I believe I’ve read that all that paint Van Gogh ate slowly poisoned his mind and led to his eventual suicide. Depression can be so desperate, but also a muse. I write my best stuff when I feel like shit.


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