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American Folk Art

Updated on October 7, 2014

Appreciation of American Folk Art

Created by hand by untrained artists, Folk art has a combination of naturalness and simplicity and is highly collectible today. The first real appreciation of American folk art began during the 1920s when artists, returning from World War I, began to search for what was American about American art. Since that time, art collectors and scholars have attempted to identify and classify folk art, which at different times has been called naïve art, tramp art, amateur art, artisan art, pioneer art, popular art, primitive art, and provincial art. Folk art falls into several broad categories based upon medium and type. Let's explore the most popular Folk Art categories which include: American Folk Art, Black Folk Art, Native American Folk Art, Country Folk Art, and Mexican Folk Art.

What Makes Great American Folk Art

Some scholars have spent much of their lives studying American folk art, and nearly all have arrived at their own definitions. Perhaps the most pertinent was developed by Mary Childs Black, first director of the Museum of Early American Folk Arts in New York: "The genesis, rise, and disappearance of folk art is closely connected with the events of the nineteenth century when the disappearance of the old ways left rural folk everywhere with an unused surplus of time and energy. People were free to invent and make simple things for their own pleasure in each household and in each village, until the rise of industrial production toward the end of the nineteenth century. Folk art occupies the brief interval between court taste and commercial taste." Definitions used by other scholars support Black's theories in general, and it is possible to derive from them a consensus of the qualities usually associated with great folk art.

Such words as freshness, directness, simplicity, and imaginative frequently occur in writings on the subject of Folk Art.

Folk Art

What Type of Folk Art Do You Prefer?

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Folk Art

Brilliant and colorful home décor, this type of art is certain to bring a smile to anyone that glances upon it.

Artistically created and colorful American Folk Art inspired by the works of artists in America.

Folk Art - Primitive Floral Folk Art

Barns, weathervanes, farms, tractors, farm animals, and country homes and school houses are among the most popular subjects of Country Folk Art

Country Folk Art Framed

If you don't already live on a farm, any of this framed art will make you feel like you do.

Folk Art Mediums

Oil and tempera paintings on canvas and board, watercolors on paper and cardboard, drawings, sketches, and pastels are the mediums most often encountered in Folk Art. Portraits, silhouettes, landscapes, pinprick pictures, calligraphic drawings, wall murals, furniture decoration, coach decoration, shop signs' fireboards, over mantel paintings, and theorems on paper, velvet, and silk are but a few of the types of art that are included in the catchall term American folk painting. Folk sculpture, also multifaceted, includes such diverse objects as carved gravestones, both painted and carved signs, weathervanes and whirligigs, ships' figureheads and nautical ornaments, scrimshaw, waterfowl and fish decoys, religious carvings, pottery, carousel and circus carvings, and chalkware ornaments. All may reasonably be considered folk art.

Regardless of the medium, several characteristics consistently appear in folk art. In the best examples there is a combination of naturalness and simplicity, resulting in a directness that has come to be much admired by contemporary art historians, art critics, and art collectors.

Folk Art Painting Kit

One Stroke Starter Pack, 1432 Chrysanthemums (6 Colors)
One Stroke Starter Pack, 1432 Chrysanthemums (6 Colors)

Folk-art one stroke starter packs provide everything the beginner painter needs to learn the one stroke technique. Find inspiration and product ideas on every package. Each folk art painting kit contains a worksheet, 8-1/2 by 11 inch reusable practice sheet, instructions, 2 one stroke brushes, 6-pot folk-art paint set in a coordinated palette for the design theme. Includes techniques to paint classic florals and more.


Folk Art Painting Carousel

One Stroke Adjustable Tilting Painting Carousel/Turnstyle, 4168
One Stroke Adjustable Tilting Painting Carousel/Turnstyle, 4168

The artist turn style Folk Art painting carousel is an essential tool for any serious one stroke painter. It minimizes fingerprints on projects, which is especially important when using glass, ceramics, or metal. The turn style's non-slip surface prevents projects from shifting and allows you to paint stripes and details with ease. It comes with four adjustable clamps to hold smaller objects as well as bigger objects up to five pounds. The easily adjustable brake holds the base in place. It even tilts several degrees for comfort and convenience while painting. Measures 8-5/8 inch by 10-1/2 inch by 2-1/2-inch.


Folk Art Needlepoint

Folk Art Needlepoint

Folk Art Needlepoint: 20 Projects Adapted from Objects in the American Folk Art Museum
Folk Art Needlepoint: 20 Projects Adapted from Objects in the American Folk Art Museum

We are drawn to American folk art for many reasons—its history, its humanity, and, perhaps most of all, its unaffected beauty. With elements both whimsical and practical, this enduring and beloved art form has become a rich source of inspiration for today’s craftspeople. For needleworkers in particular, folk art is among the most popular styles to stitch. Organized thematically by types of folk art motifs—among them, hearts, flowers, and daily life—Folk Art Needlepoint offers twenty projects and variations, from pillows and paperweights to a door stop and scissors case, that celebrate the best of American folk art.


Folk Art Quilt - Crazy Quilt

If your familiar with Folk Art, you've probably heard of the Crazy Quilt. These unique quilts are made by hand by sewing together scrap materials with colorful patterns creating these one of a kind blankets. They add a unique element and are perfect for any bedroom decor.

