On Not Being Vincent Van Gogh

Even as a kid of twenty, before I was particularly good at anything, I always saw my limited artistic abilities in the context of a Van Gogh. I could do cartooning, photography, and had begun to write. I wasn’t great at any, mainly because I refused to ever take a single course in learning how to be better at any of them. By the time I was mature enough to take courses, I was way past the intro course level, and too “unskilled” for advanced ones.

By this point, my late twenties, I had been published as a poet in 3 or 4 journals, had been offered (and turned down) a job working as a travel promotion photographer for the state of Virginia, but had a career, and decided to “grow up.”

I knew, internally, that while I could develop my talent, no one but close friends would ever “get” my work. I was too different than others – people didn’t know what to make of me. I was like Van Gogh, just far less talented, without the Temporal Epilepsy.

So I moved onto life. But when that life fell apart, when my all-time best friend and the love of my life had a breakdown and retreated to a cave in New Mexico, I decided to restart my life as an artist. The alternative would have been to die, without at having left anything to show my descendents I once had talent and aspirations. But the voice remained, the one that said, “They always teased you, never got you, never will.” I have always believed that one day, people would see what I write, even the stuff I never share, and appreciate it. I always believed it would never be in my life.

The work, when it’s good, never comes from me. It’s not for me. However, I really need it to be.

So I published my 1st book. It’s good, I know. I also know it’s not as good as the 2nd, and nowhere as good as the 3rd. And, as I expected, a dozen or so kind people bought it right away, then, nothing. So I was right, another Van Gogh, waiting for the world to change enough that what he had was considered talented.

I didn’t want to be him. After all, he killed himself at 37. Loser. Except … he didn’t. Now, it appears, he was bullied his entire life, fought through the epilepsy and anguish, had become upbeat, was murdered, perhaps accidentally, and died protecting his attackers. A death even nobler than his life. A life-long depressive who turned the art world on its ear by use of vivid color and imagery. A man who was sad because he saw life in such rich colors, but could never connect with another enough to get a single one to see it.

That, my friends, has always been my tragedy. Only a small group of people have I ever gotten to see the world through my eyes. So, in the silence of the rest, I “knew” my inner critic was right. I was an untalented Van Gogh, too weird to connect, to limited in scope to be discovered post death.

And, being only 1/2 artist, and 1/2 Vulcan-logician, why bother, if they’ll never love it? Right?

Now, faced with a random 60 Minutes story about Van Gogh, on a program I haven’t watched in over a decade, I have to reevaluate truth. My all-time tragic hero wasn’t so tragic. He was just alone.

And, that is my only real tragedy. I am reeling because “they” hated my photography when I went public. My favorite comment was “arrogant, untalented hack.” How can a photo be arrogant? “They” won’t even look at my book pages, won’t get past Chapter 4, when they realize it’s not a comedy after all. Certainly won’t get past the mid-point, when furry dragons appear, or past the climax, when fear and hatred and lies are shown to be the villian. They will never get my work.

Well, fuck “them.”

In truth, I’m not reeling from them at all. I fell in love, lost my best friends (3 of them), lost a daughter, lost the love of my life, lost my robust health, in less than a year. That’s probably a lot to lose. So now I realize I need to revisit my inner Van Gogh. I need to consider not committing one more artistic suicide. Perhaps my bullies are wrong, the silence is lies, and the dreams within my books are the truth. Maybe the words I write are from pain or a lack of talent …

… or maybe they are whispers from God.

So I won’t try to sell the damn books anymore. People will read them, or they won’t. But for the very few who read all 6 of the series, and the others I have in my head, I think they will have to rethink what they thought they already knew. Maybe, just perhaps, God wants me to tell “Them” to shut the fuck up.

For Vincent.


  1. I want to say something profound- but that’s not going to happen. You’re post- spoke to me (sorry for being so cheesy) I admire your strength, courage, and conviction.

  2. It’s not cheesy. I appreciate it a lot.

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