Friday, February 10, 2006

Visions of Van Gogh

I long to be a world-renowned famous artist.

This discovery was unearthed when completing the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Initially, I felt shameful about wanting to be famous, as if I needed validation or approval from others. However, it has been nearly two years since having realized my true goal, and I have had time for my perspective to shift, and to appreciate that I just want to share my creative offerings with the world at large.

Often I am reminded by my supporters that Van Gogh wasn't famous until after he passed away, and barely sold anything during his lifetime. Let me say, that I have no intentions of waiting until after I have passed away to be truly discovered by the masses. So every opportunity I recognize, I take the chance to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, throwing myself out there. Sometimes I am received by someone equally as passionate about my work, other times not. But I continue to remind myself: After the final no, there comes a yes, and upon that yes, my future awaits.

Which leads me to my visions of Van Gogh...

I have just completed reading a biography of the master artist, written by A.M & Renilde Hammacher. This has given me some insight into the life and existence of the poor tortured soul, and has helped me to debunk the myth of his sudden fame.

Born March 30 1853, in Zundert, Brabant, one year after his mother delivered a stillborn son, also named 'Vincent Willem Van Gogh'. I cannot imagine living in the shadow of being named after ones deceased older sibling.

Throughout his lifetime, Vincent experienced the cycles of extreme depression, at one moment being quite cheerful, only to involuntarily and suddenly becoming tragically depressed. He strived to discover the meaning of his personal sorrow and what secrets it could convey to him. Constantly seeing, reading, evaluating. He was a romantic dreamer, passionate about women, and would draw obsessively.

Having been raised by his minister parents, he later studied theology, and many, many languages including Latin and Greek. He spent his time translating the Bible into French, English, German and Dutch throughout four columns in his notebooks. At various times in his life, he was a lay evangelist, and worked as assistants to reverends and ministers at various private boarding schools.

His parents were discouraging of his artistic skills and his ability to support a livelihood from creating art. His younger brother Theo, was the only one within his immediate family who sincerely recognized the pure artistic potential.

But the discovery of this amazing talent was by no means just stumbled upon after the artist's tragic passing. Vincent himself worked for various art dealers for nearly sixteen years. His younger brother Theo and his uncle C.M. Van Gogh were also art dealers. His maternal aunt married one of Vincent's favourite artists, Anton Mauve. His acquaintances included Anton Ridder Van Rappard a young Dutch artist, as well as, at that time, the budding artist Gaugin.

Van Gogh did not always paint, he was one to draw obsessively, preferably drawing models of women. After drawing exclusively for over one year, Anton Mauve taught him how to handle a pallet of paint. Mauve later went on to further encourage the budding painter by sending him paints and all other necessary supplies.

Vincent Van Gogh was very surprised by the results of his first painting, having been under the impression that his painting skills would have to improve over time and much practice. He wrote to his brother Theo "in a certain way I am glad I have not 'learned' painting, because I might have 'learned' to pass by such
techniques" such as applying paint directly to the canvas from the tube of paint.
His letter goes on to explain "Now I say, No, this is just what I want- if it is impossible, it is impossible; I will try it, thought I do not know myself how it should be done"

In a letter from September 1882 to Theo "I do not know myself how I paint it. I sit down with a white board before the spot that strikes me, I look at what is before my eyes, I say to myself 'this white board must become something; I come back dissatisfied- I put it away, and when I have rested a little, I go and look at it with a kind of fear. Then I am still dissatisfied, because I still have that splendid scene too clearly in my mind to be satisified with what I made of it. But I find in my work an echo of what struck me, after all..."

As a visual artist, I empathize with being emotionally invested with the end result, the final product. It is an exercise in surrender and release to allow the creation to become what itself strives to be.

I wonder if it was his experience with depression and sorrow that led to his affinity with anything gnarled, thorny, or tangled.

He had a remarkable ability to use his suffering to activate his creative powers as well as gaining access to profound subconscious knowledge through his creative expressions.

The myth that he sold no works during his lifetime is false, his brother
Theo purchased pieces, as did other various artists, however on many unfortunate occassions, he would not receive payment for the works surrendered.

So while his fame did not arise during his lifetime, he had an amazing network of artists, art dealers and representatives, some of which within his extended family. Now I ask you, would he have been famous without knowing so many art dealers in his lifetime? I think not. This serves as an important reminder to all striving artists, to expose as much of your work as you can. You never know the path of your destiny, but owe it to ourselves to expose ourselves as much as possible.

As Vincent Van Gogh's favourite writer, Sensier, wrote in his 'Life of Millet':
"Art is a battle- in art you have to risk your own skin"

How very true, as to the vulnerable artist, sharing your works can be as comparable as laying naked on the sidewalk for all to see and critique.

Let us remember to be vulnerable, risk rejection, and expose our very essence.


MARYBETH said...

BRAVO Krystin,
wonderfully written and enjoyable to read!