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“The Outsider – Outsider Artist Debate”


Funny isn’t it this thing about being pigeonholed, fitting in under a banner or label.  Well I guess if truth shall be known I have never really fitted in anywhere with anything – always been a bit rebellious and found my own way.

mosaic and ceramic wall based sculpture by sculptor Marie Jonsson-Harrison of people sitting having coffees at tables in a park looking at the cars going past in the street

Sunday morning coffee!


So why should anything be different now with my Art – I have for the longest time been told that the way I paint was Naive and yes that label has fitted me pretty well – however as it has been pointed out to me many times the naive title conjures up a Nice and Pretty painting.  Yes some of my paintings and artwork are just that no doubt but often there is “more”.   The “more” for the most part, is that often there is a often a subtle message or should I say a commentary on the world I see around me, I poke fun at the world, just letting you the viewer know not to take yourselves so seriously.   Also just a gentle poke at myself at the same time not to sweat the small stuff which I have a habit of doing!


Some people also think that as an ex model I don’t fit the innocent naive label either, why my past profession should have any bearing on the way I paint I don’t understand.  Oh I do paint subject matters from my past but it’s not like we learned to paint in modelling school exactly!  The fact that one can remain innocent in the way I view the world and hope the world would be, is perhaps what saved me both as a street kid and later as an international model with the Australian Model of the year title many years ago.  In my world happiness reigns and everyone are “Happy as a pig in shit”! The title of one of my first paintings which I painted incidently because I was going through a crisis in my life and painting little pigs having fun made me forget my troubles for a little while.  Here is a link to that painting and the Art blog that goes with it; 33. Art & Dont worry be happy


I am self taught artist and have never even taking an art class either unless you count my primary education,  where I was ridiculed by the teachers for not seeing perspective and not being able to draw and paint which lead to me not touching art materials again till my late 20’s.    Instead I left school at 14 when I ran away from home and never went back.  What I learned in those initial 8 months fending for myself made me street smart if nothing else.


So am I an Outsider Artist?  Again some so called experts say yes and some say no.  What seems to irk some people putting me into this category is the success I have enjoyed as an Artist.  As an Outsider artist you are not supposed to produce art to exhibit or for fame or monetary reward.

What these so called experts forget on this topic is that I painted for several years with a love and compulsion that I didn’t understand myself and I had no idea there was such a thing as Naive art or Outsider Art until it was eventually suggested by my father.  That was not mentioned for a long time as I just feverously painted every second I had spare, long before any thought of exhibitions or fame or fortune was even a glint on the horizon.

So what about the mental illness aspect – does an Outsider artist have to be mentally disturbed?  Well some ARE undoubtedly however you do find people in all professions dealing with mental illness and you don’t just classify someone who paints landscapes or photographic (realistic) portraits and has a mental illness as an Outsider artist, right?


So what about the term; Contemporary artist, I have been classified as that as well.  But as usual the camps are divided by that too. Can a  contemporary artist paint colourful happy paintings for the main part and get her social commentary taken seriously, mustn’t they be all broody and deep with long explanations of what their art actually means.  Oh my, she hasn’t attended Art School either, fancy that – not a clone of an art teacher!  Now that is probably a touch mean of me to say and not entirely true as there ARE many wonderful art teachers out there I know, mentoring the pupils to be the best they can be without influencing them too much and taking away their individuality.   I just hope that the ones that thought I was terrible in school can see me now!


To me Art shouldn’t be Rocket Science, Art should make you feel!  Feel something either for the subject matter for the artist or tweak some memory deep within.  Passion is good whether it is happy or sad, angry or give you the giggles, when you look at art and it stirs up a “feeling” any feeling then it’s good art in my opinion.  So perhaps the label I am most comfortable with is an Outsider Contemporary Naive Artist – yep perhaps that is the label for me!!!

Here is a quote I think fits well here by Henry Ward Beecher,

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

Now I would like to invite you to a wonderful exhibition of so called Outsider Artists – some more so and some less so!  The show is on until the end of December.


painting of the band clowns of decadence with a guitar frame

Circus Beserkus!

Official opening

Sunday, 1


2:00 PM

The West Torrens


1, Brooker

Terrace, Hilton

Till next time happy painting and sculpting to you all.

Love Marie xxx

Why not come and have a look at Marie Jonsson-Harrison’s PAINTINGS FOR SALEGICLEE PRINTS FOR SALE and SCULPTURES for sale or WALLBASED SCULPTURES.  Enjoy an original artwork on your walls or perhaps one on your bed ARTnBED.

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