Two artists that I've been influenced by for quite some time are Leon Lhermitte and Vincent van Gogh. Vincent also loved Lhermitte's work as well.
Van Gogh – I feel a strange connection to the man. There may be no other artist who can transform confusion and torment into such intense beauty. One day at the National Gallery in London, I stood there, in front his painting, Wheat Field with Cypresses.
I looked at the painting for a moment that felt like an hour. Then I immediately felt pulled into the painting. The swirling fluffy clouds, and the warm light of the south of France depicted by the painting suddenly gave way to a feeling of horror, of pain, and of something that somehow went very wrong in Vincent's life. It upset me to the point that I spun on my heels, and almost walked right out of the National Gallery.
It was in 2003 and 2004 when Vincent became an influence upon my own work. It was also during this time that I undertook an apprenticeship with Osvaldo Romberg. Perhaps it was no coincidence that at the time Osvaldo was also creating a body of work around Vincent.
Osvaldo's depictions of Vincent were meant to portray genius and madness. I found parallels between our world and his. Vincent's image of the Old Man with the Beard became Osvaldo, my teacher, in profile.
For me, van Gogh's influence was not one of madness, but of strength. What seemed unstable in Vincent's work gave me stability. I think that perhaps this was also true for Vincent, who found influence in the Realist school—in the depictions of the poor working class in Third Republic France.
Vincent spoke several times about Lhermitte in his letters to Theo. He felt that his "bold touch which can [sic] be compared only to Rembrandt's."
Vincent spoke also of Daumier, of having "pith and a sober depth," and a "passion which can be compared to the white heat of iron." The way that Vincent intensely studied these artists appears contrary to who he has become, and to what he is known for. It is unfortunate that Vincent's madness, or that he sliced off his ear interests people more than his austerity, his studiousness, and his incredible vigor as an artist.
It was not until years later that I started to realize what it meant in my work (without doing studies of Vincent's) what strength is.
The experiences that shaped my life—of poverty, of being literally a starving artist. And then of love, of finding Elizabeth, of learning to hold one another, and to create a family. This is what became strength for me.
For more information about Vincent van Gogh, see: https://www.artsy.net/artist/vincent-van-gogh