I showed this short video here about six years back. It’s a compilation of morphing self portraits from Vincent Van Gogh put together by Phillip Scott Johnson that I found intriguing then and now.
It’s a short piece, less than a minute in length, and it’s interesting to see how the familiar views of Van Gogh relate to one another and how his appearance or, at least, his perception of it, changed through the years. His state of mind is evident in each piece, with some showing a vibrant, seemingly healthy man and others showing the more tortured Van Gogh that we tend to think of as the man.
I found it interesting now because I have been spending some time recently looking at my own older work in a different way. I am not looking at the pictures as whole images. Instead, I have been looking at the individual marks I am using in each and seeing how it has changed through the years. Or how it has stayed the same in some cases.
I’ve always said that my painting for me was a continuum that, while changing all the time, always seemed the same to me– always in the present. But looking at it in this manner I am finding that my mark-making does change periodically which fundamentally changes the way a picture is painted and how it emerges in the end.
It’s not something I often think about– I just paint in whichever way the moment strikes me. Sometimes it is dependent on the condition of the brush or the weight and quality of the paint I am using. As a brush ages and wears, especially with the rough treatment given to them by me, it makes a more and more distinct mark that I find appealing. Looking back, I can often tell when I am using fresh or old brushes.
So, I watched this film in the same way and it is fascinating to just look at Van Gogh’s mark-making throughout without focusing on the faces. It is varied and each differing style serves the image in different ways. Some marks are wildly expressive and others small and quietly acting in service to the greater whole.
As I said, it’s less than minute and interesting even if you don’t give a damn about the mark-making part of it.