A carpenter, some potato eaters and software development

In 1880, at the age of 27, our protagonist decides to become an artist. He has already tried, and abandoned, the careers of art dealer, lay minister, school teacher and book seller.

This is one of his first drawings, of a carpenter:

5 years later, our protagonist is on the way to mastering his craft. He paints these potato eaters:

4 years, and over 2000 drawings later, he paints this:

There are some interesting parallels with software development here. Here are a couple. One fairly obvious, one less so:

  • van Gogh had to master his craft before he became an artist. He spent years perfecting his techniques and copying other painters before painting any significant works. Software development is a creative process as well. You too will need to copy, try and fail, and eventually master the fundamental techniques before you can produce your masterpiece.
  • Put the 27 year old van Gogh in a sketch-off with me and there’s no way that you could tell from our drawings that he would end up one of the most influential and famous artists of the past 200 years and that I was destined for eternal mediocrity. The same thing holds for software developers. If you’re faced with two untrained, wannabe software developers then you have no way of distinguishing van Gogh from the muppet.

What do you think? Post here …

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7 responses to “A carpenter, some potato eaters and software development”

  1. Joao says:

    Honestly, I liked the first painting’s profundity the first time I saw it on your blog even though I barely looked at it. This time I paid a little more attention to it and it does have enough detail to put most amateurs to shame really fast.
    Here’s a web site design I’ve found entertaining (…go looking for it though among other hundreds of uncategorized bookmarks. If I find it, I’ll finish this posting and submit it.)
    Found it: http://www.webdesignerwall.com/tutorials/advanced-css-menu/
    See how profound it is in its own way. 🙂 Not only is it colorful, but to make a web site like that takes some “unique chemistry” out of a person.
    Software developers can reach the stars at times as well, in their own ways. Albeit the result is not pretty to one’s eye like art can be. Here’s a software developer’s diagramming art to compare with:
    I don’t think software developers value the diagramming skills their most valuable contributions though. Sometimes they can value their success track-record though, like the previous author’s jQuery JavaScript library which is used by thousands of sites and potentially millions of end users on a daily basis.
    And in the end, his contribution has come out of an open source project with little regard to commercial outcome. 🙂
    Isn’t it an incomprehensible art in its own right? Perhaps it’s too modern to most people’s tastes? 🙂
    I’m far away from being an artist myself, and from being a successful software developer as well it seems. But can you sense the honest passion? 🙂

  2. Not Van Gough says:

    Van Gough cut off his ear, suffered from mental illness and depression and eventually killed himself. And this was the time when he did his best work.
    I hope thats not what you have in mind for software developers.
    The point being, software development is more rational than art which is hugely creative and emotion driven. Hence the analogy of growing your skill though tempting, is not watertight — you can learn principles and approaches without necessarily having to kill yourself over them.

  3. Arthur says:

    I’ve seen your drawings Neil, and I even at 27 I’d say Van Gough has the edge. 😉

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  5. Frankly speaking, I think that is not a good idea to compare Van Gohn creativity with the software development. It is absolutely diffirent things.

  6. Mag Studios says:

    Hi This is MAG Studios i really like your Post so much and the drawing for Software Development is Nice.
    MAG Studios

  7. Hi i have appropriate your posting thanks for this post. i think Van Gohn a brilliant in this way..thank