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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Shipman

Trying to be like Henri Rousseau

I got to be in the same room as Henri Rousseau paintings this past summer when I visited MoMA. This is a picture of that happening. The thing that surprised

me when I looked closely his paintings was that although the lines and shapes look perfect when you see them in a textbook or reproduced in a magazine, there are brush strokes and imperfections in the lines and the shading and highlights. It was liberating to see that! It means that I don't have to be perfect either.

This summer we drove to western Pennsylvania to visit my family. The last day of the trip I took a photo from the edge of my parents' backyard, looking into the dense woods that we never were allowed to explore as kids. The sun was just coming up through the trees. It looked like a Henri Rousseau painting to me. I instantly itched to paint the scene. So I'll post progress pictures of it here in this Journal. Here is is - I'm guessing about 40% of the way through.

I'm layering leaves on top of leaves and going back in and adding more to the sky, then the leaves again. I'll go back in and make those distant tree trunks more blue. Then I'll add the tall weeks in the middle ground and fore ground. Its going to cover up a lot of the work I have already done (but I'll know its there). Then on little bits of paper I'll sew in stories about the land and about growing up on the edge of this wild place I couldn't explore. I'll do some research about the house I grew up in- the first house on that part of the road. It was a farmhouse built in the 1900's. Now there is a gravel crushing plant 300 feet away, making noise and dust 24 hours a day. How is that allowed? I'll post again with progress when I get some more studio time.

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