Tunes for a Monday Morning
The relationship between writers and readers

The creative impulse


Letter sketch by Vincent Van Gogh

“When Van Gogh was a young man in his early twenties, he was in London studying to be a clergyman. He had no thought of being an artist at all. He sat in his cheap little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much. He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lampost, a star, and he said in his letter something like this: 'It is so beautiful I must show you how it looks.' And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it.

"When I read this letter of Van Gogh's it comforted me very much and seemed to throw a clear light on the whole road of Art. Before, I thought that to produce a work of painting or literature, you scowled and thought long and ponderously and weighed everything solemnly and learned everything that all artists had ever done aforetime, and what their influences and schools were, and you were extremely careful about design and balance and getting interesting planes into your painting, and avoided, with the most astringent severity, showing the faintest academical tendency, and were strictly modern. And so on and so on.

"But the moment I read Van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it. And Van Gogh's little drawing on the cheap note paper was a work of art because he loved the sky and the frail lamppost against it so seriously that he made the drawing with the most exquisite conscientiousness and care. ”

-  Brenda Ueland (from If Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit)



"Fiercely intelligent, yet bearing a sensibility far more porous than most, Van Gogh was unable, or unwilling, to abstract his intellect from his body's reality, unwilling to abandon the myriad things, to tame his senses and so stifle the steady eros between his flesh and the flesh of the earth.

"Again and again he slides out of himself, through his eyes, to feel the hunkard silence of the olive groves, and to taste the spreading ecstasy of the leaves as they're slowly lit by the climbing sun. And again and again he is invaded, in turn, by the visible -- penetrated by the midday langor of the rolling wheat fields, or by the sullen mood of a neighbor's face. Although he writes often to his brother and a few friends (letters of luminous candor and kindness), it is only in the act of drawing and painting that he is able to give expression to this ongoing intercourse, by offering back to the visible a trace of what the visible steadily pours into his chest.

"His paintings, then, are windows through which we look onto an earth no less alive and intelligent than ourselves."

-  David Abram (from Becoming Animal)


Letter sketch by Vincent Van Gogh

“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.”  - Vincent Van Gogh

You can see more more of his letter sketches, and read excerpts from his letters, in this 2009 post on the BiblioOdyssey blog (via Midori Snyder).