“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to…. The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
One of the highlights of our recent trip was our visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I must say, before going I was vaguely familiar with the life and work of Van Gogh, but had a lot to learn. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Van Gogh led a fascinating, albeit short and tragic life. If you are unfamiliar with his story, he sold only one painting in his lifetime, was financially supported by his brother his entire life, ended up in an asylum after cutting off his own ear, and eventually took his own life. But, even in the midst of the tragedy, Van Gogh produced beauty through color and I left the museum with a few life lessons what will serve me well to remember.
- The support of family is paramount. Despite the lack of critical acclaim during his lifetime, his brother and sister-in-law never stopped believing in Vincent. They supported him financially and after his death (and the death of his brother) Vincent’s sister-in-law went on to show Vincent’s art to the world leading to his later recognition. Without their support, the most probable scenario is Vincent would have abandoned his work and moved on to something else thus depriving us of his genius.
- Color conveys emotion. Van Gogh was a master of color. He painted something like 27 self portraits all slightly different and all with a wide variety of color combinations to show his emotion and mood at the time. Apparently, if you study his self portraits you would get quite a glimpse into his internal world.
- Practice, practice, practice. He was constantly painting and trying new techniques. Each painting was a study in brush strokes and the use of color to convey the feeling Van Gogh wanted. His career was short-lived, a mere ten years, but he painted over 900 paintings. Some of his work was painted on the back side of another canvas. It was all in the name of practice.
- It’s never too late. Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old. His career lasted only ten short years, yet today he is one of the most famous artists of all time. His work is unique and he was a master of color and emotion, but he didn’t start until he was 27. Before taking up painting, he worked for art dealers, aspired to be a pastor, and even served as a missionary. All noble pursuits, but I am personally glad he decided to take up painting. What a lesson for us all that it is never too late to try something new.
That is the biggest lesson I learned from Van Gogh’s life. As long as I am here on this earth, living and breathing, it is NEVER too late.
It is never too late to…
- Start a new hobby.
- Write a book.
- Start a blog.
- Take a trip.
- Call an old friend.
- Make amends with those you have hurt.
- Take up photography or sewing or crochet or watercolor or… fill in the blank.
- Take a class or go back to school.
- Learn something new.
- Change your attitude.
- Change jobs, careers, companies, etc.
- Reinvent yourself.
- Move to the city of your dreams.
- Make new friends.
- Get moving and healthy.
- Break old habits.
- Tell someone you love them.
- or…Take up painting.
Life is too short for excuses, one being “it’s too late” or “I missed my window”. Although Van Gogh never reaped the benefits of his genius in his lifetime, the world would have been a little less colorful and a little less beautiful if he would have used the excuse of “I’m too old” or “it’s too late”. As long as God continues to give you breath in your lungs and a new day, you CAN and it is NOT too late. My prayer every morning is that I live each day to the absolute fullest. I want to learn and soak up all this world has to offer until God calls me home. My hope for you is that you do the same.
*Originally appeared on Old Pink House, August 2015