He had no thought of being an artist at all. He sat in his little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much.
He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lamp-post, a star, and he said in his letter something like this; “It is so beautiful I must show you how it looks.” And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender little drawing of it.”
Reading this touched something in me. So I read it again. And again.
I then thought about it and gradually realised what was so important about this story. Van Gogh’s lamppost highlights the gaping canyon that lies between creating art and producing an image.
It calls into question the idea that to be an artist/writer/musician we need to scowl and think ponderously, weigh everything up, learn all things that all artists have done from here to prehistory, what their influences were, where they learned their skills from, whether we have managed to achieve the right design, balance, structure, composition and academic tendency and so on.
Van Gogh’s letter distinguishes between a piece of work that has been produced by the intellect and one that is sparked by the creative impulse and a feeling of love. Which is more valuable? Which holds more truth?
The community I live in buzzes with the creative impulse. Here the streets and the coffee shops and the shops and the beach huts are full of artists and musicians and writers and makers. While many people look at the sky and think it is beautiful, many wouldn’t go as far as to catch that love in oil paint, clay, stone, the written word or a piece of jewellery, yet here love and creativity and vibrant expression are common practise.
Sometimes I feel like a very lucky little chicken.
Having said this, not all of our creative geniuses are classically trained. In fact, in a way, the lack of formal training has produced a garden of vibrant creativity that has been allowed to flourish of its own accord and for this reason is distinctive, unusual and unique. It reminds me of a crazy patch of jungle, untouched and left to develop and hence is now filled with orchids, flora and fauna which otherwise would never have evolved. Frequently people from the city trip over this place and are stunned into silence at the throbbing creativity that pulses through the veins of the town.
I guess that this is why Van Gogh’s drawing on his cheap piece of note paper touched me so much. It is the kind of heart-triggered creativity that I have gorwn to value and love beyond any other form of art.
“Van Gogh loved the sky and the frail lamppost against it so seriously that he made the drawing with the most exquisite conscientiousness and care. He made it as much like what he loved as he could. He made the drawing with seriousness and truth.”
Next month (April) I am going to feature and celebrate some of the talented creatives who approach their art with seriousness and truth. My aim is to celebrate the people who add so much colour, diversity and gorgeousness to the place I live. These people aren’t just artists and makers, but those who have channelled and funnelled the creative impulse in all different directions, whether that’s through a venture, a shop, an idea, a movement or another form of communication.
I hope that their work and their lives help inspire you to unleash your own creative impulses in the same way that they’ve inspired mine.
All of the words in itallic are quoted from If You Want To Write – by Brenda Ueland first published 1936 and still selling in vast quantities. This book I would recommmend to anyone who is even slighty drawn to picking up a pencil.