Managing art in real life 2… An artist’s imagination helps survive a life of trials

Pear in the City, Acrylic, Karen Gilis Taylor, 9 x 12"

Pear in the City, Acrylic, Karen Gilis Taylor, 9 x 12″

In the last post I wrote about finding ways to juggle everyday life and jobs verses making new paintings. Artists everywhere are in good company as they deal with this challenge. Listen to this story of one artist:

Suppose you were a young person who had a love of art and music, but your parents lost their house in foreclosure and you had to concentrate more on making a living at an early age. Then your father died and you took a job as a government employee to support your mother. You married, and had six children, but only one survived, and your wife died as well. You worked as a tax collector, eventually remarrying. In your early forties, you took up painting seriously. Somehow you manage to make a name for yourself with painting from your imagination, unschooled except that you say you have learned only from nature, maybe only influenced by botanical gardens in your city. So you paint tropical scenes, and places you  have never visited except in your own dreams. When you show your work you receive some ridicule, but eventually you gain some recognition from the more well-known painters of your day. Finally you retire and supplement your small pension with part-time jobs and playing your violin in the streets of Paris.

Of whom do we speak?

Tropical Forest With Apes and a Snake, Henri Rousseau

Tropical Forest With Apes and a Snake, Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau, was a primitive painter, known as Le Douanier, (the customs officer) after his place of employment. Somehow I think he might have preferred to be known simply as a painter of … well… of the world as his imagined it. When I read his biography I realized he did not have an ideal life. In fact, there was a lot of tragedy and many challenges. He was also alone in the fact that he was a one-man art movement in the days of groups like the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.

Sleeping Gypsy, H. Rousseau

Sleeping Gypsy, H. Rousseau

I first discovered Rousseau’s work as a young art student, and still find it mesmerizing today. I love the dreamlike quality that imaginative painters like Rousseau, Paul Klee and Chagall exhibit in their work.

As painters, our imagination and work with paint on canvas allow us to become absorbed into a deep, concentrated effort that can both help us contribute to a life work and gives us a brief escape life’s trials. I wish I knew more about Henri Rousseau’s life, and it will be worth exploring.

Pear in the City, new crop idea for another painting, Karen Gillis Taylor

Pear in the City, new cropped  idea for another painting, Karen Gillis Taylor

As a fellow painter, so many years later, I can’t help but think of the rewards of a life in color and paint. Why dwell on the downsides of life in the arts if we have the privilege of working with the upside, the making of works of beautiful color and imagination? I hope Rousseau’s work will inspire others as it does me.

Here is a question, in our contemporary world, what artists are working mostly from imagination?

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4 Responses to “Managing art in real life 2… An artist’s imagination helps survive a life of trials”

  1. Leslie Ann Clark Says:

    I remember once I was very very upset about something. I went out to my studio and thought up a wonderful new toy for kids! I still have it. I would still love to do something with it!! For some reason, the way to escape it all was to go create. When I was done, the problem did not go away, but it was less important to me because I had a new idea. fun!

    Like

    • karen Says:

      Isn’t it amazing we get perspective on life’s problems when we step away from them for a time, and what better way to go create something that takes us to a different place, even for a short time? What was the toy you created? Please share…

      Like

  2. Caroline Jobe Says:

    Rousseau is one of my faves too since high school. i love the playfulness of his work. Play is the way for me. no angst over is this good enough, etc. sweep away the thoughts and judgments and just have fun. thank you for sharing your process. we really enjoy them and are inspired by them.

    Like

    • karen Says:

      Thank you Caroline, for sharing your thoughts. I once saw a Rousseau painting at the MOMA in New York. It was really large, and I didn’t expect that, a nice surprise. I like the playful feeling of his work too.

      Like

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