Homage to Van Gogh (2)

I really like Van Gogh’s ink drawing of Garden of the hospital in Arles (1888). 

To spend a little time appreciating this work, I copied some of his marks. It is all lines, dots, curves. And with that, he has created a wonderfully rich shorthand depiction of this garden. The overall scene is serene and yet his marks are very energetic.

The drawing is 45.5 x 59 cm. To me, that is alot of marks to be making. For me, on a much smaller 14 x 20 cm page, it felt an an effort to draw in this way – having to create varied shapes, negative-positive shapes, dark to light, detailed shapes versus overall shape. In his work though, I get the sense, these marks just ‘flowed’ from his pen. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.

I then happened upon his painting version of the drawing and was very surprised to find that his brush strokes are the same or similar to his drawn marks. I have not compared his drawings with his paintings before and never noticed.

And then, I came across a blog post, Making a mark: Van Gogh: Drawing media and techniques which explained my surprise. Don’t you love discovery learning? I do.

And so it is…to learn from walking in the footsteps of someone with a gift that continues to amaze. Thank you.



6 thoughts on “Homage to Van Gogh (2)

  1. It’s interesting…in my memory, I associate Van Gogh with those bold paintings, you know…sky at night with those bold clouds and stars, all his sunflowers, his bedroom with the chair, and so on. To me they were a freestyle way to paint, of the moment, rather than with a lot of planning.

    I looked at the article in the link you provided and I too am very impressed with the efforts he put into his drawings, which, for some reason, I don’t recall ever having seen before! Obviously, my art education is sorely lacking. I like these drawings. I think, somehow, that the one in your post today and probably others weren’t completed in an afternoon! How much time did he spend in the hospital at Arles? A few months, I think it was. That sort of time lends itself to putting detail into an image. It is very clear that he was ‘into’ the detail. Most likely a tremendous healing process, for him.

    hank you for this lesson; I’ve enjoyed it and learned a lot.


    1. As drawing can be a physical activity, I wonder whether the energy needed to do so many marks helped keep Van Gogh’s mind focussed on describing something outside of himself. And in this way, keep his mind still for just a little while. I compare this to say, the plant line drawings of Ellsworth Kelly which are minimal and yet just as effective but in an entirely different way and I imagine, drawn with a different mind state. Who knows? I certainly am not a psychologist nor art expert. As far as my drawing habits go these days, they take 2-4 little sessions as I prefer natural morning light and the 20 minutes or so I have before going to work. Thank you for your time.


  2. You are a good study, I recognised the style before I read the post’s title! I too have spent ages in front of a Van Gogh drawing, that was in an exhibition at the NGA many years ago. Thanks for the link to the blog on his techniques as I always wondered how he got such a broad stroke in his ink drawings – now I know. It’s always helpful to closely examine how other artists work. Bravo.


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