|Rock Paintings of the Chumash
Campbell Grant, the author and, more importantly, illustrator of this significant book said that there were
“a thousand and one theories” about what the paintings of the Chumash signify, but that the only ones
who really knew were the people who painted them.
Grant was born in Berkeley in 1909. One of his heroes growing up was a paternal uncle and marine
painter named Gordon Grant, and after high school Campbell entered art school at what would come to
be known as the California College of the Arts, and then at the Santa Barbara School of the Arts, both on
scholarships. By coincidence, at the Santa Barbara school Grant co-illustrated a book for children on
the Chumash with its author Channing Peake, having no idea at the time that he would do serious work
on Chumash painting three decades later.
The Santa Barbara art school would not survive the Great Depression, and Grant emerged straight into
the Federal Arts Project of the WPA. In the Project, he painted a series of large landscape watercolors of
the California countryside, all in the field. These went into libraries, then became scattered, and he lost
track of them. Grant also did an oil-on-canvas mural in the Project which was positioned at the entrance
hall to Santa Barbara High School.
The Project work lasted for a year and a half, then in 1934 Grant went to work as an animator for Disney.
He was assigned to interstitial illustrations, which he found dreadful until he graduated into the steering
department and originated characters. He worked on such projects at Disney as Snow White, Dumbo,
Bambi, Fantasia, and Pinocchio.
During World War II, Grant worked on Army and Navy training films in Burbank at the Disney studios,
mostly with Frank Capra on behalf of what was known as Fort Fox. After the war, Grant left Disney and
spent a year working on visual education films for the Department of Education of Mexico to inform
people about the causes of disease without having to read, then he migrated into book illustration by
way of work on book adaptations of Disney films, by illustrating Golden Books written by his wife, and
through work on a series of satires on history and literature with Richard Armour of Scripps College.
Grant later became very interested in Indian rock painting during a fishing trip and secured a museum
grant to conduct a survey. This lasted two years, and the products were a book on American Indian rock
paintings in the United States and Mexico and, in the same year, this book, the Rock Painting of the
Chumash, published in 1965 by the University of California Press. The book was reprinted and published
by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in 1993, the year after Grant passed away. The book
contains high quality reproductions of Chumash painting at some of the sites that Grant visited in the
course of his survey.
Grant said that California Indian rock painting was absolutely fascinating to him. Many of the paintings
have been subject to mindless vandalism, exposed to the elements and periodic brush fires, and subject
to other dangers which have destroyed them or threatened to do so. It is therefore very important that
Grant, a professional artist, undertook to capture some of the paintings he found in Chumash lands here.
I keep my copy behind glass.
- Glenn Anaiscourt
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
|by Glenn Anaiscourt