Van Gogh or Warhol

Would you rather be Van Gogh or Warhol?

About a year ago, my shrink said something flattering about my creativity, and said something like, “But you could very well be like another Van Gogh.” I said back, “F– that. I don’t want to be Van Gogh, who died penniless and without any recognition. I want to be Warhol and live to see it all go down.”

He (my shrink) said that it could easily be argued that Van Gogh had a deeper impact on art and society than Warhol, or that his art was more pure (I forget the conversation’s exact point). What I took away was the clarity of the realization that I was much more of the mold of Warhol than Van Gogh. What about you?

Are You Deep in the Art or Are You Producing?

Warhol was a creator, but he was much more of a producer and a community creator and a creature of experimenting with reaction from his audience. He came from the magazine world, from advertising, and then spun off into this crazy vortex of creation and connecting and producing, producing, producing.

Van Gogh wasn’t a slouch. He made over 2,100 different pieces of art, including almost a thousand oil paintings. Don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t just hanging out doing nothing. But mental and other illnesses and a completely different personality put Van Gogh on a completely different path, with far less interest paid to commercial success, and almost none to community.

Neither path is right or wrong. They’re just different. In understanding your own business, your own creativity, your own gears for driving, however, it’s exceptionally important to understand your drive, your goal, your desires, and where you want this all to head. In a universe where we tend to follow a lot of other people’s maps, this can be a recipe for some terrible dead ends, some roadblocks, and general frustration with the path at hand.

The Purists and The Word “True” or “Real.”

I have always loathed (and always will) the words “true” and “real,” as they are often used by people who believe that they have the market cornered on the way to succeed in something. “No real marketer advocates email marketing.” I read that about myself somewhere. It was pretty funny, actually, but hey.

Remember that people who see something as “pure” or “true” or “real” are essentially working from a single perspective.

There are Many Different Roads, But Be Sure Where You Want to Go

I watched the documentary, Dig! (affiliate link), about the Brian Jonestown Massacre, where it’s this contrast between Anton Newcombe of the BJM and Courtney Taylor of the Dandy Warhols. Anton is portrayed as the absolutely self-destructive and frayed genius/crazy type, and Courtney is creatively envious, but helming his own band towards a much larger success. At the same time you see Anton descend into self-destruction and yet create more and more musically pure material, you see Courtney and his band hitting larger stages, moving huge festivals with his songs, and yet looking sideways at what he can’t reproduce.

Van Gogh or Warhol?

In your own business, in your own world, are you thinking more about the depth of your art or are you producing? Or are you neither? Who do you see yourself following for a path? Where is your direction? What keeps you pointed towards it and what makes you feel brave (or not)?

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