The Only Reason You Are Not As Good As Vincent Van Gogh

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall in love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less

Maya Angelou

Maya is on to something here.

There is this idea that great works of art come from divine inspiration bestowed upon supernatural beings who are on this earth to remind us just how mortally inept we are.

I mean, Van Gogh and Chopin couldn’t have been normal, petty, scared humans like us. There must have been a mystical white light that appeared through the window in the form of an arch angel delivering the news of their life mission while simultaneously endowing them with artistic prowess the likes of which you and I can only thirst in front of in galleries and wonder why the hell we were even born in the first place.

Where are the garbage cans?? Clearly, that’s where all our hopes and aspirations belong.


As alluring as it is to go down a pit of self-deprecation and doubt, let’s hold on for a moment and take a closer look at Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘divinity’.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy from Netherlands who loved to paint. At fourteen years of age he dropped out of high school for reasons unknown. He went on to become a trainee at an art firm. He got fired. He became a schoolmaster. That didn’t work out. Then a bookseller…can you guess what happened? Finally, he entered the university as a theology student but sadly later discovered he had no will to study. #Relatable

By the time he was 24-years-old, his parents were distressed that he showed no ‘practical’ direction in life. He was in and out of their house like a revolving door and had to be financially supported by his brother, Theo (the responsible one).

It was only when good ol’ Theo, to whom he scribbled sketches for in his letters, suggested that he take his passion for drawing seriously that he became the Vincent Van Gogh we know and admire today. Most people only know him as a famous painter who cut off his own ear and killed himself in the end, but that’s not the focus here.

Back in his pre-artist, mere-mortal days, Vincent Van Gogh often went to galleries, read poetry and literature, studied art. It’s worth a mention that Theo was an art dealer at this point and it was to his gallery that these works were exhibited. Family is a beautiful thing. Don’t forget to show yours some love.

If you think that after the initial exhibition, every thing was smooth and peachy, you’re wrong. It took more than two years for anyone to even notice him. Apparently his paintings were too dark for their tastes. Sound familiar?




Well? Can you smell it?

I sure can. It’s the unmistakable smell of humanity. It’s laden with mistakes, doubts, and sweet, sweet failure. All this mess, all this LIFE shaped him to become one of the greatest post-impressionist painters of the 20th century. Take a look at his works and see: it reeks of emotional honesty, bold colours and rough beauty. The humanity that is translated through his paintings is what draws the world to him.

In a recent interview, Elon Musk (the billionaire who builds cars that drive themselves, launches satellites into space and is working on sending us to other planets) says that he does not read business books- that biographies are way more helpful. I can see how. Through them, you get a sense of the same challenges you face and realize what Maya said. They’re ‘no more human, no less’.

If I put love into the work, it will find friends. –Van Gogh

A Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. One of the most recognisable art pieces in the world.


Get out of here and go create (and put lots and lots of love into it).

2 Comments The Only Reason You Are Not As Good As Vincent Van Gogh

  1. Stephanie

    Intuitive piece…A number of us think that those who have achieved greatness, in whatever form, were born under a lucky star while in reality this could not be further from the truth; granted there are exceptions to this but moving on…..We rarely get a glimpse of what goes on behind the curtains and if we did we would undoubtedly see the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the whole process. I think our main problem Is that most of us want an easy straight forward path to success but there really is no short cut- you have to put in the work, time and effort to get even close to greatness, and then some more.

    1. Barbara Moi

      Right! It’s so easy to compare our ‘behind the curtains’ with other people’s finished product and forget that it took them a lot of effort to get there.