“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to see an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings while they were on loan to the St. Louis Art Museum. I will never forget the feelings I experienced as I stood before his works. They truly took my breath away.
Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists, Like many others, I love his “sunflower” paintings — he made eight of them — and of course, “Starry Night” has risen to iconic status. Prints of the famous work he created in 1889 while in the asylum at St. Remy grace the walls of many homes, and the painting has been the inspiration for books, music and films. It’s even possible to get a Van Gogh coloring book. And for an evening’s entertainment you might rent the cheesy 1999 movie, Starry Night in which Van Gogh returns to life — in modern-day California. Lousy reviews, but a lot of laughs and a few touching moments, too.
Vincent Van Gogh – The Starry Night by Richard Thompson
The Starry Night by Neil Waldman
Van Gogh’s life continues to inspire others in many ways, such as through this art and creative writing lesson plan for patients at the Mississippi State Hospital. This slideshow was compiled by artist Anthony DeFatta, who has dealt with mental illness not only in his own life but in teaching art to other adults with mental illness.
I often remind myself of Van Gogh’s words, his reminder that a series of small things can lead to greatness. Just as he painted many sunflowers, he painted many irises, and many self-portraits. He also painted more than one star-filled scene at night.
I love “Starry Night Over the Rhone” which is similar to the painting he made in St. Remy but which includes the addition of human figures.
Yet another night scene is the “Café Terrace at Night”. Both of these works were painted in 1888 in the city of Arles.
Each of these paintings illustrate the compositional element of repetition. We see the many stars in the sky, and we find other repeated notes, buildings, reflections, tables and chairs, the pattern of stones.
Repetition is present in many of Van Gogh’s works, and it shows in his approach to painting, as well, and this is what I want most to remember in my own art. We learn through a series of small steps.
We try, we fail, we learn, we grow. We draw the same sketches again and again. We paint favorite subjects over and over. We learn the elements of art and composition and look for places where repetition might make a painting stronger.
By these small steps, we create our own works of art, and that is, indeed, a great thing. Art is its own reward. It’s interesting to remember that Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime yet his influence continues to inspire new generations of artists.