HOW GAUGIN TAUGHT US TO BE INFLUENTIAL.
Paul Gauguin was a French Post-Impressionist painter born around 1848.
But wait, why is he considered a post-impressionist painter? Wasn’t the mid and late 19th century considered just the regular Impressionist time? Gauguin, like many other’s I have talked about, were not recognized until after their death.
And because of his strange use of color and modern, primitive style, it placed his art in a category that was all his own. Soon, many artists began to emerge whose work was heavily influenced by that of Gauguin. Picasso and Matisse to name just a few. But why?
What made his art and lifestyle so substantial and inspiring? If you’re like me, you have never really even looked into the life of this man. So why did he have such an effect on the art and style of other’s?
Gauguin was born in Paris, but shortly after his birth, his family relocated to Lima, Peru, a place that would later inspire much of his works. By age seven, his family returned to France and he began to go to school and then onto the Navy.
Gauguin took up painting in his free time, which is how I believe many of us start. Gauguin soon befriended a group of other artists, including Camille Pissarro, and Vincent Van Gogh. They supported each other in their work and in their art, as both Van Gogh and Gauguin understood what it was like to not have the support of many artistic critics.
Van Gogh’s brother Theo, even bought a few of Gauguin’s paintings out of support. The relationship between the two artist’s wasn’t always peachy, in fact in was pretty rocky at times, but they kept up correspondence even when differences separated them.
From his childhood, Gauguin was a world-traveller. He was used to leaving behind the comforts of Europe and living in strange, new places like Peru, Panama, Martinique, Tahiti and lastly, the Marquesas Islands.
While in Tahiti, he set himself up in a small bamboo hut, and there created many paintings that showed the style of Tahitian lifestyle. He used many bold, primary colors and a rather crude use of shape and style, much unlike anything else that was being painted at the time. He finally settled in the Marquesas Islands.
During his time there, he created sculptures as well, along with his bold paintings and died suddenly in 1903.
As I mentioned above, his work, the crude use of shape, the bold use of primary colors, and primitive way he portrayed the human body, influenced many great artists, including Picasso. What made Gauguin so inspiring? Here are a few things I think we can take away from his rather obscure life.
I think I have mentioned this one before, but it’s really important. Always be experimenting with your medium. Mix different techniques and mediums together. Try things that other maybe haven’t before.
“How do you see this tree? Is it green? ...Don't be afraid to paint it as green as possible.”
Be in community.
Relationships are so so so important. Sometimes as artists and creatives, I think we have a tendency to isolate ourselves, to put ourselves up in a little box all safe and sound to ourselves because we don’t want to be wounded. But being in a community, where you can share your work in a safe place is one of the most rewarding things a maker can do for themselves. You meet other people who are going through the same things you are, people who are in the same place you are, people who are just a little bit ahead in the game who can help you and encourage you, and some people who you can mentor and love on. Really, art is all about community and loving people.
“Oh yes! He loved yellow, did good Vincent... When the two of us were together in Arles, both of us insane, and constantly at war over beautiful colors, I adored red; where could I find a perfect vermilion?”
Leave behind the familiar.
This one is scary. I know. Like I said above, we want to box ourselves away, we want to wrap ourselves up in the familiar. Comfort zones are exactly that, comfortable. Safe. But if we truly want to grow in our craft, we have to leave that all behind. We have to be willing to explore new territories, to push boundaries and learn to get over our obsession with “safety”. No, I’m not telling you to jump off dangerous cliff faces in order to be able to paint the feeling of falling, but I am telling you to jump off “artistic” cliffs. Try new things, mix things together, and don’t be afraid. Because we are here for you.
“I begin to feel an enormous need to become savage and to create a new world.”
Forge the way.
Make new paths for other artists and makers to follow you in. Explore new territories and scour for things that have never been done before. You will become an inspiration for so many people. Makers and artists will look up to you and respect you as they follow along in your footsteps. Don’t be afraid. We’re all waiting for you to make that first step that we can follow.
In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters.”
Always remember Maker, we are here to cheer each other on. We are here to push each other towards the unfamiliar, to make new paths and explore strange waters. And together, our art can change the world and inspire generations to come.
Teagan Olivia Sturmer is a maker and published author currently living in Nashville, TN. She believes that more people should enjoy the simple pleasures of matching pajama sets, hot tea and a good book. She makes and writes because it grounds her and gives her a sense of belonging. If she could have her way, it would always be Autumn and Winter, and always Christmas. You can find her work on Etsy at Muted Rose Mercantile, and on Instagram @teaganolivia