I have quite literally applied the final brush stroke to this painting. I started it yesterday afternoon and worked on it until late last night, adding finishing touches this morning. As has been the case with each of the paintings in this series, it was relatively quick to produce.
I’ve been contemplating for a while now doing a piece in the style of the famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. I was first introduced to his work when I was still in single digits in age. His sunflowers aren’t what captured my imagination however, I arrived at my love of sunflowers quite independently of Vincent. My Dad loved plants and had trained as a horticulturalist, I’m guessing after realising that being a professional artist didn’t really earn him much of living. My Dad was very good with plants and designing bespoke gardens in particular. Anyway, I remember bugging him for a long time to let me have my own little patch of garden at home where I could grow my own plants from seed. After much deliberation he agreed and of the very first plants I grew was the sunflower.
They were magnificent specimens. They grew very tall with thick bristly stems, and had enormous heads teaming with seeds which I remember collecting proudly once they were dry. I grew up eating salted sunflower seeds. In Spain they are a very common snack, where they are simply known as, ‘Pipas’, ‘pips’ in English. Except, they weren’t sold back in the UK, and were one of the many things I missed about my early childhood in Southern Spain. Growing my own sunflowers then, was my own symbolic connection with a place I saw as home, far away as it was at that time.
Since then, sunflowers and other members of the daisy family have featured a lot in my artistic works. The shapes and patterns within a sunflower head alone are mesmeric, and something of a challenge when trying to recreate it in an artistic medium.
I was never that enamoured with Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers, if I’m honest, even though I always liked his use of colour and texture in his paintings. With time however, his sunflowers have grown on me, and I suppose painting my own has become somewhat of an obsession. I think I’ve satisfied that need now and feel ready to move on.
Also, look at the mess all this yellow paint has made of my easel!
As much as the sunflower holds a lot of personal symbolism for me, this painting really is my paying homage to Vincent. The idea that he could have been so prolific in his short lifetime has always intrigued me. However, working on these paintings, and what could be classed a similar style to his has given me a little bit of an insight into the troubled painter with his love of yellow paint. His technique wasn’t difficult nor very accomplished, though effective. It was messy and haphazard, and I believe, was his sketching in rough with oil paints. It uses an inordinate amount of paint, which probably explains why he was always running out of supplies, however, it is possible to produce painting after painting in just hours with this technique. His use of colour and his artistic vision is really where his genius lies, if genius is to be found at all in the work he did. Genius is a term that gets bandied about a lot by art critics and given to less deserving artists than our dear Vincent. He was however, very accomplished at capturing a charming, if somewhat naive aesthetic quality about his painting subjects, and to my mind that’s what has endured about his work. After all, art is only ever about what we like looking at.
All things considered, I’ve spent the morning scouring the internet for Vincent’s paintings and seeing how my work compares to his, if it does at all, and I’ve come to the conclusion that what I have produced is still uniquely my own style. It’s hard, once you’ve learned about the rules of perspective and proportion in artistic composition, to break free of that. As an artist, although I am mostly self-taught, I have enough years of training and experience behind me to be quite set in my ways when it comes to my artistic technique and vision. My educated guess would be that Vincent never learned the classical rules of composition, and so, what he produced was unique to him, if a little rough around the edges. Plus, it’s said that an artist’s brush stroke is as personal and unique as a signature, to which I would agree. This being said, I couldn’t replicate Vincent Van Gogh’s painting style even if I tried, but it has been fun trying. What I have produced is something entirely different, and I’m more than ok with that.