An Affinity With Outsider Art


Insider Art by Bruce Gray

A precise definition of Outsider Art has yet to find universal acceptance.  In essence it is art produced in response to some inner creative urge by those isolated from, or on the fringes of,  society, ignorant of the art world and its passing fads, unversed in conventional techniques, oblivious as to how others respond to their creativity, and wholly divorced from any concern with financial gain.

To art critics and collectors, the appeal of Outsider Art lies in its essential purity.  They would argue that this art is a reflection of innate, untainted creativity that provides a window into the innermost recesses of the human soul.   Outsider Art wells up like a volcano from deep within the artist, wholly uninfluenced by how others might view the work and with no regard to possible monetary reward.  Thus Outsider Art is manifestly free of many of the criticisms leveled at the contemporary art world.Because Outsider Art  lacks a universally acceptable definition,  it is sometimes used to include other, more peripheral, art forms.   Thus some would burden Outsider Art by expanding it to encompass all manner of ‘rustic’, ‘ethnic’, ‘primitive’, ‘folk’ and other untrained, childish expressions of creativity that may be broadly  identified as ‘naif art’.   Outsider Art more rigorously envisioned, while sometimes naif, possesses a depth far beyond the merely unsophisticated.

Joyce & Judith Scott

Le Enchanteur, drawn in 2005 is, by definition, a piece of Outsider Art. She is the work of the untrained and does not pretend to be a sophisticated drawing.

To write is my first language. To draw and make tactile forms of art is my second language.

During the period of my husband’s decline I spent evenings by his side drawing. Le Enchanteur was know to the Soul Food Cafe community as the energetic spirit who led kindred spirits into the misty world of Lemuria. This very early portrait of her, along with hundreds of subsequent drawings were each completed within a three hour time span. These drawings are, undoubtedly, a form of naive self portraiture.

Finding my place as an Outsider Artist is like finding the holy grail.

6 thoughts on “An Affinity With Outsider Art

  1. Because my first gallery represented only artists with visible or invisible disabilities I have only known Outsider Art to be the domain of artists with psychiatric disabilities or who had been institutionalized, ie prison. I understand that Outsider Artists are persons who are unschooled in the arts and otherwise unconnected and disinterested in following art trends or techniques.

    I’m an Outsider Artist in that I’m self-taught. My early years were spent creating art that could be considered Art Brut, certainly. I reveled in self-expression without interest in ‘correct’ colour theory or such things as “the rule of thirds”. Okay…I outright thumbed my nose at convention. Eventually, however, I did become a mainstream artist and learned “the ways”, though I have remained self-taught.

    Still working with persons with invisible disabilities I highly encourage everyone to engage in the making of art for the sake of itself. Art supply stores are entirely unnecessary! They are great fun, but optional. I can get everything I need for a deeply beloved ‘masterpiece’ out of a trip to the hardware store, a dumpster, and a walk in the woods.

    Here is a wonderful article on the roots of Outsider Art.

    Steph AKA Quiet Tirade

    • This is a great article Steph. Personally I like the fact that it points out how the interpretation of what constitutes Outsider Art was broadened to accommodate those who never really want to slide into mainstream.

      • Agreed. Furthermore, Outsider Artists, if they choose to show their work, invite the audience into their world via their expression on their terms, whereas Mainstream Artists venture into the worlds of the audience working within accepted set terms and a certain expectation. There’s room for creativity, but the work is judged first on how well it has been executed within those basic limits. Mainstream Artists are like musicians, and as the song says, “Without the audience there just ain’t no show”.

        Outsider Art does not necessarily mean sloppy and/or unskilled. Over time, the work itself teaches us how to do it. I am excited by highly skilled delicate work, but have always preferred art that is rough and bold, and bold does not always mean colour.

        What I want to see more than anything is whatever I have not seen before. When absolutely every canvas or substrate is approached by “the rule of thirds” and has “a focal point” I get the sense that whatever is on it is something that I’ve seen before. It feels so often as though the artist is decorating the canvas as though they’re decorating a living room: fireplace is the focal point, couch over here, lamp to the side, side table by the couch, et al…

        Last night I dreamed that I painted a landscape with fine green glitter on all the leaves. Ha! I loved it. Not highbrow but different, engaging. The whole thing ‘came alive’ as you moved around looking at it. It was the kind of painting you experienced, not just stared at. Neat. Fun.

        Steph AKA Quiet Tirade

  2. All true Stephanie! I had an issue late this year, when I came to understand that I did not want to spend the hours mastering techniques required for certain mainstream art forms. I am not interested in making pieces of art to sell. That is my eccentricity! I have no desire to produce a printed text/novel. Again, that is me! I work best on the web so I turned back to web publishing. As I worked the debate raged about whether my work on the net is making art. I opened certain features of Soul Food and defied people to tell me that this was not art. Yes! It is outside the current grouping of what is regarded as mainstream art. Again I am happy to have it called Outsider Art knowing that there is nothing sloppy or lacking in skill in any way.

  3. OH heavens! This is a MUST SEE video of an outsider artist, Judith Scott. An absolute MUST SEE!!! Utterly compelling work. I am deeply moved by the work and the story. Judith and people like her are why Monkey Hill Creative Arts exists. But the art…my GAWD!

    And Heather…the synchronicity. *big smile* You will be *chilled* darling when you hear how her work relates to what you are doing with your rope ball. Can’t wait to hear your reaction.


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