It is easy to guess that Vincent van Gogh liked to draw as a child. What not everyone knows is that it was his mother who gave him his first colored pencils with the idea of expanding his hobbies. The boy spent too much time alone, watching birds and picking beetles, which he then nailed tagged boxes. I had no friends. His harsh demeanor and quirky looks, frowning under the brim of a straw hat, did not fuel the popularity of the future artist. He also enjoyed escaping at night, when a storm was coming. On one occasion he ended up ten kilometers away, with his clothes torn and his shoes undone. The scare for the family was enormous, but it is what geniuses have: from infants they make themselves known.
The book ‘Child artists’ (Siruela), written by David Stabler with illustrations by Doogie Horner, narrates the childhood of seventeen great creators who did not have it easy in their early years. The painter Emily Carr, for example, also considered bugs and eccentricities. Riding her Javanese monkey, Woo, in a baby stroller was one of many she kept as an adult. Despite the careful education that sought to turn that wayward girl into a ladyShe insisted on covering herself in mud with the pigs, dressing starfish and animals with the costumes of her dolls or painting on her nails tiny faces in which her stiff school did not see art but disobedience. With a sick mother and a father forced to travel on business, he always took refuge in nature and drawings.
The creator of Snoopy, on the other hand, spent cold winter afternoons tracing scenes in the foggy window with his finger. That routine did not go unnoticed by his father, lover of the comic strips of the newspapers. He decided to buy her a blackboard that he always carried with him. In it Charles Schulz captured what he saw, until he changed the chalk for sharp pencils that pierced the pockets of his pants. Sparky, as they called him, was a shy boy, until he gained confidence when he saw that his colleagues were queuing to decorate their folders. At the age of fourteen he would devise a cartoon of a dog published in more than three hundred newspapers around the world. It wasn’t Snoopy but Spike, his dog. Carlitos and his gang would arrive a little later.
From luxury to begging for food
Yoko Ono’s was an easy childhood, until it stopped being one. A member of a wealthy Japanese family, he had thirty servants who had to get in and out of his room on their knees. Educated in the best schools, her mother taught her how to paint although, authoritative as she was, she used to do her homework. One bad day war clouds overcast the Japanese sky and both had to move to a tiny house to the south among cornfields, where they would end up begging for food. After the conflict, he returned to his privileged status, he would even share class with Prince Akihito, son of the emperor. But Yoko had already understood what war meant, and she became an artist by profession and a pacifist by conviction.
Another of the greats, Andy Warhol, would be mature when he was hailed as king of pop art. Before, he had to overcome the troubles of parents, immigrants from the Carpathians, who sometimes had no food left to feed their children. In the absence of a dog, the boy raised a chicken as a pet. He left her in his tiny house the first day of school, in which the slap given by another student encouraged him to never return. For a time they attended to his wish: in exchange, his mother, who was fond of crafts, taught her to appreciate art in her kitchen.
Andy painted when his brothers played baseball. She watched movies at the neighborhood theater as they finished their homework. But the bargain ended when he was six years old: he had to go back to school. Of that obligation he only adored lunch, tasting the Campbell’s soup that would mark his work. A rheumatic fever tied him back to his bed and he drew again. Until family savings allowed him to expand his artistic education and become an international icon. Something to which the rest of the protagonists of this book arrived, by different routes.
- Frida Kahlo
He began boxing, soccer, and wrestling to overcome childhood polio.
- Pablo Picasso
One of his early works was a portrait of his sister painted with egg yolk.
- Claude Monet
When he was a child he was stopped on the street to ask for his famous cartoons, at ten francs each.