Whew! Another week flew by! I'm learning so much. I'm reading The Life and Art of Loïs Mailou Jones (*Amazon Affiliate link) and supplementing that with lots of news articles like this one from Martha's Vineyeard magazine and this one from the Martha's Vineyard Times. Here's my notes and photos from this week:
Summer vacations were spent on Martha's Vineyard. Their first residence there was a duplex that they shared with the West family. Loïs became lifelong friends with Dorothy West, a noted writer of the Harlem Renaissance and author of The Living Is Easy.
After the duplex was destroyed in a fire, the family moved to the house pictured. Here Loïs had her first art show at age 15. "I'll always remember finishing school in June as a child and getting the trunks packed and ready to go. It was a delight to take the train to Wood's Hole where we boarded the ferry. Looking out in the ocean--smelling the salt air and seeing the seagulls flying and the big boat coming--was breathtaking. It was the most wonderful experience of my life to get on that boat. When we arrived, we would take the horse-drawn buggies up the hill to 25 Pacific Avenue."
As a young child, Loïs Mailou Jones was constantly drawing and creating illustrated storybooks. Her parents encouraged her creativity by supplying crayons, colored pencils, and her first set of watercolors at age 7.
Her parents selected the High School of Practical Arts for her secondary education. Loïs was an honor student and won four consecutive scholarships to the vocational drawing classes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
"I went there every day after high school classes, which closed at 2:00. ... I made the museum my home! The drawing classes were excellent training for me in high school. They grounded my skills more firmly and gave me confidence in my draftsmanship." After graduating from the HSPA in June 1923 she continued her education at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (Drawing on the left from 1923 and the right 1925)
While attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) Loïs Mailou Jones took design classes in the evening at the Boston Normal Art School (now the Massachusetts College of Art) Then she began graduate work at the Designers Art School of Boston. She became a freelance designer of fabrics and textiles for department stores and textile manufacturers.
"I saw my design used as upholstery on an entire set of furniture, and I could hardly believe that it was mine. I went to the head designer and very modestly asked him to look at my designs and give me a critique. Looking through them, he seemed quite surprised and I mentioned the set of furniture. He called 8 or 9 designers into the studio to see this 'colored girl' who had designed that particular fabric. It was quite an experience to be received that way."
Loïs Mailou Jones, textile patterns, circa 1927-1928.
"During the drive to the island (Martha's Vineyard) I saw my designs draped in the show windows of interior decorator shops. What a good feeling it was to know that I had designed them! But only the name of design, printed on the borders of the fabric, was known, never the name of the artist who created it. That bothered me because I was doing all this work but not getting any recognition. And I realized I would have to think seriously about changing my profession if I were to be known by name." Anonymity was standard for all textile designers but this experience led to Loïs Mailou Jones the designer becoming Loïs Mailou Jones the painter.
In the summer of 1928 Loïs convinced Charlotte Hawkins Bown, director of the Palmer Memorial Institute, a junior college and high school, to let her create an art department there. Palmer was such a small school that Loïs was chairperson, art instructor, basketball coach, taught folk dancing, and played the piano in the chapel on Sunday's. She taught at Palmer 1928-1930. Loïs painted and drew alongside her students, including this charcoal drawing of a boy at Palmer.
Loïs Mailou Jones was recruited by James Vernon Herring, founder and then chairman of the Department of Art at Howard University in Washington DC. She taught there for 47 years, 1930-1977.
Her constant reminder to students over the years was that "Talent is the basis for your career as an artist--but hard work determines your success. You must love your art as though you're married to it."
In her first few years at Howard, Loïs mostly drew and painted portraits, often of her students. This was at the time of the Harlem Renaissance; African American artists used the portrait to dignify black features and convey profound respect for their race.
The nerd in me went a little nuts this morning making flash cards of paintings by both #fridakahlo and #loismailoujones and then putting them on a timeline. It's interesting because they were alive and creating at the same time so you can see paintings from the same year by each of them and then put that into the context of world events like WW2. (Top row 1920's, middle 1930's, bottom 1940's)
Loïs Mailou Jones 1935. This photo is from Scurlock Studios, father and sons who chronicled the rise of Washington's black middle class. 1911-1994. A Scurlock camera was present at almost every significant event in the African-American community of Washington DC. I really like that swirly imperfection in the print and chose to share this one instead of the corrected version.
Loïs Jones had often thought of traveling to Europe to paint and an opportunity arose when she was awarded a fellowship to study at the Académie Julian in Paris during the 1937-1938 school year. She completed more than 40 works during her 9 months at the Académie, most are still lifes, street scenes, landscapes, figures executed in an Impressionist style.
She adopted the plain air method of painting outdoors on location. While painting along the Seine River, she met Émile Bernard, a colleague of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne. Bernard encouraged Jones in her work, provided constructive criticism, invited her to parties, etc. She made many connections in the art world while in Paris. At the time, France was the destination of choice for African American artists as it was a less racist environment in which to develop a career.
Loïs Mailou Jones painting in her Paris studio in 1937 or 1938.
This week for my finished piece I knew I wanted to make a pattern inspired by Jones' fabric designs. Many of which had sort of a tropical feel and so I pulled imagery from four of hers. I intended to make something pink and orange similar to the pattern above as that kinda fits with the colors on my site here. But you know how things don't always go according to plan?!
I played around with colors and layers and settings for hours! And I probably would still be doing that if I didn't have an appointment today! :) I had a much more detailed pattern in place similar to hers but I ended up liking these with a stamped look much better and so I made myself stop here! Pattern making is SO fun but if I did it all the time, I don't think I'd ever leave my computer. I kept wanting to make "just one more little change."
And then I could have spent hours on this too but here's a little glimpse into how I'd use these patterns. Ok time to step away from the computer!