Friday, March 27, 2015

Champions of Creativity

         Beatrix Potter

As a writer I draw great inspiration from the life of the bestselling author-illustrator, Beatrix Potter. She, too, had a love and appreciation for animals and wildlife. 
And since it has been several months since I've written a Champions of Creativity post, I've chosen to feature the iconic creator of the beloved Peter Rabbit Books.
Photo Credit: Public Domain

Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 - 22 December 1943) was born in Kensington, London, to wealthy Unitarian parents. She and her younger brother Bertram kept numerous small animals as pets, and spent their summer holidays in Scotland, as well as the English Lake District. It was on these holidays that Beatrix developed a love of the natural world which inspired her paintings from an early age.

She had little social contact with other children, which drew her into her own world where she created stories based on her pets, and other animals. Early on, she revealed her talent as a gifted artist, which led to her taking private art lessons. On her education, Beatrix later wrote:

"Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality."

Beatrix was privately educated by governesses until she was eighteen.
In addition to her drawings of  animals, she painted insects, fossils, artifacts, and fungi. She attempted to become a student at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but was rejected due to her gender.

Ms. Potter was a strong and independent woman, and had no desire to be married and tied down to domestic life. That was quite unusual for a Victorian woman, and caused no small degree of disagreement between Beatrix and her mother. Beatrix remained single and stayed at home writing and drawing her stories - that combined her love for both animals and the English countryside - for many years.

After writing and illustrating The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she privately published it in 1901; it was later published by Frederick Warne & Co.

Beatrix Potter was engaged to Norman Warne in 1906, but before they could marry Mr. Warne passed away. After his death, she moved to the Lakeland, where she lived at her previously purchased Hill Top farm in Sawry, Cumbria. She became devoted to conservation and farming. In 1913 she married William Heelis - she was forty-seven.

In her later life, the proceeds from her children's books allowed her to purchase substantial amounts of land in the Lake District. Upon her death, the land was donated to the National Trust, which helped preserve a significant part of the Lake District as a National Park.

What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common sense?
                                                                             ~ Beatrix Potter