I have always been interested in drawing. Our great-uncle, John McNaught, painted in Scotland and some in Canada. And I think we just took it for granted that we would all be interested in painting, crafts, and different things of that type.
Our great-uncle John McNaught, whom our brother’s named after, painted Margaret McNaught his sister, whom our sister Margaret was named after. He painted altogether in oils. We don’t seem to have been handed down any small sketches, probably it would be that these have been destroyed, long since. He must have had working sketches, because some his scenes were painted in Scotland. And this one was painted in Canada, I would take it. But you see, we have been handed down no small sketches that he worked from. So we just took it for granted that our family would all be interested in painting in some art, in some form.
I got most of my ideas, when I was little, riding horse-back, hunting cattle, and herding them to certain place.
Interviewer: “Where was that?”
“Right here. At our home place. It was before we had herd law. Isobel and I were given the job, which we liked to do better than housework. We had the job of always hunting up the cattle, and hunting up the horses, because there were no restraining fences. They could go anywhere from a mile to five or six miles on the range around where we lived. And I think that was probably the start of painting the things that I saw. I wasn’t cluttered up with a lot of pressures, that they get in school now. I could go off by myself. I was off by myself quite a lot. Looking at things. Of course, riding the horses and thinking about the horses. They were like people to me.
Interviewer: “That’s why so many of your horses appear in your pictures, perhaps?”
“I would think so. We were very closely associated with our horses. We still are. We have to feed them every day.”
Interviewer: “Did you have anybody in the school at that time, that gave your work direction, or was this entirely within yourself?”
“My sister Margaret had a great deal of ability in drawing flowers. And she had taken special training at Normal School and summer school, in teaching art.”
Interviewer: “In Ontario?”
“No, in Calgary. And she probably gave me a quite a thorough course in perspective. Much more than children are getting very often from the teachers at the present time. Because she was a very clear, good teacher, in making the drawing clear, and centres of interest. That was my start.”
Interviewer: “What was the name of the teacher?”
“Oh, that was my sister Margaret. She was quite good in Normal School and she had taken summer school courses. Dramatics and Art. And she passed that on.
I had no other training, until I went to a public school in Calgary, for a year. Isobel was going to Normal School. And Mother managed to save up enough for some private lessons in Calgary. I can’t remember the name at all. A very good water-colour artist. He taught art, and made his living by painting. I have never heard of him since that time.
That was about the last instruction I had, until I went to Normal School, in Calgary, and taught for two years. I decided then I didn’t want to teach. I could hardly wait until three thirty would come, so I could do something I wanted to do. And it’s not a very good basis for teaching. I just couldn’t wait until Friday night would come. And I didn’t look forward to Monday morning. I boarded at home, and didn’t pay any board. So salaries were low then, but I managed in the two years I taught, to save a thousand dollars. By not spending any money at home, everybody else spent the money. That gave me a year at Toronto. And my brother John said, if I’m going to go to an Art School, I should pick the best. No use wasting money on going to a school that just gives courses. So he said that the Ontario Collage of Art was the best Canadian Art school. Because they were affiliated with the University of Toronto. If one did finish the four years, one did have a degree that qualified one to teach in any school college. But I thought I would only manage the one year.
So Isobel also saved. “How much did you save?”
Isobel: “Oh I saved enough to get me to Toronto and back and keep me. Hoping I would get a job.”
“So we rented a house-keeping room in Toronto. And at the end of the first year on the final exams I managed to get a scholarship in modelling. That was what I was best in. So then that paid my fees for the next year, but that’s all. So we went home and the family decided to send me back to finish up. So my sisters, my brother, mother, and father financed me for the next three years. That made four years.
The next year, there was a Jewish boy, who was much better in modelling than I was. And he was given the scholarship. I believe, if a person had a certain average, they would hand out – there were about eight scholarships – and these would be handed out to the different students. So I was given the one in Lettering and Design, I don’t know why. Because that was the subject I probably worked the hardest on, and liked the least. And managed to get my fees paid, the next year, on that.
At the end of four years, there were twenty-seven took the final exams. And eight were given degrees, and the others were given diplomas. The first year the enrollment was sixty-eight. So a few dropped out. Taking jobs, finding they wanted to do something else. But that was quite a good average, twenty-seven out of the sixty-eight took the whole four years. That was about the way it went. One year after another, about that portion.”
Interviewer: “And I presume you got a scholarship.”
“Yes, I got a scholarship. We could decide by the time we got to the fourth year – we were more or less specializing. But I couldn’t make up my mind. I thought I’d probably teach. So I took what was called a General Proficiency Course.
Cross Posted: 18-054: Euphemia (Betty) McNaught