Everyday Words

Inspiration from Van Gogh

July 15, 2004

Generally not one for museums or dishing about art work (Ah, yes, I see the history of humanities suffering in that yellow blob) I was unexplainably eager to see the van Gogh exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.

Although I own volumes of his letters and writings, his artwork was a mystery to me. All I knew was he was it when it came to great artists. His works was posters for crying out loud! When people thought of important works of art his name would always come up. His work is so far up the scale that mere mortals were never supposed to do what he did. He’s an icon, a legend, a master.

Because of this, I had always had the notion he was born this way. He came out of the womb with a brush and went to work. His style was always there or so I believed.

The exhibit showed some of his famous paintings and portraits but what they also showed were his drawings. This is where I spent most of my time because this is where I received a lesson.

Van Gogh had tried several (unsuccessful) careers before he decided to pursue art at 27. And when he first began he made simple sketches of life around him. In the drawings on display one could see some of his mistakes, hard lines, and sometimes shabby movements. What struck me most about these images was how simple they were, drawn by a man who was trying to learn.

When he first began to paint he mimicked other artists and their way of doing things; he didn’t have a style, direction or vision. His way of painting – the greatness – would happen later on, after years of practice and confidence. It also wouldn’t be recognised until after his death for during the rest of his life, he was just a man who tried to paint.

Sometimes, we remove the humanity from great people; putting them on pedestals so high they become separated from us. We think we can never obtain their greatness because we aren’t where they are. What we should think is we aren’t where they are yet. For we all have to start somewhere to become something.