At the beginning of February, the talented metalsmith artist, Barbara Zander, nominated me to participate in a ‘Five Day Art Challenge’. Over five consecutive days, I posted a selection of my favourite images on my Facebook page and nominated other artists to take part. On the fourth day I chose my corn marigolds photograph and was touched by the comments and ‘likes’ I received from my followers. One of my friends posted a comment that brought a smile to my face; ‘It looks like a Van Gogh painting! Superb shot!’ The theme of this week’s WordPress photographic challenge is ‘life imitates art‘. Thank you, Barbara and Steph, for providing me with inspiration at a time when I was struggling for an idea.
These corn marigolds have featured on my blog twice already. In my recent post, ‘Making Order From Chaos in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland‘, I revealed the inspiration behind these detailed images of the landscape elements. In one of my early posts, ‘Cycling and Photography on the Black Isle‘, I told the story behind the photograph. I spend too much time sitting either behind a desk or a steering wheel and so I make a concerted daily effort to get enough exercise. I’ve recently taken up running on a second hand treadmill in my shed; a great way of keeping fit during the wettest winter on record! With spring on the horizon and the prospect of safer road conditions ahead, I’m looking forward to spending less time on the treadmill and more time in the saddle as I continue exploring country roads and tracks near my home on the Black Isle. Whilst out cycling in 2014, I paused for a break by the roadside and stumbled across these gorgeous flowers in the corner of a barley field. I returned the following day and captured this shot.
I’ve always been more passionate about photography than painting and so my knowledge and appreciation of the art world doesn’t go as deep as it perhaps should. That said, I grew up with the name Vincent van Gogh and I can remember studying one of his best-known works, ‘Sunflowers’, in primary school and being captivated by the story of the artist who cut off his ear. In 2005, aged 20 and on my first trip abroad, I had a few hours to kill in Amsterdam on the final day of a university field trip. I split off from the other students, hopped on a tram and made my way to the Van Gogh Musuem. Ten years on from my whistle-stop tour, the memories are a bit of a blur but I can recall standing before Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and reflecting on the significance of the moment.
Many of Van Gogh’s works feature flowers and wheat fields. ‘A Field of Yellow Flowers’ was painted in Arles, France in 1889; the year before Van Gogh took his own life. Van Gogh was clearly someone with a brilliant but troubled mind. According to his brother, Van Gogh’s final words were, ‘The sadness will last forever’. He died aged 37 as the result of an infection from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I can’t help but wonder if Van Gogh’s burden would have been eased had he foreseen his posthumous success. Whilst he received some recognition in his lifetime, Van Gogh could not have known of the impending widespread critical acclaim and the influence that his work would exert over twentieth century art. Not only do I admire Van Gogh’s style but also the ability he had to create beautiful, optimistic works of art that portrayed his love of the countryside and concealed, in Van Gogh’s own words, his ‘sadness and extreme loneliness’. What I admire most about Van Gogh is how prolific he was. He took up painting in his late twenties, produced over 2,100 artworks in a decade and created many of his best-known works in the final two years of his life.
I’m 30. I captured my first photograph when I was 6. I want to live to be 100. I feel like one lifetime isn’t enough to do all the things I want to do and I certainly can’t comprehend being so accomplished by the age of 37. I doubt I’ll ever experience 0.01% of Van Gogh’s success and I’m certainly not about to start drawing comparisons between my photographs and his artwork. Regardless of whatever recognition I receive for my images (ideally within my lifetime!), and no matter how large or how small that recognition is, I know that I will always pursue photography in Scotland’s great outdoors for one simple reason – I love it.
Childless Van Gogh told his brother he thought of his paintings as his progeny and I confess to thinking of my photographs in a similar way. I’ve been writing less frequently this month compared with last, thanks to the longer daylight hours and better weather allowing me to get out and about with my camera again. I need to catch up on backing up the digital files, however, as I want my images to outlive me. That’s a morbid thought and I hope that day is unimaginably far off in the distant future. In the meantime, I’ll keep exploring and enjoying the Highlands and Islands and this summer I’ll look out for a field of yellow flowers on my travels around the Black Isle.