Retrospective – Doin’ the Van Gogh

So I discovered Vincent van Gogh. I read about his life several times, stared at his art, considered his philosophy, and realised that the great painters were just like any of us, products of their time, with perhaps a little more mind altering substances at hand.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what did it, but before the workshop I couldn’t work out the Fauves and my painting just wasn’t working – after, something clicked and I’ve started producing art faster and far more confidently than ever before.

I’m going to discuss my next two paintings here, both affected directly by Van Gogh.

First up was a class project – portrait in a hat. We couldn’t do children, so Hubby got to be the victim 😀 Prior to the class I did a little photo shoot with the family and Hubby’s hat. My two little girls posed wearing the hat as well and we got some great shots.

My youngest little girl in a hat

Ultimately it was still Hubby, so I drew Hubby in a hat.

Hubby in a Hat pre-sketch

Now I’m familiar with portraiture, though no expert. So I quite enjoyed the exercise of drawing in familiar territory. I drew it initially in pencil and went over it in charcoal, something I’d never done before (so there was a slight learning curve).

Then I traced it down onto the canvas in charcoal and painted it.

Hubby in a hatHubby in a Hat, acrylic on canvas, approx. 510 x 760 mm.

So where does Van Gogh come into this equation? If you look at this painting and then compare it to my still life or the desert skull project from before, this is so much freer. There are Fauvist influences as we were directed to add colour in ways that added to the painting, but wouldn’t necessarily be seen in real life. Hence we have green on his face and much stronger reds and pinks. And I did it fast. While I laboured over my previous projects both in and outside of class, this one I did entirely in the two and a half hour class over three weeks.

Van Gogh often did his paintings in one day. He moved fast and put down his interpretation. Realism replaced with emotionalism, conveying an impression as well as an image (he was a post-impressionist after all :D).

One of the major things I think I learnt was to trust in my own skills. I had learnt some of this with previous projects, the core of my learning being ‘wow, I didn’t realise I could do this!’ But now it was to be daring, to slap down that brushstroke and know that if it didn’t work I could paint over it and I had the skill to fix it. I’m learning to trust myself. I am very happy with this one. It has its faults, all my art does, but I am happy with it.

While I was painting the portrait, I made an attempt outside of class to see if I could paint in a way similar to Van Gogh. To do something like I mentioned in the previous Retrospective post – study his style and then attempt it my way.

First there was the issue of subject. I wanted flowers, but being me, they had to not only be Australian Native Flowers, but flowers native to the very place my house sits on – native to the South Australian Black Forest (a forest that no longer exists). Fortunately I have been collecting images of such flowers for quite some time. I settled on Hardenbergias simply because they have some stunning blues and purples.

I planned to not allow myself to get too realist or two finicky. I wanted to do it fast and I wanted to get some texture happening with rough and ready brushstrokes and energetic colour.

This is what I came up with.

HardenbergiasHardenbergias, acrylic on canvas, approx. 410 x 310 mm

And I am reeeeally happy with this one. The blues and violets just sing to my eyeballs. And it is rough, it is not perfect, but it is proof that I can work fast and confidently and kinda like Van Gogh’s style, just a little.

And my painting did not stop there….I’m on a roll…

Best wishes,


3 responses to “Retrospective – Doin’ the Van Gogh”

  1. Love the portrait! Those flowers are very zingy gorgeous too.

  2. Hello Liz!
    How are you travelling? Can you believe we’re on the cusp of December?
    I thought you might like to know that I am hosting Reverb again this year. It’d be a privilege to have you join us.
    Everything you need to know can be found at:
    We kick off on Sunday and it is going to be AMAZING. Hope to see you there!
    Kat xxx

  3. love the best “sunflowers” of van Gogh