Last year (Aug 2014) I visited the Ateneum Art Gallery in Helsinki for the Tove 100 exhibition. I hadn't realised Tove Jansson had been so prolific throughout her life. A wealth of work filled the gallery from graphic design, book and comic illustration, sketches, fine art paintings from self portraits to landscapes murals and 3D models. As I absorbed her work I was in awe and thrilled that I had the opportunity to be in this space. I have collected a few of her books in the last few years including The Moomin illustrated story books, comic strips and her much loved novels. Her work has a magical and ethereal quality.
"Ham worked hard, and at home the little girl watched her drawing, hour after hour. It convinced her that indian ink, pen and paper and the act of drawing itself were a fixed and natural part of a woman's life. " "Tove Janson Work and Love" by Tuula Karjalainen.
This resonates with my own childhood spending the summer holidays at my grandparents house In Dublin. Most of the time I was glued to a chair in the corner with sketchbook on my lap drawing cartoons. My grandmother inspired this creativity. She didn't have the opportunity to be a self employed young artist. After college she started working at the local library when my grandfather came along and whisked her off her feet. They were married, had five children and only when they were old enough to start looking after themselves did she begin her journey into painting. She didn't have the luxury of a studio so after dinner, she would clear the table, fetch her oil paints, brushes, canvases, sketches from her art trips and spend the evening painting landscapes amidst the chaos. She continued to paint like this well into her eighties.
Sometimes Mama would find me books for inspiration and I would experiment drawing faces and figures from different angles. Then I'd take a break from the technical exploration and take pen on a circular day dream. The first time she handed me a blank canvas and some oil paints from the shed I was so excited. In the living room I found a photograph of a boat on a lake in the sunset. I sat in Papa's chair at the end of the table opposite Mama and started painting. I was so ecstatic and proud of the result. In that moment I felt like I could achieve anything.
Tove was thirty when she held her first solo exhibition in 1943.
"Courage was something the young artist needed. Her biggest test of the war years was her first solo exhibition, which she held in 1943 at the prestigious art salon owned by Leonard Backsbacka, a friend of the family. By then she was nearly thirty: relatively old for a first one-woman show." Tove Janson Work and Love Tuula Karjalainen
I like to believe there are more people in the world discovering new passions or continuing to grow their dreams and embrace beginnings whatever their age.