I’ve been doing a lot of comfort reading lately – a lot of kid’s titles and light stuff before bed. I have this library habit where I’ll peruse different sections and if it looks good I’ll impulse check it out. I’ve discovered a lot of awesome stuff that way, and my latest discovery was The Art of Tasha Tudor. I’d not heard of her before, but the cover art was adorable and I was curious to see what gave her the ‘American Beatrix Potter’ title.
This woman was amazing. Not only did she write or illustrate somewhere around eighty books in her lifetime, she also inadvertently became a lifestyle icon after she published The Private World of Tasha Tudor, which was originally supposed to be an acknowledgement and something of a closing of a door on that part of her life. She survived an awkward upbringing, two failed marriages and brought up a family of four children all while working as an illustrator. Including the books she also drew hundreds of card designs, advent calendars, magazine illustrations, fashion designs, and prints, and torched many of the originals because she thought they weren’t up to par.
No matter what she thought of herself, her work is gorgeous. It harkens a simpler time in rich, loving detail. Whether it’s fairy tales or Bible stories or children’s poems or her own stories her illustrations will make you lean forward and fall into the pages trying to look at all the components. She’s also known for her rich, theme-oriented borders that surround many of her illustrations. I’ve been obsessively checking out her titles lately and my favorites so far are any of the Corgiville books and A Time to Keep, which details her own family’s holiday celebrations for each month of the year.
I will admit some of the titles get a little dated for my taste but overall they’re beautiful. Her anatomical attention to animals is impeccable and she does have that same sort of realism that Beatrix Potter portrays in her illustrations. I find Potter’s stories a little more approachable but I’m learning that I deeply love Tasha’s way of looking at the world. There’s a simplicity and a love, but also a determination there to preserve the lifestyle she’s devoted to.
What fascinates me is her approach to this. In The Art of Tasha Tudor there are a few throwaway sentences that mention that she believed she was reincarnated or from some time in the mid 1800s and would go back there upon her death. In the meantime, she held dear the famous Thoreau quote:
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
What’s interesting is for her that meant literally surrounding herself with the styles and simplicity of the time period she was enamored by. Because she drew from models and real items, her books are filled with older customs and styles and for the most part works so well. You get such a cuddly feeling when you read her work. It’s just plain fun. And ironically by taking the quote literally she created a whole world where the life she imagined and created for herself was real…and her readers in turn wanted to know about how she went about her daily life. She became an icon for people who wanted that down-home, simplified way of life and it opened up a new career for her. So who says you can’t get the life that you imagine?