Art Class at Sea Change Preparatory

Artist Craig Kindel’s notes on teaching Vincent Van Gogh

When I was in school, Van Gogh  was taught as follows –

Vincent Willem Van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapesstill lifesportraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

And then we were shown several slides of his greatest paintings.

And as each painting was shown, we would usually end up talking about how much each painting now sold for.  And while all of this information is accurate, I find that it misses one of the most important aspects of Van Gogh – The Passionate Rhythm in his brushstrokes.

So the first thing I want you to do is to move beyond ‘the story’ of Van Gogh and to begin experiencing the ‘rhythm’ in his work.

And as we re-create his work, I want you to find that rhythm, and feel that rhythm in your brushstrokes, and see that rhythm happening on your canvases.

And just for a moment, close your eyes, and instead of painting on a canvas, imagine that you’re beating on a drum.

Imagine you can see the light coming from the moon and stars and bouncing off the trees and hills and houses of Provence, and paint in rhythmic patterns.

Find the rhythm of Van Gogh, and ‘see’ as he saw.

Finding this powerful rhythm can not only smash through fears while creating, but can also allow you to experience the magic of Van Gogh’s method.

Van Gogh gave us his heart, and his passion is still beating in his work, if you know how to find it… “