Learning to Draw

“For the great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. And great things are not something accidental, but must certainly be willed. What is drawing? How does one learn it? It is working through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do.” –Vincent van Gogh

It is heartening to be reading Van Gogh’s letters when it comes to learning to draw because any struggle you have, he had–and he wrote about it at great length. But van Gogh had one answer to all his troubles and that was Work! Harder, more, diligently, consistently, and as he might say, with truth and sentiment. His lofty standards make me think about what it is that satisfies me when I think I’ve done well. Is it making a nice arrangement, something pretty? Capturing a likeness? Evoking a mood? Or maybe there is more, maybe one can find that characteristic gesture, look beyond surface to character, hold onto a figure in motion, find beauty where no one has before. I’m used to hearing van Gogh characterized as all impulse and emotion, but that’s only part of a more complex picture. Vincent thinks–and he asks you to think too.


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