Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Van Stein brims with self-satisfaction when I see him next morning.  

Over cappuccino and thin slices of Serrano jamon on bread smeared with tomato at a dingy diner, he talks animatedly about a breakthrough.    

“I painted the best painting I ever painted,” he says.  “Dali was there, I could feel him, egging me on.”

Van Stein never makes a big deal of anything hes painted, preferring to wait until he inspects the work back home inside his studio, only when I push for a peek, which I rarely do.  

Its almost a game, because he owes me in pictures for the expense of his travel.  I pay his way to strange places:  airfare, room and meals; he repays me in art, the pick of the litter.  

No question, Im getting the better of this exchange, even if I have more pictures than walls to hang them on.

That's because Van Stein paints his best when traveling through bizarre places, challenged by unusual sights and stimuli, jet-lag and sleep deprivation.  

Back home, Van Stein can paint on autopilot.  

But in Reykjavik, Gheel, Arles and Figueres, hes got one crack, maybe two if hes hot, to get everything he sees, everything he feels, down on canvas. 

So Van Stein unveils his 10-x-4 rooftop painting, Moonrise over Figueres, looking out toward the Dali Museum.  

His euphoria is warranted; this is truly the artist in his element.   

“Its got bounce,” I say.  “A surreal bounce.”

Hence, our quest into creativity and madness finally has a name.

Upon checking out, Anna offers to take our photo standing next to a big bust of Dali.  

We pose, she snaps.  

Van Stein takes the camera, retrieves the image.  “Ya see?”  A big hairy orb has muscled in on us.  “Ya see?”

So now weve got Van Gogh, St. Dymphna, James Dean, Machiavelli and Salvador Dali all hanging over us, awaiting our next move.