Van Gogh's Timeless Insights for Today's Visual Artists. In the vast panorama of art history, few figures loom as large as Vincent van Gogh. A digital mentor for many of us, Van Gogh's indomitable spirit and profound insights into the creative process serve as timeless lessons. Whether you're an emerging artist finding your voice or an established one seeking renewed inspiration, his life and words have much to offer. A recent foray into Van Gogh research for the Struggle Like the Masters Course coming next year offered a deeper dive into his psyche and crystallized several takeaways for today's visual artists.
Dismantling the Pillars of Self-Doubt. Every artist's journey is dotted with moments of uncertainty and self-doubt. These introspective periods, while daunting, are almost rites of passage. Vincent Van Gogh was no stranger to such feelings, but his approach to them is instructive. He once remarked, "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." The simple yet profound wisdom here is that action is the antidote to doubt. Instead of succumbing to the inner critic, the very act of creation — the brushstroke on canvas, the molding of clay, the sketch on paper or pad, even the click of a shutter— dispels those looming shadows. Every piece an artist crafts, regardless of its reception, is a testament to triumph over apprehension and stagnancy. I have said it often, action conquers fear.
Nocturnal Whispers: The Night as Muse. Van Gogh's starry nights are not just renowned masterpieces but are also an ode to his infatuation with the night. He poetically observed that the night seemed "more alive and more richly colored than the day." For visual artists, the enigmatic allure of night offers myriad shades, contrasts, and narratives. Whether it's the iridescent glow of city lights, the serene luminescence of a countryside moon, or the enigmatic interplay of shadows, the night can be both a canvas and a muse. Artists can reimagine the nocturnal world through their unique perspectives, capturing its many moods, from tranquility to intense energy.
Between Vision and Reality: Navigating the Creative Labyrinth, The Dance of Creativity and Perseverance. Art, in its essence, is a dance between the mind's eye and the tangible canvas of reality. The initial spark, that first flicker of inspiration, is often vivid and potent in the realm of imagination. Yet, as any artist will attest, translating that inner vision onto the canvas, the sculpture, or the photograph often reveals a labyrinthine journey, filled with twists, turns, and dead-ends.
Vincent Van Gogh - The Sower
This journey, as we delve into it, is a dance in itself — a dance of creativity and perseverance. One might liken it to choreography; the initial steps might be tentative, experimental, each movement gauging the rhythm and tone. Just as a dancer might falter, stumble, or lose tempo, an artist can find the envisioned image or emotion elusive, slipping through our fingers even as we try to capture it.
The sentiment Van Gogh shared — "One must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently" — is especially poignant in this context. Walls, in the artistic realm, manifest as creative blocks, technical challenges, or even emotional barricades for some of us. These walls aren't always negative; in fact, they are essential facets of the creative process. They compel us to push boundaries, to evolve, to grow. Every brick in the wall that we undermine is a lesson learned, a technique mastered, or a limitation overcome.
The dance between vision and reality is also a dance with time. In an era of instant gratification and rapid outcomes, the visual artist is reminded of the virtues of patience and persistence. A new technique learned or finding ones voice will likely evolve over months or even years, with each brushstroke layered upon the previous, each hue deepened or lightened in response to the shifting mood or perspective of the artist. A sculptor might chip away at a block of marble or wood, day in and day out, finding the form and soul within. A photographer might revisit the same location time and time again, waiting for the perfect light, the perfect moment.
Vincent Van Gogh - Road with Cypress and Stars
The exhilaration of a moment in flow where everything is perfect is undeniably intoxicating. That instant when everything clicks, and the vision aligns perfectly with reality, is a high many of us chase. But it's essential to remember that these moments, as glorious as they are, stand upon a foundation of countless hours, days, and sometimes years of tenacious effort and, quite frankly, failure. They are the crescendos in the symphony, made poignant by the build-up that led to them.
Furthermore, as we navigate this maze between vision and execution, there's an internal transformation at play. With each hurdle crossed and each challenge met, our relationship with our craft deepens. The creative voice becomes more distinct, the artistic fingerprint more pronounced. This growth, this evolution, is the silver lining of the oft-frustrating gap between conception and realization.
