Monday, February 6, 2017

Vincent van Gogh and mistakes

In a particularly impassioned letter to Theo from October 2, 1884, Vincent writes:
If one wants to be active, one mustn’t be afraid to do something wrong sometimes, not afraid to lapse into some mistakes. To be good — many people think that they’ll achieve it by doing no harm — and that’s a lie… That leads to stagnation, to mediocrity. Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility.
You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can’t do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves.
Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares — and who has once broken the spell of “you can’t.”
Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas.
But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, “violates”…
Think about it. Working on old pieces that you long ago gave up on is a great way to feel some freedom. You no longer have the inspiration in front of you. If you began from a photo you hopefully no longer have that...and bingo you are completely free to make a beautiful song with the painting.
Ever since I have been in my walking boot (8 weeks and counting) it has been difficult to stand for a long time to work on my super large paintings.  During these weeks I have taken time to review my plethora of unfinished or unloved works stored in my tracing pads. This was one I did in plein air (last summer) and later gamsoled down in places. I had that reduced piece on my shelf for weeks. Looking to see the secrets that lay inside. When I finally returned to work on it, it was easy.

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