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I had been asked to paint a copy of Van Gogh's still life sunflowers in a vase. Sounds simple enough, but to create a good reproduction, I had to crawl into Vincent’s mentality. Disregard if you please that I’m not already deranged enough, however; to see and feel all that the artist put into his work, well, that additionally required many hours of study and globs of paint that I’d eventually toss into the trash. During the process, I didn’t become Vincent, but I did grow in understanding of his life-long work. I also derived a synopsis which has become my by-line: Art Always Outlines the Artist.
I’ve been an artist all my life. I eventually became a successful critic—anyone can do this, so that makes me fit into the not so special category, doesn’t it? But I’m paid to criticize, so now I’ve become a professional critic, one probably not so special except to others who look forward to my expertise. That’s not what this is about.
We are the artists. We repeat this over and over until we agree with it, that is, we agree about ourselves. I ask then (about myself of course), what defines us? Is it the canvas we hang on the wall, or the particularly huge Monet waterlily pond image we so perfectly create? Is it all those hideous little napkin notes scribbled amid the ketchup dribbled on a flimsy cloth? We are defined by ALL OF THOSE! All of our tiny to huge production pieces coalesce into the definition that describes who and what we are?
My Vincent sunflower vase now hangs in one room above a table that easily seats ten. We come together to discuss art, both successes and failings. Or we sometimes diverge into our notes/drawings scribbled amid the food stains. We drink a glass or several of wine with our meal we shout out into space all our decrees about some fool’s art project. Those at the table get to rediscover my damn near perfect rendition of Vincent’s art.
But upon that canvas is neither he nor me individually. Upon that canvas resides the hearts and the souls of all who germinated the final ultimate rendition of sunflowers, brush strokes of yellow, or brilliant technique. What is upon that canvas, and others, all of it outlines who we have become.
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