Our job as artists is to follow our muse. But I’m willing to bet at some point or another, many of us question whether or not we should put something out there in fear that it might offend someone. Or be rejected. Or face harsh criticism. Or perhaps our muse is guiding us in a direction that makes us feel uncomfortable and that’s the point at which we must decide– to stay true to our art OR compromise to save face and dilute our message.
Pretty sure almost every artist deals with this dilemma at one point or another.
But heeding the call of the muse is something Tomi Ungerer has never had issue with. In fact, he’s pushed his muse beyond the limits of most any artist I’ve come across. And for that, he provides a wealth of inspiration.
Originally from France, Tomi came to New York as a young man in 1956. He quickly carved a career for himself as an award-winning illustrator and author, publishing more than 140 books.
His work ranges from children’s books to his controversial adult work that ultimately got him banned from school libraries and prompted his exile from the United States. He’s also well known for his political satires around the Vietnam War, civil rights, and other hot topics.
Something not seen so much today in our politically correct, litigious society.
Clearly, many were offended by Tomi. But at the end of the day, my hat’s off to the man. For the simple fact that he’s always stayed true to himself and his art. Allowed his message to come through as clear and unfiltered as he received it. And never allowed societal conventions to sway him whatsoever.
That, in my opinion, is the mark of a great artist.
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to which I was fortunate enough to attend, documents 70 years of this artist’s life. It just premiered in LA and New York (as well as other select cities) and if you’re in those areas, I HIGHLY recommend you go see it. For artists and non-artists alike. It will make you rethink how far you wanna stretch the limits in your own life and inspire you to break out of your self-imposed box.
After the premier, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Tomi in Toronto and let me just tell you. This guy at 81 is more alive than people half his age. He is fascinating. Irreverent but fascinating.
And proves, on a broader level, that so long as we stay true to ourselves, we will maintain a vibrancy and youth well into our later years.
Tomi’s Museum (Yes. He has his very own museum)
So how bout you? How often do you push the limits in your own work? Stretch out of your comfort zone personally and professionally? If you’ve seen the film, what did you think?