Fyodor Dostoevsky. A Row Youth.
"Observe," he said; "photographs very rarely turn out good likenesses, and that one can easily understand: the originals, that is all of us, are very rarely like ourselves. Only on rare occasions does a man's face express his leading quality, his most characteristic thought. The artist studies the face and divines its characteristic meaning, though at the actual moment when he's painting, it may not be in the face at all. Photography takes a man as he is, and it is extremely possible that at moments Napoleon would have turned out stupid, and Bismarck tender".
Fyodor Dostoevsky. A Row Youth.
Now without in any way daring to claim to rise as high as them, nevertheless, by continuing to draw these types of workmen &c., I’m confident of succeeding in becoming more or less capable of working in magazine or book illustration. First and foremost, when I’ll be able to pay more for models, and female models too, I’ll make further progress; I feel it and I know it. And I’ll probably also succeed in being able to do portraits. But that depends on working hard; not a day without a line, as Gavarni used to say.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Brussels, January 1881.
"I would be very happy if you could somehow see in me something other than some sort of idler.
Because there are idlers and idlers, who form a contrast.
There’s the one who’s an idler through laziness and weakness of character, through the baseness of his nature; you may, if you think fit, take me for such a one. Then there’s the other idler, the idler truly despite himself, who is gnawed inwardly by a great desire for action, who does nothing because he finds it impossible to do anything since he’s imprisoned in something, so to speak, because he doesn’t have what he would need to be productive, because the inevitability of circumstances is reducing him to this point. Such a person doesn’t always know himself what he could do, but he feels by instinct, I’m good for something, even so! I feel I have a raison d’être! I know that I could be a quite different man! For what then could I be of use, for what could I serve! There’s something within me, so what is it! That’s an entirely different idler; you may, if you think fit, take me for such a one.
In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for; he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it; what it is he can’t clearly remember, and he has vague ideas and says to himself, ‘the others are building their nests and making their little ones and raising the brood’, and he bangs his head against the bars of his cage. And then the cage stays there and the bird is mad with suffering".
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Cuesmes, 22-24 June 1880.
"It is good to love as much as one can, for therein lies true strength, and he who loves much does much and is capable of much..."
«He who lives uprightly and experiences true difficulty and disappointment and is nonetheless undefeated by it is worth more than someone who prospers and knows nothing but relative good fortune”.
“If we but try to live uprightly, then we shall be all right, even though we shall inevitably experience true sorrow and genuine disappointments, and also probably make real mistakes and do wrong things, but it’s certainly true that it is better to be fervent in spirit, even if one accordingly makes more mistakes, than narrow-minded and overly cautious. It is good to love as much as one can, for therein lies true strength, and he who loves much does much and is capable of much, and that which is done with love is well done. If one is moved by some book or other, for instance, just to mention something, ‘The swallow, the lark, the nightingale’, The longing for autumn, ‘From here I see a lady’, ‘Never this unique little village’ by, it’s because it’s written from the heart in simplicity and with poverty of spirit.
If one were to say but few words, though ones with meaning, one would do better than to say many that were only empty sounds, and just as easy to utter as they were of little use”.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Amsterdam, 3 April 1878
“Truly life is a fight, and one must defend oneself and resist and make plans and calculations with a cheerful and alert mind in order to make it through and get ahead. It becomes no easier the further one gets in life, and it has been rightly said:
Does the road go uphill then all the way?
‘Yes to the very end’
And will the journey take all day long?
‘From morn till night, my friend.’
But by fighting the difficulties in which one finds oneself, an inner strength develops from within our heart, which improves in life’s fight (one matures in the storm), if we always endeavour to keep that heart out of which are the issues of life, good and simple and rich toward God, to restore that and make it thus more and more, and to bear in mind the words that we must have a good conscience before God and before people”.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Amsterdam, 30 October 1877
“Had rather a lot of work today, a great many trifling matters – but they’re my duty – if one had no sense of duty, who would be able to collect his thoughts at all, but a sense of duty sanctifies things and joins them together, and turns many small things into one large one”.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, 26 Feb. 1877
Recently I read letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh. In these letters, anyone can find many interesting and useful thoughts. For example, you can observe how Van Gogh decided to became an artist, and how he was moving towards that goal. It was not easy for him to carry out his chosen path. He had to face and overcome obstacles and resistance from the inside and the outside. However, he was able to stay committed to his calling, even in very difficult circumstances.
