van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(September 1881)
... with them a great deal now. I have also started to introduce the brush and the stump. With a little sepia and India ink, and now and then with a little colour. What is quite certain is that the drawings I have been doing lately bear little resemblance to anything I have done before. The size of the figures is about the same as that of an Exercices au Fusain. As for landscape, I don't see why it need suffer in any way as a result. On the contrary, it will gain. Enclosed are a few small sketches to give you an idea. Of course I have to pay the people who pose. Not much, but because it happens every day it is one more expense until I manage to sell some drawings. But since a figure is hardly ever a complete failure, I am sure that the outlay on the model will be fully recovered relatively soon. For nowadays anyone who has learned to tackle a figure and hang on to it until it is safely down on paper, can earn quite a bit. I need hardly...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 12-16 January 1882)
... I shall not have a cent left by that time. Meanwhile I intend to go on making those little pen drawings, but in a style different from that of last summer's large one. Somewhat more fiercely and savagely. This is a little sketch of the Schenkweg, the view from my window. Well, adieu, with a handshake, Yours sincerely, Vincent ...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 10 April 1882)
... and yet it is directly after the model . You should know that I had two underlayers beneath my paper. I had been working hard to get the right contour; when I took the drawing from the board, it had been imprinted quite correctly on the two underlayers, and I finished them immediately according to the first study . So this one is even fresher than the first. I am keeping the other two for myself, I wouldn't like to part with them. You will see from this that it is not without reason that I wrote you, I would rather not return the money to Tersteeg now; I need it so much myself, and I think that working hard with a model is the fastest way to succeed. It is true the model I have is not so very expensive, but as the expense recurs almost daily, it is often hard enough for me to pay. Well, arrange it the way you think best; but if it's convenient, send what you promised not too late in the month. Adieu, a handshake, Yours sincerely, Vincent I think this drawing would...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 15 April 1882)
... what I shall call non ébarbée. If I have not fixed your drawing, or have worked on it again here and there after having fixed it, so that there are spots with an unpleasant shine, just pour a large glass of milk, or water and milk, over it and let it dry; you will see that it gives a peculiar saturated black, much more effective than is generally seen in a pencil drawing. To get that peculiar look, non ébarbée, I think one ought not to use crayon but rather charcoal which has been soaked in oil. Of course I sent the 25 guilders to Mr. Tersteeg at once, and have received a receipt for it without one written word. He may talk about being “hurt,” but I wish he would only consider how hurt I must have felt, always hearing such things as, “You do not earn your living, you have lost your rights,” and I don't know what else. Such things really don't hurt less but infinitely more than what I said to him - such things...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(1 May 1882)
... from those with thin Fabers, etc. I prefer the graphite in its natural form to that ground so fine in those expensive Fabers. And the shininess disappears by throwing some milk over it. When working outdoors with conté crayon, the strong light prevents one from seeing clearly what one is doing, and one perceives that it has become too black; but graphite is more grey than black, and one can always raise it a few tones by working in it with the pen, so that the strongest graphite effect becomes light again in contrast to the ink. Charcoal is good, but if one works at it too long, it loses its freshness, and one must fix it immediately to preserve the delicacy of touch. In landscape too, I see that draughtsmen like, for instance, Ruysdael and Van Goyen, and Calame and Roelofs too among the moderns, used it to great advantage. But perhaps there would be more pen drawings in the world if somebody invented a good pen for use outdoors, with an inkstand to go with it....

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