For Vincent van Gogh's birthday, a rare look at his creative process in his never-before-revealed sketchbooks – a bittersweet record of his artistic genius and unlived dreams.
I have a lot of interests. I always have. I get wildly excited and obsessive and fantasize about being brilliant at anything from paragliding to calligraphy to burlesque. I rarely am.
I abandon most of my hobbies as quickly as I get into them. I get good enough but never great at anything. I think that was why it was so hard for me to keep a blog—it was a fashion blog and a music blog and a book blog and a personal blog and a writing blog and a photography blog. It wanted to be everything but it could never just be one thing, so it ended up not being anything at all.
But that’s okay. I didn’t fully realize this until recently, that it’s okay to do something just because it makes you happy. Sometimes the pleasure is simply that of discovery, and the pleasure of doing, even doing badly.
I read one of those self-improvement books I always feel silly about reading recently. It’s called Refuse to Choose, and it told me a lot of this. It all seemed so simple but I needed to hear someone say it. I needed someone to give me permission.
So I’ve been doing what the book advised. Get obsessed about a new thing and give it my all. My new discovery was art. I read a lot of books and bought a lot of art supplies and used up a pad of watercolor paper. I made some awful paintings. But I loved it all. I loved watching my drawings go from really terrible to pretty okay. I loved sketching in coffee shops and on the beach and drunkenly at a party. I loved seeing my finished pieces even though they were uninteresting to anyone else.
That was the important part, the joy. I didn’t need to become an expert or make money from it. I just needed to fall in love.
It’s enough. It’s better than enough.
Sometimes I retain pieces of my old hobbies, or pick them up months or years later. I taught myself how to write in cursive with a fountain pen a few years ago and now I can’t write anything else. I took guitar lessons when I was sixteen, but bought a little guitar last year and retaught myself from basics. I liked it better the second time around, though I don’t think I got any better at playing it.
All these things I learn and forget, they leave traces, marks on my skin. And they become as much a part of who I am as the parts that are permanent. I can’t tell what’s really permanent, though, unless it’s this bright-eyed enthusiasm: amateur at everything, master of very few.
The Penny-Sized Illustrations of @samlarson
To see more photos of both Sam’s normal-sized and minuscule work, follow @samlarson on Instagram.
"I gather my inspiration from the American West," says Sam Larson (@samlarson), a 25-year-old Wisconsin native now working as a freelance artist in Carlsbad, California. “I like to get out into the mountains and desert whenever possible.” On Instagram, Sam shares his western-themed creations, which often take the form of tiny, penny-sized drawings.
Sam attributes his rekindled interest in illustration to Instagram. In 2013, after a five-year hiatus from art, “I started doing one drawing a night to post on Instagram. It was an exercise that held me accountable, and the encouragement helped keep me going.”
"Instagram has allowed me to make new friends, travel to places I didn’t know existed, share my art and so much more," says Sam. "I hope to inspire people to pick up a pen, or to embark on some type of adventure."