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SunJan 19

Artist as Outlaw Day – January 19, 2025

Artist as Outlaw Day is annually celebrated on January 19. It’s a day to celebrate the subversive artists, the people who challenge the status quo and speak truth to power even when the going is tough. Artists have always been considered as being on the fringes of society. Of course, there are pop artists who are well known, who say things that are inoffensive to the people in power. There are also the artists whose works are known to challenge the way society functions and demand something different. It’s these artists and their works that we celebrate on Artist as Outlaw Day.  

History of Artist as Outlaw Day

Artists and outlaws have been compared to each other for a long time, and they have a lot of overlaps. Outlaws and artists have been seen as solitary people who live outside the bounds of normal society. They can never fit into the cookie-cutter middle-class localities, and they live their lives questioning the law. 

America has always been fascinated with its outlaws, an important part of the mythology of the Wild West. We’ve all loved stories about the law-breakers with hearts of gold, people who didn’t fit into society’s boxes and had to break the law to survive. A lot of artists are similar. They challenge the way people live and refuse to live that way. They live life by their own rules, and by refusing to follow society’s rules, they represent a kind of freedom most people can only dream about. Outlaws and artists would usually mend their ways as they get older. While the idea of being an outlaw artist is very romantic, the reality is difficult. Artists and outlaws live fast and die young, or learn to slow down.

Artists who live like outlaws are always under scrutiny, always on the watchlists of their governments. They can’t play it safe like the popular artists do, or go mainstream, because they can’t or don’t know how. These are the artists who introduce radical changes to philosophies of life and the way people think. Artists like Banksy need to be anonymous to preserve their livelihoods even as they make paintings that transform the way people see the world. 

Artist as Outlaw Day timeline

Caravaggio, The Famous Law-breaker

He is an incredibly influential artist, living a remarkable life of violent crime.

Edvard Munch’s Mental Health

The painter of the famous painting, ‘The Scream,’ thinks getting better will affect his art.

Beat Poets Arrested as Witnesses

Famous poets Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs are taken in as material witnesses to a murder.

Banksy Appears on the Art Scene

With the social and political commentary in his work, Banksy embodies the artist as an outlaw.

Artist as Outlaw Day FAQs

Who are some artist outlaws?

Richard Pryor, Jean Michel Basquiat, William S. Burroughs, and Salvador Dali are all artist outlaws. 

Are only painters artist outlaws?

No. Writers, musicians, and other artists have lived on the edge of the law and published or performed things that shocked society. 

Do artist outlaws make money?

Some, like Banksy, do. However, a lot of artists who live as outlaws live fast and hard, and hardly make any money while they’re alive.

Artist as Outlaw Day Activities

  1. Create a work of art

    Channel artists who lived as outlaws and create a piece of art that truly challenges the status quo. Make sure you take photos and post with the hashtag #ArtistsAsOutlawsDay

  2. Watch a movie about an artist

    Documentaries about the Beat poets, Banksy, and other artists, are a great way to learn about how these artists lived their wild lives on the edge of society.

  3. Read or look at work by outlaw artists

    Find a book by Allen Ginsberg or Franz Kafka to read. Go to a Jean Michel Basquiat or Jackson Pollock exhibition if you prefer the visual arts.

5 Facts About Outlaw Artists That Will Surprise You

  1. Caravaggio was offered a knighthood

    The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem offered Caravaggio a knighthood, which they quickly revoked when he insulted one of them.

  2. Artist Otto Dix was arrested by Nazis

    He was charged with plotting to assassinate Hitler, but the charges were dropped.

  3. Pablo Picasso was a suspected thief

    When the Mona Lisa was stolen, Picasso was believed to have been the thief.

  4. Banksy is frequently branded a vandal

    Because Banksy paints graffiti, a lot of people think he’s destroying their neighborhoods with his art.

  5. M. F. Husain was banished from India

    Husain’s work depicting Indian deities was taken badly, so he lived the rest of his life in exile.

Why We Love Artist as Outlaw Day

  1. Artists deserve to be celebrated

    Artists see the world differently. They encourage us to imagine a different kind of world with different laws.

  2. We love thought-provoking art

    Artists who live as outlaws are the ones who challenge us to think outside the box. They actually live outside the boxes society puts us all in.

  3. Rebellious art brings change

    The world is filled with many different issues today. It’s the rebels who encourage everyone to put pressure on the people in power and bring about the necessary changes.

Artist as Outlaw Day dates

2025January 19Sunday
2026January 19Monday
2027January 19Tuesday
2028January 19Wednesday
2029January 19Friday

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