I have long been inspired by seeing Van Gogh’s “The Poplars at Saint-Rémy.” When you see photos of this painting, it looks almost drab, and lifeless.
I don’t know if the Cleveland Museum of Art recently had it restored, or if the photos just simply can’t do it justice, but the painting in real life is breathtaking.
The blues are as vibrant as gemstones. Every brush stroke is thick with the agony of trying to convey the sublime. And everything is slapped in place with such fervor that it’s not hard to imagine Van Gogh standing in a crisp white night gown, next to a wide open white window, furiously trying to capture the beauty he sees in the trees just across the road. I imagine him muttering to himself the whole time, “More! More! Less! More!”
I identify with that desire to capture the beauty around you, and I identify with a feeling of inadequacy in trying to accomplish that goal. But, whereas Van Gogh was doomed to strangle his way through his mental morass, I have pharmaceuticals.
The SSRI that I take every morning keeps the demons at bay. And I’m grateful for that. But lately, I’ve been feeling like they tend to also keep the angels at arms length. If you deal with severe depression, and you have been taking SSRI’s for a while, you might understand what I mean.
If you haven’t, well – imagine a birthday party, where everything is grey, except for the faint orange hue cast by a birthday candle. People are smiling. You know there is music playing somewhere. You hear noise makers, but they are distant, under water. You yourself aren’t elated. You aren’t sad. You are there. Just there. Taking it in.
And trust me. That’s better than the demons. I’m not going to stop taking the SSRI’s because even if the angels are at arms length, it’s better than demons knocking in the door.
I feel like the videos I have been watching are a kind of an Artistic SSRI. Watching other people paint is like watching an illusionist explain the tricks – it takes the magic away. Sure, I want to know how Joseph Alleman manages to scrub grass and shrubs out of what I assume is thick pigment that’s just a hint from being dry. I want to know how Alvaro Castagnet decides when are where to splash a bit of flare. I want to know how John Singer Sargent was able to render complex shapes and puzzling compositions with a few shapes and value changes. But when I watch someone paint, I see how they do it with such ease, and I get it in my head that it SHOULD be that way. It SHOULD be that easy.
Then I try to paint, and I can’t reproduce what they achieve. The frustration of not being able to accomplish something that they make look so easy eviscerates all hope of experiencing the rapture that comes with capturing the feelings I have when I’m out in nature.
So I don’t try my own thing. And I don’t succeed in their thing. I just sit, in that creative space, not progressing, not digressing, I’m just there.
Sure, that’s better than the demons of perpetual failure, but it also isn’t as rewarding as stumbling on a conveyance all on my own. When I have a successful painting, it’s only half successful, at best, because it’s not truly mine. I try so hard to learn from the masters around me, that I get lost in a quagmire of technique and justification.
I want to break free from that.
Many contemporary artists have broken free of those constraints by throwing the baby out with the bath water. Nothing is important any more. You can literally duct tape a fucking banana to the goddamned wall.
Don’t get me started on Jeff Fucking Koons. Just look at what that charlatan makes when he is forced to create art on his own:
If you are Jeff Fucking Koons, you just pay somebody in China a pittance to build a monstrous bouquet of anus flowers. The fistfull of anuses stands outside the Louvre. Jeff Fucking Koons gets publicity. The people of Paris pay millions to install it. And the unnamed artisans who made the damn thing are lost to history with a couple of nickels to rub together.
Fuck You Jeff Koons.
Fuck You Damien Hurst.
Fuck You Takashi Murasaki.
Fuck You Anish Kapoor.
At least Tracey Emin didn’t pretend to make her bed.
And Marcel… the man who painted my favorite painting of all time (Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2)… you can take a piss for starting all this shit.
I don’t want to be jaded like them. I don’t want to get rich while everyone else makes my art. Sure, they are “successful” but only because the Art world lost its god damned mind and determined that successful = profitable. When money decides what is and isn’t art – you get Jeff Fucking Koons.
I will try to capture the beauty in the world. And even if I can’t, I want to try. I’ll never become a millionaire with this. I sell my paintings for what people can afford. I’ve been paid hundreds of dollars, and I’ve been paid with zucchini bread. That’s ok. People should have art. It should be accessible. It should be affordable. People are entitled to own something beautiful and emotive. If that means they get a conversation piece, and I get zucchini bread, so be it. The world is a better place because of art. That’s the legacy I want to leave.
Anyway… last night I was thinking about Van Gogh’s Poplars at Saint-Rémy, and I watched this video of Igor Mosiychuk painting a landscape.
Why can’t HE be a multi billionaire? Because he has to actually produce his own art. And you know what he produces? Art.
You know what Jeff Fucking Koons produces? Money.
I want the world to see more artists like Joseph Alleman
I want the world to see more artists like Stanislaw Zoladz.
I want the world to see more artists like Oleg Kozak.
I want the world to see more artists like Christine Cozic.
I could go on and on.
So… this morning I decided to paint something reminiscent of the Igor Mosiychuk’s painting that I watched last night. I decided I wouldn’t follow his techniques, or anyone else’s. I just wanted to capture something beautiful, I wanted to make a painting ala prima. I wanted to do it quickly, and I wanted to trust my own instincts. I tried to blend Igor’s composition with Van Gogh’s trees, and rely on my own instincts.
Here’s the result. It’s no where near the level of any of the artists I’ve mentioned above, but that’s ok. I’m learning. I’ve only been at this for two years, so I have plenty of time to improve.
The thing that excites me is that this is unlike my other paintings. I made it. And I quite like it.