Tuesday, January 22, 2013

FLIP Artiste du Mois: Elmer Plummer

After posting about Elmer Plummer's life drawing class last week, I wanted to do a piece on his watercolors, and while I'm at it, bring back a feature from the old format FLIP - the monthly featured artist.  So many of our industry friends and colleagues have created personal art - that is to say, artwork not generated for an animation studio, which, unless the artist has a website or has you over for dinner, is work you probably will never see. 

 Enter FLIP!

In the case of the late great Elmer Plummer (1910-86), his work is available to the public, but you have to search around a bit. Some of his watercolor paintings are in the National Gallery in Washington, DC.  Elmer worked at Disney Studios during the Walt years as a designer and story man.  He was drinking buddies with Lee and Mary Blair. But like a lot of the Disney talent of that time, he was a fine artist first and foremost.

Elmer studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and was a member of the California Watercolor Society and the American Watercolor Society.  According to California Watercolor.com

"He studied watercolor painting in high school and received further instruction from Millard Sheets when he attended the Chouinard Art Institute during the late 1920s. During the 1930s, he produced many outstanding California Style regionalist watercolors. He often chose to depict city scenes with cars, buildings and people. They were sold at Los Angeles art galleries and established in West Coast art shows."

"Moving Day"   1935
"Private Property"
"The Spectre"    1933
Being politically conservative in the 1930's put Elmer as odds with many of his artist peers.  In the days of the Great Depression, belonging to a socialist group was 'in' with the art crowd, and not seen as an act of sedition against the United States.  Elmer talked about those days to animator Al Holter, a student of his in the late '70's.  Al shared with FLIP:

"That Elmer and I were miles apart politically was something I could set aside for the duration, though he did seem to goad me. He would advocate for more nuke power plants just a semester after Three Mile Island.  When you could take a break in his office he was very generous with stories. I liked asking about his time in the 30's he spent to New York City, meeting other artists at parties in studios.

'Met that guy...Illustrator...wood engravings. Greeted me with a clinched fist and 'Welcome Comrade'.'
'Do you mean Rockwell Kent?'
'I don't think he was technically C.P., but he did float in Popular Front groups.'
'He was a RED!' Elmer muttered.

It occurred to me that Elmer wouldn't have been able to hang with Disney as long as he did had they not shared similar views
and it might be prudent to not go clinch-fisting my Pinko-Pacifist notions while there was so much to glean and work to do.

Maybe better for another time but his stories about being back stage at Minsky's, getting to know the girls, are worth repeating."

We'll save the Minsky stories for sweeps week.  Do blogs have sweeps weeks?

1 comment:

  1. Hello. My mother was a friend of Elmer Plummer in the 1940's--I remember her talking about him and she had a watercolor of his "Sand Dunes" I think it is called--neutral tones of the desert area where we lived in 29 Palms near Redlands. I loved your mention of 'drinking buddies' as I am sure she was a part of his group at some point. Drinking was just the thing to do then... I also have a couple of wonderful charcoal sketches of a sleeping many with a cat. I have been poking around on the net to find out more information about him and came across this. I also saw something referring to an "Interview with Elmer Plummer in 1984" but as yet have not found it. If you know where I can get a copy I'd love to read it. Thanks!