The dance of creativity and perseverance, as we tread the path from vision to reality, is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. It's a dance that celebrates the spirit of creation, the resilience of the artist, and the ever-evolving dialogue between imagination and expression. Van Gogh, with his tumultuous life and unwavering dedication to his art, stands testament to the timeless beauty of this dance. While monumental artworks are celebrated, they are often the culmination of countless small, intricate details meticulously pieced together. Van Gogh's insight that "great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together" underlines the importance of appreciating the nuances. Each sketch, preparatory study, and color palette trial contributes to the larger masterpiece. For artists, it's essential that we value these seemingly minor tasks, for they lay the foundation of grand creations.
Vincent Van Gogh - Wheatfield with Crows
Through the Artist's Eye: Transformative Observation. The world, as seen through an artist's eyes, is a kaleidoscope of meanings, emotions, and stories. Van Gogh believed that deep observation could imbue objects with new dimensions: "It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning." As artists we have the unique ability to see beyond the obvious, to find narratives in nuances, and to transform the mundane into the magical. This transformative vision is nurtured through patient observation, introspection, and a profound connection with the subject.
Courage: The Invisible Brushstroke. While techniques, mediums, and styles are tangible components of an artwork, courage is the intangible brushstroke present in every piece. As Van Gogh stated, "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" Each artwork is a manifestation of the artist's courage — to challenge norms, to experiment with the untried, to bare one's soul to the world. This bravery to express, innovate, and occasionally defy conventions infuses artworks with authenticity and resonance. It is one of the things that generative A.I. lacks in my opinion. It exemplifies the value of our "hand" and human creativity.
A Lifelong Affair with Creation. The Undying Flame Within. As life meanders through its many phases, the urge to create, for many of us, remains a constant, evolving in its intensity and focus. The creative process is not just an act but a way of life, deeply entwined with an artist's evolving persona, experiences, and aspirations. The realization that art is not just a pursuit but an essential life force can be liberating.
One of Van Gogh's most evocative quotes touches upon the inner flame of creativity: "Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney." This internal blaze, sometimes evident and at times obscured, fuels the artistic journey. It's a reminder that external validations, while gratifying, are transient, but the internal drive to create is eternal, it is God-given and an invitation to co-create with the Holy Spirit.
Vincent Van Gogh - Cafe Terrace At Night (yorck)
Rediscovering Fulfillment-Simple Joys. Often in the race of aspirations, it's easy to lose sight of what truly fulfills the soul. Van Gogh's simple joys — nature, art, poetry — underline that genuine contentment often lies in life's elementary pleasures. I have found, for me, that rekindling this connection with elemental joys can invigorate my creative spirit. In the end, the essence of a fulfilling artistic journey is best captured by Van Gogh's assertion: "I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart." It's this unbridled passion, this unwavering commitment to one's craft that defines a true artist.
In the walking our journey of artistry, let's remember Van Gogh's timeless wisdom and one of my favorite quotes: "I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it." With a heart full of passion and a canvas, monitor or sensor awaiting strokes of brilliance, each of us has a world to conquer. No one can create what you do or how you do it. Shine your light.
Vincent Van Gogh - Red Vineyards
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No Cost book club.
What is a book club anyway? We get together on zoom and go through a book. So, embark on a journey of self-discovery and creative expansion in our bi-weekly book club. Every other Thursday, we delve into inspiring books aimed at nurturing personal growth and fueling our creative spirits. Through lively discussions, insightful exercises, and the shared wisdom of like-minded individuals, we strive to transcend the ordinary and embrace a life of continuous learning and creative exploration. Whether you're an artist seeking your muse or someone on the path of personal development, this book club offers a nurturing space to reflect, discuss, and grow. Join us by registering here and transform every other Thursday into a stepping stone towards a more enlightened and creative self! First book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Next zoom meeting is Thursday, October 26th at 7pm, CST. See you there! Buy your book if you dont already have it.
Digital Art Goes Rogue Magazine Cover contest. Digital Art Goes Rogue Magazine Cover contest. Check out the back cover contest for Digital Art Goes Rogue Magazine. We want to see your art. Follow the link for all the deets. https://digitalartgoesrogue.com/cover-art-contest/
2024 Courses in progress.
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Struggle Like the Masters.