My love affair with Mary Blair

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Let me tell you a story about a trip to Disneyland. Well, really it’s about one tiny moment during a trip to Disneyland. We were about to leave the park when we happened to stop into a gift shop near the front entrance that I never normally would have entered. It was in this gift shop that I had my first encounter with Mary Blair. I saw one of her paintings, the one that is practically synonymous with her name. It was colorful and bright and geometric and full of pattern, and at the same time simple and perfect. Although now I wished I had, I did not by anything from the store, but instead tucked her name away in my brain for later research. I went home and learned all about how she was the designer of Its a Small World, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. I love it for its amazing colors, cheerfulness, and the fact that it looks like a giant arts and crafts project. And no, I do not think the song is annoying — charming and fun rather. I learned that Mary Blair was the concept artist for numerous Disney movies like Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland. I leaned that she illustrated many of our beloved Golden Books. I became mesmerized with her unique artistic style — striking, bold, colorful, fun, and absolutely one of a kind. During our next visit to Disneyland, I marched right up to the art store in California Adventure and purchased three large prints of Mary Blair’s work. One for our office, one for our bedroom, and one specifically for the future nursery of a little one who was nothing more than a twinkle in our eyes at the time. And in case you were wondering, the one for the nursery was that very same colorful, geometric print I saw those years ago.

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Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the temporary exhibit on Mrs. Blair at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco called MAGIC, COLOR, FLAIR: the world of Mary Blair. I hate to be overstated but it was life changing. Absolutely awe inspiring. Each painting around every new corner blew me away more than the last. I took tons of notes and about a million photos. I’m so so grateful to have these to use as constant inspiration whenever I need it. Mrs. Blair, YOU ARE AMAZING.

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There is much more to Mary’s designs than just the surface look, or unique appearance of them. Contained also within her designs is an expression of Mary’s own response as a sensitive artist, to what the thing is — or the creature or the person is — not just how it looks.”  – Wilfred Jackson. I love this quote. What the thing is, not just how it looks. I know this is something we strive for again and again in our wedding photography work.

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Even from her early watercolors created while she was in school are undeniably hers. So colorful and expressive. Those shadows…are you kidding me!? Ahhhhh…Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 015

I loved the mood of this one. Mary could simplify something so much, while at the same time expressing a feeling and mood deeply.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 014a

One of the things that impressed me so much was her use of painting techniques. I adore how the sky in this image is created using watercolor. While I am a huge fan of digitally created art, there are some things that can only be done by hand, using real tools and materials.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 016

“Walt said that I knew about colors he had never heard of before.”  –Mary Blair

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During her trip to South America with Walt is where she truly blossomed into the artist she is known as today. It really inspired me to take a trip somewhere and just spend time CREATING. Drawing, writing, absorbing. My artistic soul yearns for this.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 020a

I have been really wanting to learn watercolor for a long time. Mary’s work seems so effortless! I can imagine her making each stroke of the brush. The colors here are just wonderful.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 001 2

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One of my big takeaways was how simple things can be. In the images below, I love the broad areas of color with simple line art over the top. I saw this repeatedly with her work and it is something I cannot wait to experiment with.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 032

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Her mastery of brushstrokes was astounding. Look how a simple swish of a dry brush creates so much depth and shading in these children’s faces. Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 035

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Then we got to the sections of her work on some of the more well-know Disney films. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I am huge Disney fan. These next pieces were such a treat to see. Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 042a

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YOU GUYS. Her work on Peter Pan was mind blowing. These photos do not do them justice at all. They were so vibrant — and I mean that in more ways than just color. The shapes and movement she created — what an ability to create a magical mood.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 050a

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This one below was one of my favorites of her Disney work. So dynamic and colorful.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 056

Her work on the Golden Books and advertising was also such a delight to see. I was surprised to see some pieces that I recognized that I didn’t even know were hers.
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So true…Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 065

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I thought this stone rendering of It’s a Small World was so cool.Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 071

When I saw this written on the wall, I stopped in my tracks. I was moved. If this described the rest of my life, I would be a happy lady. As I went through this exhibit, I was nearly brought to tears of gratefulness for being able to experience seeing her artwork so close in person. Not kidding, my face was practically pressed up against the glass studying each piece. I felt incredibly inspired and also thankful that I am able to create everyday and do what I love and support myself and my family doing just that. Mary Blair Art Exhibit Disney Family Museum 070

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If you are anywhere near San Francisco before September 7th, and love art, illustration, color, or Disney, GO see this exhibit. I’m planning on getting one of the two books about her: Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair (about this exhibit specifically) or The Art and Flair of Mary Blair. Oh who am I kidding, I will probably get both! If I have the time I’ll probably go back to see it all again! Museum date anyone?

3 Comments on My love affair with Mary Blair

  1. Rosaura Unangst
    October 16, 2014 at 9:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Lisa- reading this was like entering my own mind as I strolled through her exhibit for four hours. I left it wishing I had my paints right then and there. Whenever you want to have a Mary Blair date day where we can paint all day name it. I’ve been just doing mainly orders and have been dying to have a day to myself to paint whatever I want and it would be so much fun painting with another Blair addict. xo -Rosaura

    Reply
  2. Vivayne
    April 10, 2015 at 4:37 pm (2 years ago)

    I love Mary Blair as well. Great post, thanks for all the fabulous photos and the recap!! <3 Vivayne

    Reply
  3. Joette Tindell
    January 19, 2017 at 9:16 pm (4 months ago)

    Just read your blog! I too love Mary Blair. FYI – her c artwork is on display for a couple weeks until Feb 20 2017 at Epcot as part of their art festival trial run. Thought you might be interested 😉

    Reply

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