Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Child Prodigy 1920-1938

It was Ruth that Travilla credits with recognizing his artistic talents at an early age. "She told stories of how I'd stop her in the store and point to a lady, saying what a pretty dress she had on. And then I'd sketch it."* She enrolled him in the children's program at the Chouinard School of the Arts. Formed only a few years earlier, it quickly gained the reputation of turning out future award wining designers and animators. "After a few terms I was too advanced to stay int he children's class. They put in an an adult class, although I was still only eight. They move up meant I studied sculpting but it also meant I was part of the live-model class where nude men and women posed for us to draw. It only came to the attention of my family when I told my grandma about a lovely red-haired model we had drawn in class and how she had lovely red hair 'down below' as well!"* Ruth's mother immediately went out and purchased a violin, a respectable instrument for Billy to learn but his stepmother "grabbed the violin and broke it over her knee." Travilla recalled. "From then on, there was no question but that I would continue in art school."*

Travilla in 1936.

Chouinard exteior mid-1930s. Life drawing class 1950s. Interior courtyard mid-1930s.
Travilla remained at Chouinard until he was sixteen at which point he realized the life of a sculptor was not a guaranteed financially successful one and with his father selling the family business, he needed to change career paths and Bill enrolled at Woodbury University to study commercial art. Woodbury's new Wilshire Avenue campus.

Travilla at approximately seventeen.

Looking at his work above (circa 1937), one can see Travilla spent many hours in the movie theaters, with a strong influence of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's designer Gilbert Adrian his favorite. 

It was a two mile walk for Travilla that took him through the theater district of downtown Los Angeles and past two well-known burlesque houses - the Burbank and Follies. He struck up friendships with dancers like Rose la Rose and began making pocket money selling them costume sketches at three for five dollars.

The Burbank and Follies Burlesque Houses. Performer Rose la Rose.

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