You are not a painter

Motivation Monday November 28 2016

“”You are not a painter”, then by all means paint, boy, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working.” – Vincent van Gogh

These are the words of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo. They are a piece of a longer letter, where Vincent strives to encourage his brother to take on life with a passion and ‘genius’ that can only be found through sheer determination and disregard for the opinions of others.

Vincent must have been thoroughly aware of this need to disregard opinions and silence that voice of doubt. He painted over 850 oil paintings during his life, but sold only one. He was institutionalized, moved back in with his parents, and subsisted off of the financial support of his brother for much of his life.

He no doubt suffered from the inner critic, the fear of not being a real painter. But, he suffered through it. He just kept putting brush to canvas, he did what he was meant to do, and in the process shaped the course of western art.

There is a new movie coming out in 2017 titled Loving Vincent. It’s an animated film about the life of Vincent van Gogh, but it’s animated using oil paintings! Over 100 artists collaborated on it and painted over 62,000 oil paintings to create the animation. Vincent’s legacy is still inspiring people and still pushing the envelope of creativity. Check out the trailer here.

In the nonprofit world, I think we often suffer from impostor syndrome. That voice that Vincent addressed. The idea that we are somehow not good enough, that we’re not running ‘real’ organizations.

To this I echo Vincent, ignore the critics, ignore the voice that says you cannot, and silence it by bludgeoning it to death with the club of daily consistent work.

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