Pr1-R.P: Making Marks like Vincent van Gogh

It was a joy to look through a load of Vincent van Gogh’s pen and ink drawings. We are all hugely familiar with the paints but the drawings are not so exposed.

My first impressions, apart from what a good drafts man van Gogh is, was the similarity in the way he handles a pen and paint brush. In his paintings we see dashed marks of different colour that build up to describe form. Maybe because he is self taught he steers away from the standard blending technique. His marks are most like impressionist pointillists such as Renoir. van Gogh created a highly recognisable personal voice painting in this way.

The brush marks are visible and the paint dashes are directional, sometimes curbed. This shows the form of what he is painting as well as giving a sense of movement to his paintings which is appropriate when capturing nature that doesn’t stand still.

(Click on the link below to see the image.)

1889 Enclosed Field behind Saint-Paul Hospital, Rising Sun black chalk, pen & ink 47 x 62 cm

In the above pen and ink we can see clearly how he uses short directional lines. In he field in the foreground he uses dash marks that travel away from the eye almost vertically, on a slight diagonal angle. This shows perspective and gives the eye nice lines to follow in till we reach the wall. Here stubby horizontal lines that describe a wall stop our travelling gaze momentarily before we take in the back ground.

Van Gogh also gives the corn field in the foreground a wavy texture by curbing a sires of short lines one way and the next row of lines curb back the other way. In this clever way he shows us the breeze. Some thing the naked eye can’t see, but by showing us the effect it has on the crop with the use of dash marks we know there must have been a breeze when he sat down to draw this seen from the asylum in 1889.

He uses dense thick lines to descried shadow and leaves the high light areas with little, light or no marks at all. The trees, house roof, wall and tracks in the crop are shown to be in shade or darker in vale by thick black ink deposits made by placing lines very close together. The mountains or hills in the back ground are mostly shown to be receding by lighter thinner marks.

Here again he shows perspective with directional lines. Travelling diagonally away from us. The eye climes up and over the hill as it follows the lines. Also on the flatter ground far left. Near horizontal dashes draw our eye out of the picture to the imagined meadow beyond.

Threes and bushes are described with semi-circle and curbed marks. Again suggesting a light wind casing the leafs and branches to oscillate.

The lines in the sky are the faintest of all. A large circle that sits around the golden ration line depicts a beaming sun. Curbed lines radiate from this spear telling us of the heat and light emanating from it that day. Van Gogh has drawn a few fine lines over the sun face. Perhaps this is the shadow you see when looking directly at the sun. A few clouds passing by are described with thin wispy curbed lines. they are merely Suggested as only one side of the clouds has been formed.

Compositionally, I think the eye travels along the corn furrows to the trees to the sun then to the house. So the composition is triangular at the top halt for the picture and linear at the larger bottom section. With the horizontal wall that acts to divide the to half’s.

As with all Van gogh’s images it has an other worldly quality. Where senses are heighten and every thing appears in max resolution.

The over all mood of the drawing. I get the feeling of be hemmed in by the rectangular wall surrounding the field. Beyond this looks to be the rest of the world. But its very far away and removed. The distant wall has a strong presence separating the two half’s of the drawing. As it separates the asylum inmates from the rest of the world.


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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