Josephine Baker

Inseparable by Josephine Baker
Home Is Where The Heart Is by Josephine Baker
Loving Family by Josephine Baker
Certainly a latecomer to the world of contemporary art, one thing’s for sure, and that’s new woman on the contemporary art block, Josephine Baker isn’t wasting any time now she’s here in making a name for herself. Or rather, Baker’s special brand of art. Given her undoubted talent, it’s hard to believe that Baker hasn’t been creating art for years. What’s even more of a revelation is the underlying fact that it wasn’t until fairly recently that she even became interested in art per se. so what might not be that bigger surprise to learn then, is that Baker has no formal background or indeed, qualifications in art. Banking. That’s another matter entirely, as that IS Baker’s background, but that’s another story for another time.

So, you may be wondering just what it was that inspired Baker to take up the brushes. Well in the event it was more a case of the ‘who’ as opposed to the ‘what’ of the matter. Baker’s three children we’re told first inspired the former bank worker to give it a whirl. And this was based on photography, originally. Confused? Then let us explain a bit better. As is the norm for most parents, they have a sizeable back catalogue of photographs of their kids growing up. And usually dig them out when one of their offsprings brings their first boy/girlfriend home in our experiences. Anyway, Baker had a half-decent stash of pics and one day took it upon herself to copy the likeness of one of the muses in pencil, and in a portrait style. Baker turned out to be rather good at this, all things said and done, which didn’t go unnoticed and resulted in requests from family and friends.

This in turn led to further commissions from third parties as they observed Baker’s art work hanging from friends and family member’s walls. As Baker’s interest in art grew, her obvious skillset improved in leaps and bounds, as did her confidence, and she started sketching and drawing different subjects matter. Although closely related, as she’d plunder the artwork typically found in children’s books which she’d frequent to read to her young kids before lights out at night. Baker was particularly drawn to the easy, loose, suggestive work and the simple characters traditionally depicted in children’s fictional literary titles, and the gorgeous watercoloured worlds in which they dwelt on a never-ending succession of pages. So enthralled and raptured by the infinite reading/illustrative reference/reading material that she sought out, Baker eventually hit on her own character aimed at this early reading market.

Based around a girl called Josephine (not a large leap of faith) and her toy unicorn named, Misty (something Baker herself had craved throughout her own childhood), the artist set about originating her very own concept and putting her graphical skills to (potentially) commercial work in a projected title called, ‘Misty Nooks’. But alas Baker realised that illustration (and therein book illustration) is an altogether different creative beast than art, and it was eventually her husband who nudged Baker back in this more broad direction. In Baker’s own words she takes up the story by saying; “We’d just decorated our lounge and there was a big gap on the main wall. My husband suggested I do a piece of art depicting the family, but not a portrait”. The gentle persuasion was perpetuated when Baker’s husband gifted his wife two sets of pastels (on behalf of their children) for Baker’s (then) birthday, and this set in motion the final push that Baker needed.

Baker recalls pretty much immediately sensing a hard to put into words excitement when handling this set of grey pastels. Her husband, well aware that Baker had an affinity with black and white photographs knew what he was doing, and with the injection of a splash of watercolour (mostly varying hues and saturations of blue) the budding fine artist really started believing in this new-found style direction that was slowly but surely playing out before her. But this wasn’t the end of the story, as all Baker fans know, as this process was the forerunner to what finally established itself as her signature, wide-eyed hippo-like characters. Bedecked as they habitually are in black and white (although technically, predominantly tonal variations of grey) and interspersed with shades of blue. And so was born Baker’s original ‘Loving Family’, and the artist knew exactly that this was all that she wanted to do henceforth. And the rest, as they say, is of course, contemporary art history.

View All Art Works By Josephine Baker