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When mental illness meets artistic brilliance - meet Vincent Van Gogh


Artist Name: Vincent Willem Van Gogh

DOB: 30 March 1853

DOD: 29 July 1890

Mediums: Oil Paintings

Subjects: Figure, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Scenery Art Movement: Post-Impressionism

Hometown: Zundert, Netherlands



Vincent Van Gough was a brilliant artist with a deeply troubled mind. Read below to learn a bit about this famous artist and find out how you can achieve his art style


One of Van Gogh’s most famous quotes is: "Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of colour to express myself more forcefully."




Van Gogh was deeply troubled with depression and frequent seizures. Some of his most famous paintings were created whilst he lived in care during the two years before his suicide. During his later works he largely painted from memory which opened the window to a new form of expression. Painting from memory allowed him the freedom to incorporate more creativity and emotion into his artworks. The bold, dramatic brushstrokes created movement in his works. He used colour to communicate the mood of the subject. Through this process his artwork become less realistic and more attractive.

Stunningly, the year leading up to his death, he painted one picture per day.


Van Gogh determined that you had to master drawing and the drawing in black and white first, before leaning how to use colour. He focused much of his early career on understanding figure drawing and depicting the correct perspective in landscapes.

Much like thumbnailing before starting the final piece, Van Gogh would sketch out his paintings prior to commencing the oil painting. During this process he would determine how he would capture the light, perspective and mood of his paintings. These preliminary pictures encapsulated the vision he had for his final piece.

Many people may be unaware of this but not only did Van Gogh also do water colour paintings, but he also used watercolours to create depth and shadow in his drawings.




During his pursuit to master colours, he painting over 30 self portraits, experimenting with complimentary colour contrasts to create bolder compositions. This led to him becoming one of the great self portrait artists of all time.



How can you achieve Van Gogh's art style?

Van Gogh utilised a style called Impasto. This involved using the paint direct from the tube and applying it in thick brushstrokes with a palette or a brush. People say this resulted in the painting feeling like they were almost jumping off the canvas. His unique application of paint also applies to the direction of his brush strokes. Van Gogh applied his paint in quick, hurried circular lines which enhanced the sense of movement in his pieces.


I applied his colour application in the smoochy poochy portrait below. See in the background where I have created the sky? I have used the linear strokes of the lines to direct the viewers eye line around the page, towards the dog. I used Prismacolour pencils and burnished the background with a white pencil in that same range.


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