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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ritchie

What modern artists can learn from Van Gogh

A modern day artist in his studio, AI photo by Sarah Ritchie

During Vincent Van Gogh’s brief and intense artistic career, he produced around 2,100 artworks, which included paintings, drawings, and sketches. Many people believe that ‘The Red Vineyard’ that Vincent Van Gogh painted near Arles in November 1888 is the only painting that he managed to sell while he was alive. Anna Boch bought the artwork for 400 francs, and it now resides at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The rest of Van Gogh’s works were not sold or made famous until after his death. How very sad.

If we look at Van Gogh’s life (and sales history), it’s not that much different from most artists. How many of us create art, give pieces to family or friends, and then tuck the rest of our work away in a cupboard, never to be seen again (and certainly never to be sold)?

Whilst Van Gogh’s story is artistically and personally tragic, he has left us a legacy of learning for modern-day artists.

Authenticity and individuality

Van Gogh’s unique style and personal expression set him apart from his contemporaries. As artists, we should focus on developing our distinctive voices and artistic identity. If we can fearlessly embrace our individuality, it can help us to stand out in a very crowded art market.

Persistence and dedication

Despite facing numerous setbacks and challenges, Van Gogh’s commitment to his craft was unwavering. We should stay dedicated to our artistic practice, continuously honing our skills and pushing our creative boundaries. Persistence and hard work are essential for long-term success. Then, hopefully, we can see success during our lifetime rather than posthumously (and sell more than one painting!).

Self-Promotion and networking

While Van Gogh struggled to gain recognition during his lifetime, he actively sought opportunities to exhibit his work and connect with fellow artists. We should take advantage of various platforms, both online and offline, to promote our art and build networks within the art community. With all the modern tools available, there is no reason why we cannot make our artistic voices heard.

Building an online presence

Unlike Van Gogh’s life in the 1880s, in today’s digital age, artists can leverage digital platforms to showcase their work to a global audience. Creating a professional website, utilising social media channels, and engaging with an online audience can significantly expand our reach and increase our visibility.

Engaging with the audience

Van Gogh’s art resonated with people on an emotional level. We should aim to create work that connects with our viewers, evokes emotions, and tells compelling stories. Engaging with our audience through open dialogues, artist statements, and exhibitions can foster a deeper connection and appreciation for our work.

Collaboration and support

Van Gogh found support and inspiration from fellow artists, including his friendship with Paul Gauguin. Artists today can benefit from collaborating with peers, participating in group exhibitions, and seeking mentorship opportunities. Sharing knowledge and experiences can provide valuable insights and open new opportunities.

Value and pricing

Van Gogh’s art gained significant value after his death. Artists today should focus on creating high-quality work and understanding the market value of our art. Conducting research, seeking professional advice, and pricing our work well can ensure fair compensation and sustainable growth.

While Van Gogh’s path was unique, these timeless principles of authenticity, perseverance, self-promotion, engagement, collaboration, and understanding the art market can provide us with valuable guidance in navigating the contemporary art world and establishing our careers. We might even be able to make a good living from our art!

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