It was told over and over again, by everybody who thought they had a hand in my upbringing, that making paintings had nothing to do with a decent profession and that artists are poor eccentric loafers, who cannot put bread on their table. So it does not have to be said that taking up art painting as a profession, was not really supported. Just like them I did not believe that I could ever make money by selling my paintings but nevertheless, I wanted to paint.
It looked to be that I was too stupid and backwards to study in almost everybody’s eyes and on top of that I wanted money in my pockets, I decided not to waste any more of my time at the Royal athenaeum of Ekeren.
In those days, you were still allowed to take a job at the age of 14, so I was eagerly looking forward to my 14th birthday. On Monday, the 2nd of August, a day before I could become a legal member of the labor class, I took an apprenticeship of diamond cutting. After a while, with bonus money, I managed to buy the art materials I longed for, to become a ‘real artist’.
The following Saturday morning, enthusiast I went to the field behind the houses on the other side of the street I was living. I found what I thought to be a quiet place and put myself between beech and oak trees with all my paraphernalia, to make my first Van Gogh.
It did not take long, before a man with a dog stood next to me. He wanted to know what I was doing. I answered his question. Later, somebody else started watching over my shoulder and then one more and again one more person. All these people, who did not mean to annoy me but were only curious or just standing there watching what I was doing, made me unbelievable nervous.
Disappointed, I packed everything and went back home. I stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom and promised myself never to go painting “en plein air”, ever again. Since then I have painted or worked indoors, when I am all by myself.