A few years ago, Eloise Duff's son began insisting she document her life. He had a sense his mother kept notes and journals of her very eventful life, but Duff says he probably didn't have any idea what she'd end up churning out.
"I had always saved a folder from every trip we ever took," says Duff, referring to her and her husband's extensive travels throughout their life together. "I had all the details of the trips and, as I started to write more, I thought that the stories would be great with pictures."
Inspired by an ink drawing class she took at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library (1008 Wall St.), Duff soon had 145 illustrations to accompany her writings, which she eventually published together in a book. A selection of the drawings—which includes a street band playing in Leningrad or penguins marching in the Arctic—will be on display at the appropriately titled Eloise Duff: Where We Went exhibit which opens Saturday, Nov. 14 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Athenaeum.
This is Duff's first solo show, but she has worked as a commercial artist for most of her life. She moved to New York City in the '40s and found a job as an art director at the national headquarters for the Girl Scouts. After meeting her husband, she moved to San Diego in 1951. In between raising two children, she kept up with the illustrating by doing freelance technical illustrations. She says she landed these jobs by basically going door-to-door to companies, portfolio in hand, asking if they needed help.
Not being tied to a particular company afforded Duff and her husband plenty of opportunities to travel. And travel they did. From a trip east to west across the Arctic Circle to trips to Tibet and the Hunza Valley of Pakistan, some of the places they chose to visit seemed unusual to others.
"My husband was a scientist, a physicist, so he's not really interested in places like Paris and Italy," says Huff. When asked is she plans to continue to do the illustrations now that she has an art show and a book under he belt, Duff says she isn't sure.
"That's an interesting question," she says. "My husband and I have 45 big photo albums so there are plenty of pictures I could use for inspiration. Maybe I'll go back and do some from one of the more unusual trips."