199. VINCENT VAN GOGH: The blank canvas
Vincent Van Gogh has always been my favourite painter. I’ve been in love with his work ever since I did a project about him in high school where we had to copy a famous artist’s painting. I remember I painted Noon: Rest From Work. I’m not sure why I picked Van Gogh, but I guess like millions of others, I was immediately drawn to his emotive, painful and vibrant works. Last year, It was so great getting to see Starry Night in person at MoMa New York – it was easily the most popular painting there, with rows of people eager to get a glimpse. You can read my full write up of Vinnie’s life in my previous adaptation.
This excerpt was taken from one of his many letters to his brother Theo. The longer excerpt is even more profound:
I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm – but that’s a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity.
Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, You can’t do a thing. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blankcanvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of “you can’t” once and for all.
Life itself, too, is forever turning an infinitely vacant, dispiriting blank side towards man on which nothing appears, any more than it does on a blank canvas. But no matter how vacant and vain, how dead life may appear to be, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, who knows something, will not be put off so easily.
His words about the blank canvas is so true. Whenever I finish a comic and am faced with a blank page with no new ideas, I do feel paralysed. After my last comic, which was very long and detailed, my creativity well was sapped dry. I was moping about the house feeling totally uninspired and aimlessly trying to find a new quote online. For some reason I decided to look at Van Gogh’s letters, even though I’ve already adapted one of his quotes. And when I read this quote, it felt like it was meant to be. The idea of how to adapt it came to me in a flash and I was off and running. Not only that, but I had so much fun with this, I think I’m going to make it a regular series. What do you think? Would you like to see more adventures of Lil’ Vincent? I think he’d make a great recurring character.