Lunch with the luminaries

Astra's artwork 1960

Back in the 1950s, when The School Magazine was a fledgling publication of a mere forty years or so, two young artists had their first work published in its pages. Luckily for the Magazine and for thousands of future readers, those two clever, talented young women would go on to illustrate poetry, stories, plays and more for many decades to come. Both would also become well-loved illustrators of many books in their own right.

Noela and Astra

On a cold, crisp day this week, I was lucky enough to have lunch with that lovely pair—Astra Lãcis (left) and Noela Young (right)—and to share in some of their recollections of earlier times. Astra started illustrating in 1957 and retired from illustration work a few years ago. Noela continues to illustrate for us still, some sixty years after she started!

We met near The School Magazine's current office space, just up the road from The National Art School, familiar stamping ground for these artists in their formative artistic years. They both claimed to have been shy and unsure of themselves, fresh-faced out of Art School. Fortunately, Noreen Shelly, editor of The School Magazine in the 1950s, cared passionately about the artistic side of the magazine, and seemed to have been all kindness and support when it came to young artists. (That did seem to be quite a contrast to the longest serving editor, Doris Chadwick—hard-working and amazingly productive but oh-so-officious and gruff, and demanding white gloves and curtsies from female artists!) Noreen would even host gatherings at her own home to provide a bit of a social side to Magazine illustration. Both Noela and Astra spoke with great affection and gratitude about the generosity and good spirit of this editor in particular.

Astra Lacis CD 032007

Today most artists email their contributions in, but, of course, over the many decades up until now, artists usually delivered artwork in person. So Noela and Astra also recalled with wry good humour trooping off to the many different office spaces of The School Magazine. From the elegant Bridge Street building ("a rabbit's warren inside") to an obscure office space in North Sydney to the Remington Centre to the deserted old Peterboard High School and on and on … The Magazine never seemed to settle for long and the next place wouldn't necessarily be easy to get to!

As the anecdotes unfolded from this dedicated pair, the other thing that came across in their strings of recollections was their devotion to the publication and their appreciation of the changing staff over the years. There's certainly nothing like The School Magazine, and its artists are a wonderful breed and often, as in the case of Noela and Astra, treasures indeed.

- Karen Jameyson

(Artwork featured on this page is by Astra Lãcis. As a current contributor, artwork by Noela Young can be viewed in the featured artists' section.)