The tale of Miss Potter
-Illustration as we know it-
The art of illustration has become extremely popular over the past years. Illustrations explain concepts or processes and are designed mainly for published media, such as magazines, posters and books. Children´s books truly use illustration as a great method to communicate ideas to kids. It even helps books to appear more attractive to their public. Almost he same happens to other areas within illustration, such as medical illustration, botanical and narrative. Nowadays thousands of artists try to find a place in this area, and many work as freelance producers for years before getting any chances.
Today we´ll talk about an amazing artist born 150 years ago. Let´s go back in time to the year 1866…
-Victorian Storyteller: nature in the life of the artist-
Helen Beatrix Potter was born the 28th of July in 1966 at Kensington, London. Daughter of Helen and Rupert Potter. She grew with her brother Bertram (born 1972) they got along perfectly and shared many pets. The list includes dogs, rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards, snakes and even a bat and a tortoise. Beatrix was always encouraged to draw and paint, and she used to spend many hours making sketches of animals and plants until they turned out as realistic as possible, revealing an early fascination for the natural world that would continue throughout her life. As a young lady, she’d visit art galleries with her father, where she would meet famous painters like John Millais. Each year, her family would go to the countryside during the summer, and sometimes spent as long as three months. All the servants and pets made the trip by train each year as well. When she was 16, her father chose a new place for their summer holiday: the Lake District, the most beautiful place she had ever seen.
She also worked hard at her painting and partially studied plants and insects at home to occupy herself. Soon after, she became really interested in botany science and biology in general, developing a special interest for mycology. She was even invited to study fungi at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, and she produced hundreds of detailed botanical drawings and investigated their cultivation and growth. Clearly, she began to consider being a scientist. However, during the Victorian era, as we know, women couldn´t take jobs or dedicate to science; she was expected to get married and live with her parents until that happened, so she never took her chances due to her family´s pressure.
She was left very disappointed, so she consoled herself by painting pictures of her pets dressed as people. She would sell this drawings as holiday cards, and to her surprise, did quite amazingly. She once sent a letter to her friend´s son, Noel. The boy felt ill, so she wrote a little tale to cheer him up. The boy and his family were charmed by it and encouraged her to publish this story, the one we know as “The tale of Peter Rabbit”. It was published in 1902 by Frederick Warne. The rest is history. She wrote many books after that and instantly became extremely
wealthy. At this point, she started buying farms to prevent them from being transformed into factories.
Potter continued to write stories and to draw, although mostly for her own pleasure. Potter died of complications from pneumonia and heart disease the 22 of December in 1943 at Castle Cottage.
-The legacy continues-
Beatrix´s relevance continues to this day, being a great inspiration for new authors and illustrators, not just in the UK, but around the world. She published over 24 books, which continue being extremely popular to this day, as thousands are sold each year.
Her importance isn’t shown in her stories and illustrations only, her legacy is also reflected in the beautiful landscapes she was able to protect during her lifetime. Her love for the Lake District inspires us to conserve nature. She left fifteen farms and over four thousand acres of land (as well as all the original illustrations for her books) to the National Trust so future generations could enjoy and protect nature just as much as she did. Today, Hill Top Farm is kept exactly as it was when she lived in it, and receives thousands of visitors every year.
-Inspiration and a way to relate-
In my opinion, Beatrix Potter has been an influence as I grew up. I´ve always felt attracted to her paintings, drawings and style in general. I also feel kind of connected to her; at some point I really felt like studying biology due to my interest in plants, animals and mushrooms, which I love to draw. The characters she introduces in her stories, perfectly resemble Great Britain’s wildlife in general. I enjoy illustrating nature and she has been a great example. I don´t really know what else to say; it´s now hard to accomplish what she did back then, but we can still learn a lot from her and her work, as well as her passion.