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On Van Gogh and Backing Yourself


“I shall be very much astonished if in the long run some people do not change their minds as to my doing…” â€“ Vincent Van Gogh

Once upon a time there was a painter called Van Gogh. He was a bit of a loser.

He was destitute, unheralded and sold his paintings for a pittance to pay for food and paint.

People probably raised their eyebrows and asked gently, but pointedly, whether it wasn’t about time he got a “proper job”.

He was not the sort of person respectable folk would want their daughters to marry…

Even he went so far as to write,

“What am I in the eyes of most people? A good-for-nothing, an eccentric and disagreeable man, somebody who has no position in society and never will have.”

So if this is you too, do not despair.

If you’re battering away trying to make your way at something you love, if you’re frustrated about how hard it is, how lucky everyone else seems to be, how little time you have to work on your ideas, read on.

For although Van Gogh was depressed and snubbed, he would not give in.

He continues,

“Very well, even if that were true, I want to show by my work what there is in the heart of such an eccentric man, of such a nobody. I believe more and more that to work for the sake of the work is the principle of all great artists: not to be discouraged even though almost starving, and though one feels one has to say farewell to all material comfort.”

Keep at it. Keep daubing your dabs of paint, your starry nights, your jars of sunflowers.

Don’t give up, even if you won’t make your millions for another century.

Do what you love, and do it well. Do it because you love it, because you care about it, and because you feel it is important.

Don’t be swayed by ‘respectable folk’ and their bloody raised eyebrows.

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  1. Thanks – great post – came at a really good time!!

  2. Alison Jean Baker Posted

    Al, I am always lifted by your words of encouragement and honesty. At a time when I feel like giving up on everything, on aspirations and any belief in what i’m doing or abilities, at a time when I can’t even pay my rent and and am without a job, reading the above just made me pull myself together and feel a little less lost. Thank you.

  3. Ditto. Love this. Thanks Al.

  4. Absolutely inspirational. Very good advice.

  5. thanks all!

  6. David Murray Posted

    Forwarded your wise words to my son who is also poor aspiring artist. Too many people fall into boring careers to comply societal expectations. Be brave! We as parents are incredibly proud of him.



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