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Nifty Naive Art and Fun Folk Art: exploring the difference with Diane Bourgeois

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

With those signature bright-colored, whimsical and cheerful art creations, our wonderful artist in residence, Diane Bourgeois, never ceases to delight us!

Plus, here's a Bonus: with the help of Diane's art, we shed the light on the differences and similarities between two of the most enchanting art styles ever: Folk Art and Naive Art!

Diane grew up in Chéticamp, a quaint and cozy Acadian fishing town nestled along the rugged and scenic shores of the Cabot-Trail. It is no secret that Chéticamp and its neighbouring communities provide an infinite torrent of inspiration to Diane: all those adorable childhood-memory art pieces, depicted with her signature vivid acrylic palette, are largely inspired by these communities as well as the Cape Breton Highlands National Park's nature-trails! Above all, she is a beloved local Naive Artist and Folk Artist!

So, what IS the difference between Folk Art and Naive Art?

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Folk Art is defined as “the traditional decorative or utilitarian art of the people that is often an expression of community life and is distinguished from academic or self-conscious or cosmopolitan expression” (

Folk Art is also characterized by bright colours and simple art style. In contrast to other art movements, like the Renaissance, Folk Artists do not seek to make their painted scenes and subjects as “real-life” as possible. Many folk artists are in fact self-taught, and tend to not follow rules of perspective or proportion. Another distinguishing feature is that Folk Art tends to tell a story about local day-to-day life or the culture of a given community.

Lastly, as the online Britanica catalog underlines, Folk Art literally means “the art of the people” (

Coming back to Chéticamp, and neighbouring Acadian communities, you can’t go far without stumbling across its local fishing activity, not to mention how easy it is to enjoy the freshest of ocean treats: the local restaurants all have their own delicious signature fish or seafood meal! It quickly becomes obvious to any visitor or newcomer that the ocean and its inhabitants have forever made their imprint upon this community’s life and history.

Pictured here, Diane Bourgeois’ little wooden fish testifies just how deeply rooted the fishing industry is in the local community’s history.

These painted wooden fish sculptures also are a perfect example of Folk-Art: bursting with colour, with an overall outline that illustrates the simplicity advocated by the Folk-Art movement. Yet it remains a "decorated" whimsical "version of reality" ( .

Folk Art and Naive Art movements can often be confused because they somewhat overlap, they both are characterized by:

- bright, contrasting colours,

- voluntarily simplistic designs

- the absence of aforementioned classic art conventions such as proportion and perspective.

However, as pointed out on Wikipedia's website: “Naive Art does not necessarily derive from a distinct popular cultural context or tradition”. In addition, it is worth noting that "Naive art is characterised by childlike simplicity of execution and vision. As such it has been valued by modernists seeking to get away from what they see as the insincere sophistication of art created within the traditional system" as Tate's website explains (

Meanwhile, the Artists Network's website provides a helpful explanation about how to distinguish the different art movements, and with specific regards to Naive Art, it "uses childlike innocence to LIGHTEN reality" (

Perhaps most importantly, “Naive artists are aware of "fine art" conventions such as graphical perspective and compositional conventions, but are unable to fully use them, or choose not to(ïve_art).

Anyone who has had the privilege of making art with Diane knows that she purposefully removes the “complicated” and the “fuss” from art.

In doing so, she makes it so much more accessible for those of us who’ve lost confidence in our inner artist - or perhaps have never even been acquainted with their inner artist!

Constrained to following fancy rules and complex techniques? Pah! No Thank You!

Diane knew in her heart that classic aesthetic conventions hindered her talent: she found no pleasure in trying to apply them - and we couldn’t be more grateful for the day when Diane decided to ditch the art diktats and let her beautiful imagination take flight while fully embracing the whimsical, heartwarming fun of Folk-Art and Naive-Art!

Diane’s childhood winter scenes are among some of the most delightfully authentic "Cape Breton" Naive Art pieces:

Diane invites us to the blissful enjoyment of building the most formidable snowman with your friends, of sledding down the snow-powdered slopes, the fun of skating on an iced-over lake in the heart of a pristine winter wonderland, and the thrill of a snowmobile adventure through the Cape Breton wilderness!

What magic there is to be found in everyday life in wintery Acadie! How joyfully refreshing and attaching the world becomes through Diane's eyes!

The beauty of Diane’s art is that it speaks to us all - whether we are young or old! Her incredibly heartwarming and cheerful Naive Art scenes have a distinctive, beaming and vibrant Acadian “Joie de Vivre” about them - and what a fun-filled invitation she's given to us!

Discover our artisanal boutique, exhibiting more exclusive handmade or hand-painted art creations by Diane Bourgeois, and other artists of the Mi-Carême Centre!

Read more about Diane here:

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