Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Decluttering

VaseWithTwelveSunflowers-VanGogh1888Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. (not this one – but it’s one of my favorites) Think about that one a moment. His paintings now go for millions of dollars each and yet, he got nothing for them, other than the love of the art. Does that make him crazy?

Well, he was indeed mentally ill. Just which affliction he had has been debated and cannot be proved. Still, along with some of the most beautiful, stirring artwork ever produced, he also left behind a huge series of letters to his beloved brother Theo. I’m reading Irving Stone’s edited version of the most important of those letters. He could have been a writer. His words are beautiful, as well.

”If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.”

Did you realize he started his young adult path studying to be a minister like his father? From his letters, it’s obvious he was trying hard to throw his heart into it, but it wasn’t. It was expected. Pushed, possibly. He didn’t like the constant book studying. He didn’t like being cooped within walls instead of out exploring beauty, which he did see everywhere. That’s what stands out so far about his letters: his descriptions.

It has me wishing he’d set the studies aside earlier and began focus on his true love earlier.

Of course, I often wish I’d done the same. I spent too many years not writing when I could have. Now, I’m finding myself pulled in many directions that yank away writing time.

”If one had no sense of duty, who would be able to collect his thoughts at all? The feeling of duty sanctifies everything and binds things together, making one large duty out of the many little ones.”

I’m starting to clear out some of those extras. It’s spring, a natural time to restart, de-clutter, renew. I have tons of little herb seedlings coming up and more seeds to plant while spring is still attempting to push away the last remnants of winter (winter does appear to be resisting well, too well). I’m doing my filing (ugh) and disposing of a lot of old paperwork I no longer need to make room for the new. And I’m clearing things out online, as well. I’m handing over and bowing out, refurbishing what I still want and letting go of what I don’t need.

I need more time and more focus for my art. Even if I don’t get more out of it than Van Gogh did during my lifetime, at least it’ll be out there. Maybe some day someone will wish I’d started earlier. Since I can’t do that, I can at least make better use of the time to come, whatever that may be.

I’m also quite grateful to live in a time where people can get mental help if they need it – just in case, you know – and wish they could have helped him at the time.  

It’s also comforting to know he had constant doubts about his art. Most artists do, whether or not they are selling. It’s part of an artist’s curse: subjectiveness. There is no way to determine actual quality of art. Some people will detest the same piece others love. I suppose as long as some love it and enjoy it, that needs to be good enough. But a real artist will never accept that. What can you do?

”It is certainly true that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done!”

The farther I read into Dear Theo, the more I feel justified in narrowing my focus to what I love, to what I most love. What will the extras matter in the long run? It’s the passion that survives. The art. And the heart.

All quotes taken from Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent van Gogh, Edited by Irving Stone, Plume, 1995.



Linda said...

I think I'll read this book. I wasn't aware Van Gogh had sold only one painting in his lifetime.

As for wondering "what if" if you'd started on your craft sooner, I fight against that all the time. But I'm here now, and I need to focus on that.

I came here today because I read your response to Nathan Branford's question about who has the right to use the term "Indie." I loved your response. I had responded that we just discussed this on my blog, but didn't come to a conclusion. I think you definition makes the most sense = Indie author. Yes, I am.

Thank you. You're blog looks like one I should subscribe to.

LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Linda, it's nice to meet you. The tidbit about selling only one painting was on the Facebook on his birthday. How sad is that?

I'll come visit at your place. Always nice to connect with another indie.