Letter 01/14/1882 - by Vincent van Gogh

Letter 01/14/1882 - by Vincent van Gogh
Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org

Dear brother,

As I've often done, I sent you an answer in my last letter that was brief and to the point about one thing and another, yet in harsh words that nevertheless truly express what I think about things, but you mustn't think that I'm always in a gruff, cold-hearted mood which Mauve would perhaps call a yellow soapa mood or saltwater mood. But even if I had written a yellow soap letter or a saltwater letter, surely that's no worse than taking things too sentimentally.

You say, 'you'll truly regret it some day'. Old chap, I believe that I've had many such regrets &c. before now. I saw it coming and tried to nip it in the bud, well that didn't work, and anyway, what happened, happened. Will I now regret it? No, actually I don't have time for regrets. Drawing is becoming more and more of a passion, and it's just like a sailor's passion for the sea. Mauve has now shown me a new way to make something, namely watercolours. Well, now I'm immersed in that, and I'm daubing and washing out, in short, seeking and striving.

For one must make desperate attempts.

Because there's something diabolical about the execution of a watercolour.

Because there's something good in all energetic movement.1

So although I was planning to write to you in even more detail about what happened at home, to try and explain how things stand from my point of view, even though I also wanted to tell you this and that about other subjects, I haven't time for that now, and think it better to write to you again about drawing. 1v:2

In addition to a couple of small watercolours, I've just started a large one, at least as large as one of those figure studies I made at Etten.

Naturally it doesn't automatically go well and easily straightaway.

Mauve himself says that I'll ruin at least 10 drawings or so before I know how to handle the brush a little. But it will lead to a brighter future, so I work on with as much cold-bloodedness as I can muster, and don't let myself be deterred by my mistakes.

This is a little sketch of one of the small watercolours, it's a corner of my studio with a girl grinding coffee.2

You see I'm looking for tone, a head or a hand that glows, with life in it, and that stands out against a drowsy background, twilit, and standing out boldly against that, that fragment of fireplace and stove, iron and brick, and a wooden floor. If I could get that drawing the way I'd like it, I'd make at least 3/4 of it in yellow soap style and 1v:3 treat only that corner where the child is sitting delicately and tenderly and with sentiment. But you understand that I still can't express all of that as I feel it, but it seems to me the point is simply to attack the difficulties, and the yellow soap passage still isn't yellow soapy enough and the contrasting tenderness still not tender enough. But anyway, the sketch is still chucked on and its conception is clear, and to me it seems fairly good. Of course one can't master the technique the first day.