"You get an education in school and college. And then you start work, and that's when you learn!"
Mary Blair... You may know her as an artist & illustrator, or perhaps as a wife & mother. She was all of those and so much more. Mary Blair was truly a woman ahead of her time.
Growing up in an all-female household, Mary developed a love of drawing early on and it wasn't uncommon for family income to be diverted to her art supply needs. In the mid-1930's Mary learned her craft at the prestigious Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, now a part of Cal Arts, on a full scholarship. Graduating 1st in her class of women, she met & married Lee Blair, 1st in the men's graduating class. After graduation, they sought careers in fine arts & illustrations. In fac, their techniques were very similar early on in their relationship, focusing on watercolors. As you might imagine, making a living as an artist was not such an easy task and they branched out in other areas.
Mary joined Disney around 1940 and it was during a company trip to South America that her style opened up and the rest is history. Colors became her signature, indeed Mary used to say, "Walt (Disney) said I knew colors he never heard of." This is the period of her concept art, using vivid colors from tempera to gouache, erupting into imaginative images that provided a huge influence to many of Disney's feature films of the 1940's and 50's. From that, she was assigned work on films like Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
Mary left around 1953 to pursue illustrating children's books and raising her family. There is a series of Little Golden Books with her painted images, most popular I can Fly, illustrated by Mary. In 1963, Disney convinced Mary to come back to work on a contribution to the 1964 World's Fair. All of her little drawings and filled sketch pads, morphed into The It's a Small World ride for The Fair, which was so popular that it was later adapted into use at the parks.
Mary's reach extended to other areas as well; you may have seen the Jules Stein Eye Institute on the UCLA campus, which was done by her in the 1960's. She was also commissioned to do 2 other murals, one at Disneyland and one at the Grand Canyon Concourse Mural in the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World.
Mary was a visionary artist, ahead of her time, utilizing her exuberant and kinetic color palette to create works that are beloved by so many.