I was fascinated to read this article by artist Kees van Aalst when my Mum shared it recently on Facebook.

Van Aalst’s premise is that we are all amateurs, and remain so throughout our life.  We can and should learn from others.  But in the end, finding our own way, our own inspiration and our own selves are the keys to life-long happiness.  Getting things ‘right’ has no place in the attainment of success.

“It starts by forgetting about perfect.  We don’t have time for perfect.  In any event, perfection is unachievable.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

I am reminded of Austin Kleon’s wonderful book, Steal Like An Artist in which he encourages us to find ‘the space to be wild and daring in your imagination and your work’.  He suggests that ‘nothing is original’, and encourages us to ‘stop trying to make something out of nothing, and…embrace influence instead of running away from it’.

I decided to put all these ideas together while having a go at producing a piece of art.  I adored the recent exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery, Inspiring Impressionism.



One of my favourite pictures was Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfields near Auvers.  I particularly liked Van Gogh’s use of lavender/violet for one of the central fields.  It was much more vibrant in the original painting than in the catalogue’s reproduction, but you get the idea.




My version is at the top of this post.  You might be interested to see this very short video which captures the process of my efforts.  I am pleased with the way I started – sketchily blocking in the main colour areas.  I got a bit bogged down with the detail in the foreground, and you will see that I had a couple of tries at this area.  On reflection, I should have gone with my instincts and stuck with my initial approach.  But I am reasonably happy overall with the finished result.

I do not normally hanker after reproducing the works of great masters.  But having undertaken this exercise, I found that I learned a great deal about putting a picture together.  I was not trying to produce an exact copy; merely a ‘tribute’.  I hope that poor Van Gogh has not turned too many times in his grave!!

Remember, the idea that you can just go for it, using influences from others to help you do your own thing and be yourself, applies not just to art, but to anything in your life which you value.  Cooking; playing an instrument; producing a spreadsheet; travelling – whatever is your thing, embrace it with vim and vigor.  There is not a second to lose! 🙂