*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
And yet books were faithful companions for Vincent, an important source of sustenance during his times of melancholy: he periodically re-read his favourites, finding new meaning in the text and illustrations each time. Van Gogh read in at least two ways: first “breathlessly,’ and then ‘by careful exploration.’ But we could add a third and a fourth way: thirdly as an artist, and fourthly from the perspective of the writer he perhaps knew himself to be. To Vincent, reading books meant above all to ‘seek in them the artist who made them,’ as he wrote to his sister Willemien. He sought to open an internal dialogue with other writers as artists, and meditated on their words, stopping to consider and reconsider a phrase to make it resonate within him He did this in more than one language – internalizing words, ruminating, bending them to his will, and finally assigning them to a fate of his choosing, over the years. Remarkably several Prefaces by French Naturalist novelists such as Zola, De Goncourts or Maupassant (today considered genuine manifestos) were among the pages that truly challenged and engaged his mind. In them he found the freedom that he was seeking in painting – the ‘confirmation’ of his own ideas, inspiration and encouragement. The work of the illustrators of his favorite books and magazines equally attracted him and had a lingering effect on him, on which he paused to reflect repeatedly, extracting inspiration indirectly.
Mariella Guzzoni in Vincent’s Books: Van Gogh and the Writers Who Inspired Him
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A: There are many answers to that question and my responses vary according to how things are going in the studio. Just now these three are most compelling:
~ to create bold and vibrant pastel paintings and photographs that have never existed before
~ to continue to push my primary medium – soft pastel on sandpaper – as far as I can and to use it in more innovative ways
~ to create opportunities for artistic dialogue with people who understand and value the work to which I am devoting my life
The last has always been the toughest. I sometimes think of myself as Sisyphus because expanding the audience for my art is an ongoing uphill battle. Many artist friends tell me they feel the same way about building their audience. It’s one of the most difficult tasks that we have to do as artists.
Comments are welcome!