I think each artist will be able to find something special and close to him or her in these letters. Some of Van Gogh's thoughts, which I want to share, are close to me. Sometimes his remarks reflect something that I have experienced. It seams that, any creative person, at some point faces similar challenges and feelings that Vincent Van Gogh had.
Colorado Springs, July, 2012
Does everybody speak English? Should everybody know the English language? I don’t think so! That’s why it is so strange to hear when Americans discuss that in some countries around the world not many people speak English. It is even more weird to see that they get kind of surprised by that. I feel that this is so ignorant and rude in terms of getting surprised that a few people can speak English in countries where they have their own language. Why does that surprise Americans?
I think that many of them unconsciously, without realizing that, think that English comes with some cultural background and brings civilization. I think Americans need to be more humble about that because they are deceived that they have a lot of things that they can distribute to other cultures. Definitely there are some very good aspects of American culture that other cultures can use for their own benefit, but every other culture has something unique and special that can benefit others.
It is very simple; people around the world do not speak English because they have their own language! If they are going to learn English, they will do that for their own benefit but not to live up to “American Empire” expectations.
I am living in the US, and I don’t expect American to speak with me in Russian because I respect their language and culture. I am not surprised that I know a few Americans, but not many, who can speak in Russian.
Maybe next time, as an experiment, when I am going to be in a restaurant I am going to ask a waitress whether or not they have a menu in Russian. I can picture how the waitress will make a sorry face and will say, “I am sorry we don’t have a menu in Russia.” Nevertheless she will think, “Are you kidding me, a menu in Russian? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know we are in America?”
Raising kids is probably the most difficult art task. I don’t have kids at this point in my life, but I understand that it is a very serious and important responsibility for everyone who has children.
The process of raising kids is similar in many ways with art process. Even more, raising kids actually is an art activity. An artist is someone who reflects reality through his painting so that other people can look at his creations with the purpose to enjoy, notice something that they didn’t see or didn’t think about before. When an artist expresses the reality he has experienced, he embodies his inner sense and his personality in concrete form.
In this regard, education of children is the same as what any artist does. It means that what you have inside, sooner or later will be displayed in your children. Education is a creative process where one person takes a little basic, but a unique material, and begins to scrupulously create a masterpiece. In this process, the integrity of the artist and his personality are the most important part. It is impossible to create a "masterpiece", if the creator does not relate to the created object. Such an artistic task is complicated by the fact that your lifestyle is more important than what you say and how you look. Because your "masterpiece" that you are creating copies and engages everything that he/she sees before him or her. In addition, he/she reads all of your emotions, and can easily distinguish falseness from of honesty, love from selfishness.
Each artist leaves some fruits of his work, which continue to speak for him after his death. Similarly, children as a legacy, and the result of all that you had invested in them, continue to talk and show who you are or were during life.
Amazingly, each child was born to be a masterpiece. Therefore, adults have an important task to reveal those masterpieces. If people would understand education as a creative process that requires a lot of effort, hard work, sacrifice and integrity, we would live in a different world.
Malaga, June, 2012
Yesterday I visited the Akron Art Museum, at that time there was an exhibition of the artist El Anatsui. After I saw his first exhibit, I had a lot of controversial questions about purposes and proposals of his artwork. Although when I observed the rest of his artwork and got to know more about it, and heard his interpretation of his works, many issues have disappeared. Then I realized that it is a mistake to make conclusion about creation of an artist when you did not maintaining sufficient information.
More information about El Anatsui
By Veniamin Slobodenko who tries to be an artist.