Christmas Folk Art

Christmas Folk Art
Christmas Folk Art

Folk Art

American Folk Art - American Pride Hero Flag Patriotic Folk Art Sign Framed

Folk art that portrays the everyday life of plain black folk is called Black Folk Art

Black Folk Art

Mose T A to Z:The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver
Mose T A to Z:The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver

A man of humble beginnings, Mose Tolliver better known as Mose T rose from obscurity to become one of America s most celebrated folk artists. Tolliver s paintings were fresh and unconventional. Before his fame reached its peak in 1982, they hung from trees outside his home in Montgomery and often sold (if they sold at all) for no more than three to four dollars a piece. Inspired by nature, this self-taught artist painted works that remain sought-after collectors items to this day. From the humble beginnings of painting on salvaged surfaces like birdhouses and scrap metal to a train ride to the nation s capital where his work was displayed for First Lady Nancy Reagan in an illustrious gallery, Mose T became an iconic figure in the world of black folk art. Collector Anton Haardt describes the life of the extraordinary man and the seminal exhibit that propelled Mose T to fame and helped solidify the importance of black folk art to American culture.


Traditional Mexican folk art is collected worldwide and mostly is mostly derived from handmade Spanish crafts.

Mexican Folk Art

Mexican Folk Art: From Oaxacan Artist Families
Mexican Folk Art: From Oaxacan Artist Families

A beautiful reference book that introduces contemporary Mexican folk art by featuring prominent artists from Oaxaca in southeastern Mexico. Their unique artworks are introduced and illustrated. Crafted from natural materials, their ceramics, weaving, woodcarving, embroidery, tin work, toys, jewelry, candles, dried flower crafts, basketry, and celebrations of Day of the Dead handicrafts incorporate unique blends of indigenous myths with ancient patterns from Zapotec ruins. These folk art traditions have been preserved for hundreds of years. This book will be a treasured source of reference and inspiration for all who love folk art.


What's Your Take on Folk Art?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I really enjoyed your lens. Lead me to discover a lot of talented artists. Thanks!

    • PatriciaJoy profile image


      6 years ago from Michigan

      Blessed. I love American folk art. Thank you for presenting and explaining it so well.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A great overview of Folk Art. Outstanding lens..

    • TheManInTheHat profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice lens! I love folk art, and it has been a source of great inspiration for my own artwork too, in terms of the simplicity and as lbrummer says, always trying to tell a story. Thanks for putting this together, I enjoyed it very much!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      6 years ago from Jersey Shore

      American folk art is a wonderful, down-to-earth art form that is a visual lesson in our history. Nice lens :>)

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      6 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Very nice lens. I love all folk art, it's so simple and always tells a story.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I adore Folk Art of America ... and other countries. Such a precious way to remember the artistic heritage of a country.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love hand made things, especially needlework samplers, etc. Blessed!

    • Scotties-Rock profile image


      6 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      I love Folk Art. Great lens with such a great selection and nice flow. Leaving you with a High Five and an Angel Blessing!

    • Richardryder profile image

      Risteard O'Marcahain 

      6 years ago from Wales

      Love this lens

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I still prefer folk art to 'court taste' or 'commercial' all has a piece of the artist's heart and soul worked into the art.

    • waldenthreenet profile image


      6 years ago

      Appreciating this valuable topic. How do one strengthen this style of art on a community level, reflecting the heritage and memory of the past, present and future magic links ? Congrads on your Squidoo Trophy. THanks.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Enjoyed the creativeness of your American Art work ... *blessed*

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      6 years ago

      A Fabulous Lens! Luv It!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      American folk art is lovely and gives a feeling of rustic environment, loved the images.

    • sarahrk lm profile image

      sarahrk lm 

      6 years ago

      Love folk art. there are some really good ones in this lens.

    • LotusLandry profile image


      6 years ago from Southern California

      Nice variety of media.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      6 years ago from Connecticut

      American Folk Art and the craftspeople that create this unique art are often overlooked, and this wonderful lens calls attention to this special art form. Well done!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I love some Southwestern designs, and having lived in the Midwest I appreciate many of the typical Midwestern scenes too. You have some great examples on this lens, blessed.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 

      7 years ago

      I like this lens thumbs up!!!... RWJR

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for the info!

    • CruiseReady profile image


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      Very informative article about folk art. I have not been a big fan of it, but do have a little better appreciation of it after reding your lens, and dthat's a good thing!

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Great information about the many different forms of folk art. I enjoy the the simplicity of folk art. Lensrolled to my shrunken apple heads lens.

    • kimbesa2 profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Love it...classic Americana. Thanks for this showcase!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      great topic and well presented lens. thanks for these unique picture collection.

    • michelleart profile image

      Michelle Collins 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Great Job! *Blessed*

    • mariatjader profile image


      7 years ago

      What a wonderful wealth of knowledge of a lovely topic, Valentine's squid angel blessed*

    • CoeGurl profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Lovely lens. The Folk Art Painting Carousel is something I hadn't seen before!

    • justholidays profile image


      8 years ago

      Folk Art and History do come from the same family.

      Fantastic job here!

      Blessed by an Angel :)


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      So glad i found this wonderful webpage.I supose i am biased but as i consider myself to be a naïve folk painter the content is quite superb, well done.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely, lovely lens. I love folk art. I'm going to suggest this one for angel blessings. Best of luck to you.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice lens! I really enjoyed my time reading it.

      Plz visit my lens on Decorative Glass

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wonderful lens, thank you!! A favorite!

    • kerbev profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I love art with gourds. And even better, art on gourds.

    • natnickeep lm profile image

      natnickeep lm 

      9 years ago

      Great coverage on American Folk Art. I loved the lens!!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      I love the style! Very cheery!

    • Kit-Kitty profile image


      9 years ago

      Neat lens! 5*'s

      Thank you for joining the Expressive Art group!


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