By publishing a post, embellished with a picture of Fernand Chatelain's sculpture Bonjour aux promeneurs, this weblog on november 11 2008 entered the blogosphere.
In that first post I said that the idea behind the weblog was to raise more awareness on the creations made by people like Picassiette in and around their homes. On a holiday in the late 1990’s I had visited Picassiette’s mosaic-decorated house in Chartres, France, and this inspired me to search the internet for comparable sites.
My research resulted in a written documentary, mainly about french sites. Doing my research I noted that these sites in the United States had their blogs and websites with general overviews and that such a web resource wasn't available at the european level,
So why not filling this gap and share the information I had collected in a weblog about sites in Europe, writing in english to reach both an american, a european and an international audience, with a focus on inventorying and documenting these creative sites?.
It seemed like a good idea and I started a weblog I named Outsider Environments Europe.
Why Outsider Environments?
Sites such as the one by Picassiette in the United States often are referred to as visionary environments or art environments. So the term environment is fairly common to refer to these creative settings.
Since I was particularly interested in the creative activities of people without a professional artistic background, I added the term outsider as it occurs in outsider art, and the definition can then be:
An outsider environment arises when someone without relevant professional training embellishes his/her place of living with decorations, paintings, mosaics, sculptures and/or structures/installations, in general being engaged thus for many years and with a lot of passion.
In this blog I use the term outsider because of its association with outsider art. With this term I refer to non-professionals in visual art, sculpting or architecture or people without a relation with these fields.
In 2008, when this blog started, there was no discussion about eventual discriminatory aspects of the term outsider, nor was argued that outsider art as such does not exist, let alone that outsider art was trending within the official art world, as currently happens.
Although most people presented in this blog are non-professionals indeed, it may happen that I write about someone who was educated in an art school, but then kept far away from the art world, like Chomo or was not accepted by the art establishment, like Karl Junker.
Place of living
A place of living mostly will be a private house and/or a private garden, yard or other plot of land near the house. In a small number of cases it could be the community where the maker resides (François Michaud from Masgot, the Naveira brothers from Betanzos), or a nearby forest/natural area seen as habitat (Rapeau, Pujiula, Wilson)
Someone who makes an outsider environment can do this because he or she later in life wants to realize a childhood dream, wants to have something to do when retired, wants to make something beautiful, is inspired because of a dream, follows a vision, wants to convince fellow citizens of a religious view, wants to show that ordinary people can perform something great, and often these creators say they just stumbled into their project. In general these people have no ambition to become a famous artist.
Earnings From the same attitude, people who create outsider environments do not start their project to make money out of it. Maybe, they expect a small donation from eventual visitors, but the creations in general are not for sale and are not made to be sold. Some outsider environments however have become famous and turned into touristic spots, which provide a nice contribution to the local economy (Facteur Cheval, Picassiette).
My blog is about creative activities, so my frame of reference is cultural, and not political or economic*. Geographically speaking Europe is the landmass west of the Urals, which stretches to where the Atlantic Ocean begins (including off shore islands like Mallorca and Iceland).
From a broad cultural point of view the countries on that landmass have a lot of common characteristics. So in my blog I will deal with environments which are located in these countries.
In a number of cases I will be prudent in giving details of the specific location of an environment, especially when its author wants to remain anonymous. Indeed, I have refrained from writing about people who have indicated they do not want to be named in media.
And then I will be careful when a site is a sculpture garden which can easily be visited by people with wrong intentions..Outsider art nowadays has become a valuable and theft of smaller items has occurred.
* The many appearances of "Europe" in as far as states formally co-operate, have been depicted in this "map" (March 2011) on the website Strange Maps