Holland, the early 1880s. As the decade opens, a 27-year-old who has failed as a teacher, a social worker, a clerk in a bookshop and an evangelist among miners ponders another career change. Although he doesn’t know how to paint or sculpt, he decides to become an artist. He takes one step at a time. Instead of immediately picking up brushes and oils, he consults how-to manuals and teaches himself to portray on paper images of downtrodden people and forlorn places.