Many of these drawings were done with Wolff pencil on newsprint. It was a very soft, very black carbon pencil, less smeary than charcoal pencil. She also had a clay-coated paper she liked, back in the 40’s.
There are a few old prints of my mother’s out there which are probably from the late 1940’s. This was a period when she was working in advertising and doing illustrations for J. Walter Thompson. Oftentimes, her ads for Textron come up on Ebay, and they feature one of her fashion illustrations on their website. Somehow, during this time, someone made prints of her work without her knowledge (or compensation.) I don’t have most of these prints or the paintings themselves, but people have sent me snapshots of the pieces. I am posting some of them, since I get many inquiries about these. Some were enlarged, which made them fuzzy (this infuriated my mother, who didn’t approve.)
She had a speech which she used to give to her students as inspiration, which summarizes her philosophy of art, and life: As a general rule, resist what is fashionable. Your work will be “modern” simply because you are alive. To try to work in a fashionable “style,” or in an admired artist’s “technique” is a certain way to lose sight of your Self—the biggest mistake you could ever make! The only thing that would ever make your paintings desirable to others, or even great, is the fact that it is yours, and no one else could possibly have done it. Some say we are all as ants in this universe—what we say, do, or feel amounts to nothing, and makes no difference one way or another. I feel strongly that this is not true. Everything we say or do affects someone else, whether we, or they, know it or not: and it’s up to each of us, as individuals, to be conscious of this fact and arrange our efforts towards the benefit of every other person and of the world in general. To proliferate evil or ugliness in any form is to drag down the dignity of mankind. Many say mankind is foolish, lazy, ill-tempered and brutal, so why bother? Yes, he is all of these things, but he is also genial, loving, patient, and heroic in the troubles he must bear. Does he not deserve the best you can give him? Can he not use the encouragement? Can he fail to respond to beauty and not be the better for it? He cannot fail to respond—even the dullest brute is calmed by beauty. You will find that when looking into the depths of your Self, you have an inexhaustible supply of fascinating pictures, unlike any that any other person can produce. The older you are, the more pictures there are. Your own experiences in living, or simply in fantasizing, brought through your brain and fingers into picture form, is certain to appeal to other people, who will recognize the content of these pictures as common to all human beings, and will be delighted by them.
My mother liked to drive up and down streets in the evening…looking in windows and seeing families having dinner, relaxing, reading the paper. Some walked their dogs, chatted, strolled up and down. One of her particular inspirations was South Main Street in Wallingford, Connecticut. It was easy to imagine turn-of the century people doing all these things in their own neighborhood…and that’s what led to Porches!
All about the artist Charlotte Joan Sternberg (1920-2003.) See more images and bio at charlottejoansternberg.com, designed by my good friend, Geraldine Aikman (aikmandesign.com.)