Being Blog

Build Your Own ‘Fantastic Jungle’

Amanda Hall_The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

I have a deep admiration for artists. They are the heartbeat of our culture, provide us with outlets to see the world through a different lens and push boundaries in a much needed and required way. I sincerely respect the artists who remain true to their craft even when they are not getting accolades and recognition. Often, it takes the world some time to catch up to their vision, and in the meantime they just keep creating. It takes an immense amount of resilience and fortitude.

Many of the great artists that are so widely known now were not recognized for their work until much later in their life or even after their deaths. For example, Van Gogh, one of the most widely known artists around the world did not experience much success during his career. He only sold one painting, lived mostly in poverty and was supported by his brother, Theo. He now has a whole museum in Amsterdam dedicated to him. The sad part about Van Gogh, though, is that his life was so tormented that he probably wasn’t even able to enjoy his process of creating.

I was introduced to the book, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau written by Michelle Markel and illustrated Amanda Hall, via Maria Popova and was instantly intrigued, as I LOVE a good children’s book. Plus, the story is one that shows how yet another well known artist who stood firm in his desire to follow his creative passion even after receiving harsh reviews from critics. He was self taught and did not even begin to paint until he was 40 years old. As the Booklist review states:

Forty-year-old toll collector Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist, despite the fact that not a single person has ever told him he is talented. Yet obstacles don’t stand in his way. Nature is his muse and observation is his teacher. An excited Rousseau waits to hear what the critics say after his first exhibit. It’s nothing good. Still, he continues turning out lush paintings filled with flora and fauna, and the critics continue panning him.

As Popova so beautifully writes, “At the end of his life, Rousseau paints his masterwork ‘The Dream’ and finally becomes successful by a public standard as the critics, at last, grant him acclaim. But the beautiful irony and the ennobling message of the story is that he was successful all along, for he had found his purpose.”

Chapter Be is all about people who have found their purpose, which in turn has allowed them to simply be in this world. How do we find those innate things about us that allow for flow and ease in our life? The thing that we will do because we love it – even when critics might be writing, “If you want a good laugh…”

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