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Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Mother Was an Artist


My mother was an artist. She was the only working mother we knew growing up. But...she really wanted to be a commercial artist...an illustrator. Mama´s sign shop was next to our house. She entered one of those drawings to enroll in a correspondence school in the forties and studied illustration and sign painting, a more marketable, practical skill. At one point the school sent Slim, an itinerant communist ... yes, communist ... sign painter, to teach Mama the trade.

While a student, Mama sent a dress design to Tillie The Toiler, a newspaper comic strip with world-wide syndication. Her drawing was published and attracted dozens of fans. (Her correspondence with an Australian woman lasted more than fifty years.) She traded original drawings in gouache, colored pencil, watercolor and pen and ink with other aspiring illustrators. The most talented of them was Betty Crampton of Aberdeen, South Dakota. I´ve searched online for Betty Crampton, but have never been able to find her.

Mama kept a scrapbook of those drawings and letters. My sister Donna and I pored over that scrapbook for hours on end. We worshiped Betty Crampton. We copied every drawing over and over. Needless to say, the drawings deteriorated. Donna decided recently to recreate some of the most damaged ones in Adobe Illustrator. This is her first...from a Betty Crampton original. Donna´s a Zen Master...like Mama.