Monday, February 6, 2012

My grandmother's art (Pt 2)

Yesterday I wrote about my interest in my grandmother's work which lead to my mum dusting off a huge collection of my grandmother's art folio. I showed some examples of her student work yesterday but today I wanted to write about what her job was after graduation, because it's a job that doesn't exist anymore. It's basically an extinct craft - photo colouring.

My mum's mum, Marie, who I sadly never knew, worked as a colourist when she graduated from her Commercial Art course. She was employed by a small business who specialised in 'fashion and commercial photography, wedding and child portraiture'.

She worked there for a while until, during the war, like many single women, she was enlisted to help with the war effort. She was seconded at the 'Commonwealth of Australia Department of Aircraft Production' and worked as a 'senior dark room assistant'. As her parting reference says (below), her duties involved 'the developing of line drawings which she handled in considerable volume'.

What those line drawings involved is anyone's guess. Was the department cataloging its fleet or perhaps the aircraft parts? Working on developing new aircraft? Maybe it was espionage?! Oh, how exciting!

In all likelihood, she wouldn't have known exactly what she was working on, the big picture stuff, I mean. Whatever it was, she handled it in 'considerable volume' and so it was likely repetitive, monotonous work. But it probably also involved attention to detail, and I imagine she would have enjoyed that aspect. If you have a look at some of her other work, you can see that she was very good at detail.

Here is a photo of her which was probably taken at that job. She's the one on the left. She and her friend are holding what look like canisters of chemicals for the dark room.

When she finished up at that job she returned to her previous one, and eventually left, as you did back then, to marry my grandfather and have two children. When the kids were still little she was contacted by her original employer who had set up business in Tasmania, and was asked to do some work from home, because he had never found anyone else who was as good as her!

So she became a working mum, completing her colouring assignments at the dining table. My mum remembers clearly the smell of linseed oil, which was probably used as a mixer in her oil paints. She can also remember her sometimes twirling a cotton-wool around the pointy end of a paintbrush so that it looked like a cotton-bud, and applying paint that way. This may have been a blending technique.

Here is a collage of examples that my mum has. I wonder about the people in these photos. Who are they? Where are they now?

I feel so lucky that Mum has saved so much of my grandmother's work and I can see it with my own eyes, touch what she touched. There are also a few sketchbooks too. But I'll save those for another time...