The happy childlike paintings of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis belie the many adversities and challenges she faced throughout her life.
Looking at her peaceful scenes of winding country lanes, sleepy boat harbors, and charming cats amongst tulips and blossom-laden branches, it’s hard to imagine she lived most of her life in a cramped one-room house with no running water or electricity, barely able to hold a paint brush with her gnarly, arthritic hands.
Born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1901, Maud Dowley was a solitary child, uncomfortable around others because of her differences. She was smaller than most, and because of birth defects, had hunched shoulders, almost no chin, and painfully deformed hands. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis further reduced her mobility. Teased mercilessly by the other kids, she dropped out of school at age 14.
l. In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are a few portraits by the one and only Joan Baez, who turned 80 in January. I didn’t realize she was such an accomplished painter till I began following her on FB last year — initially for the music videos she posted as the pandemic raged on. It was wonderful seeing her singing in her kitchen!
Then she began sharing pieces from her first solo exhibition, “Mischief Makers,” featuring “risk-taking visionaries who have brought about social change through nonviolent action.”
Her debut album in 1960 was basically my introduction to folk music and activism. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always marvel at multi-talented creatives who thrive on a cross fertilization of genres.
In addition to Joan, musicians I admire who also paint include Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Cat Stevens, Miles Davis, and John Mellencamp.
See more Mischief Makers as well as portraits of Friends and Icons at Joan Baez Art. I like all the little backstories for each painting. You can also purchase prints or catalogs there.
It’s always a good day when I stumble upon a new-to-me artist to love. More often than not, the artist in question turns out to be from the UK.
Anna Pugh was born in 1938 and hails from Kent, “the Garden of England.” An esteemed British folk artist, her work shows her deep affinity with plants and animals, both a central part of her life growing up as the daughter of a veterinarian and a devoted gardener.
I love the stories she tells in her paintings, whether a scene of the countryside or coast. Her finely detailed and beautifully textured depictions of flora and fauna and the changing seasons are infused with an element of whimsy and the surreal. Alongside a dog or chicken one might find the occasional unicorn. Who would not be charmed with titles like “Hang Gliding in Heels” or “Bugs Do Pilates”?
Every year, Seattle-based author/illustrator Julie Paschkis attends a big neighborhood party hosted by her sister Jan and husband Greg, where family and friends gather to decorate eggs and eat lots of delicious food.
Their eggs, Ukrainian pysanky, are decorated with patterns of beeswax and layers of dye, and are part of a longstanding folk art tradition that honors the Sun and welcomes Spring. Julie’s new picture book P. Zonka Lays An Egg (Peachtree, 2015), which officially hits shelves this week (!), was inspired by these marvelous egg-decorating parties, and is, in a word, GORGEOUS.
P. Zonka herself is no ordinary hen. Unlike her clucky friends Maud, Dora and Nadine, she’s a not a regular egg layer, preferring to spend her days gazing at the wonders of the natural world. Much to the bewilderment of the other hens, who think she’s either daft or just plain lazy, P. Zonka is enthralled by soft dark moss, the deep blue of the sky, pale mornings, and the shining centers of dandelions.
After much pestering, urging and coaxing by the other hens, P. Zonka finally decides to give egg laying a try — and the result is well beyond any could have imagined — in a word, SPECTACULAR!
Here’s a charming way to introduce little ones to a bit of Japanese culture. Annelore Parot has created a series of interactive books featuring kokeshi, the traditional wooden folk art dolls that originated in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan.
In Kimonos (Chronicle Books, 2011), we meet seven adorable kokeshi. Each invites us to join her in an everyday activity involving clothing. Ayuka wants us to pick out friends who aren’t wearing school uniforms, we go shopping with Kimiyo to select kimonos and accessories (sashes, fans, bows), and Sen’Jo shows off lots of fun hairstyles. When we are asked to help Yumi find her lost ladybugs, we pop into several different apartments, and eventually get to meet her extended family by identifying the colors and patterns of their clothes.