“The way to know life is to love many things.” ~ Van Gogh
I was an Art History major in college, and Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite painters. When I chose art posters for my freshman dorm room (no rock stars for me) I included one of Vincent’s olive groves. I now have a wonderful old, gnarled olive tree in my backyard that reminds me of that painting every time I go outside.
Take a look. Can you see the essence of my olive tree in this picture Van Gogh painted after committing himself to an asylum?
“The way to know life is to love many things.”
I had never read this quote before, but it sums up what I love about his work. There is nothing pale, passive, or lukewarm about a Van Gogh painting. He clearly loved his subjects as much as he loved the psychological and physical act of painting. His passion is evident in every color, every brushstroke. The viewer cannot observe Van Gogh from an emotional distance. And isn’t that what we seek to do as writers—create a compelling and immediate story that sucks readers in from the first words?
So what can we as fellow artists take from this quote? We may not be painters, but we need Van Gogh’s passion in our work. In order to write well we need to know life. We need to love many things.
We need to love the world around us with all its sights, sounds, and smells in order to create vivid settings that will resonate with our readers and draw them into our stories. We need to love people as a whole. We need to find human beings fascinating to give our characters individuality and depth. We need to love the strength of the human spirit.