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  • Caroline Winyard Art


Updated: May 12, 2019

"I know for certain that something would awaken in you in your own studio which you don't know of now - a huge, hidden force of working and creating.

And once it's awake, it's awake for good"

- Vincent Van Gogh

I was never one of those art students who gorged themselves on other artists' work. Yes, I liked going to galleries and looking at paintings and sculptures, but no, most of it didn't inspire me. I spent most of the time comparing myself to others and telling myself either, 'I'll never be as good as that', or, (less frequently) 'I can do better than that'. Modern art on the whole left me cold as the majority of it didn't look like anything I could relate to, and the great masters made me feel a bit sad, with their dark, depressing colours and their bleak subject matter.

"Enjoy yourself too much rather than too little, and don't take art or love too seriously either..."

- Vincent Van Gogh

However, my world shifted slightly when, on a Spring day in my school art class, my teacher invited an artist and lecturer in to speak to the students about some chap named Vincent Van Gogh. The man gave us a presentation on his recent pilgrimage to France where he had followed in Vincent's footsteps, taken photos of the scenes that Vincent had painted, and overlaid them (using the hi-tech overhead projector and acetates) onto prints of the artist's paintings.

The lecturer was so passionate in his storytelling, about Vincent's efforts in becoming an artist, how he travelled from place to place and had trouble settling, constantly seeking peace at the same time as wrestling with his own inner demons. He told us about Vincent's letters to his brother, describing the detail of his highs and lows, the technique Vincent used to apply the colour so thickly onto the canvas (or whatever paintable surface he could afford), the texture and the energy protruding from the canvas in such a way as to highlight the sense of movement, even when you wouldn't think there should be any.

Self-Portrait, VIncent Van Gogh

I was hooked. The tragic life and death of the artist stuck in my mind and I was fascinated by the reasons behind the way he painted.

"I feel a power in me that I must develop, a fire that I may not put out but must fan, although I don't know to what outcome it will lead me..."

- Vincent Van Gogh, Letters to Theo

I saw my first original Van Gogh painting in the National Gallery when I was about 17. Standing close enough to see the texture and movement created by the brush strokes, the intensity and range of vibrant colour, it just made me marvel even more at the artist, yet feel so sad for his early death and constant struggles in life. He ended his life at a mere 37 years old.

A Wheatfield, With Cypresses - Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Van Gogh was part of the Impressionist movement and, in researching his work, it opened my eyes to the likes of Monet and Degas. I enjoyed seeing the world through their eyes and, although I knew I was the sort of artist to paint more realistically, I understood the delicacy of the paintings and use of a much wider range of colour in representing their worlds. I started seeing the landscape and detail around me in a different light - how many shades of green can you see in one patch of grass, in one tree, in one flowerbed..? Did you know there were purples, blues, pinks and browns in there too? The Impressionists did.

"Last year I painted almost nothing but flowers to accustom myself to a colour other than grey, that's to say, pink, soft or bright green, light blue, violet, yellow, orange, fine red. And when I painted landscape in Asnieres this summer I saw more colour in it than before."

- Vincent Van Gogh, Letters to Theo

Monet - Japanese Footbridge; Degas - The Dancers; Van Gogh - Almond Blossom

I've recently visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the Van Gogh in Britain exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London (showing until 11 August 2019), and will be carrying out my own mini-pilgrimage this summer to follow in Van Gogh's footsteps in South-West France. When an artist captures your imagination and heart, you want to find out more, to find answers to those intriguing questions and to understand the artist as a person, which in turn helps you appreciate their work even more.

When it comes to the detail in my artwork, I like to include the colours as I see them, inspired by the Impressionists but perhaps a more conventional way. One day - maybe soon - I plan to experiment with the techniques and style of the Impressionists, and look forward to seeing what I produce... maybe not quite a Van Gogh, but something that hopefully evokes an emotion and response somewhat different to my current art style.

"Let's make most of the time, because wasting time is the most expensive thing of all."

- Vincent Van Gogh, Letters to Theo

Starry Night - Vincent Van Gogh

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