Skip to main content

About this collection

Browse and Search This Collection

Contributed by Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records: State Archives

My mother Jane Karl was born Clara Jane Vincil on October 10, 1920 in Kansas City Missouri. About that, she once said, "I was told it was in a small, private hospital. Some doctor named Robinson delivered me and he never registered my birth. So I don't have a birth certificate. But I never needed one and it doesn't really matter because here I am anyway." That was so.

Jane grew up and attended school in Washington, D.C., moving to New York City to attend Columbia University and studied art, then later landscape architecture, in 1941. This was where she met my father. "Your father was in one of my first classes. Of course, he wasn't your father then. He was just Walt. I liked him I guess, even with those thick glasses. There weren't many eligible men around, with the big War going on. But Walter was blind as a bat [near-sighted] and the army wouldn't take him. So I got lucky, I suppose." Those remarks were revealing about the times, and seemed to hint at a slight lack of enthusiasm on her part I never understood and never explored.

My father and she moved to Phoenix from New York in June of 1956 with me, the only child, at three years old. I still remember the tidy ranch-style neighborhood, just built, with agricultural land not yet developed right across the street. There were rows of huge Tamarisk trees along what seemed like an ancient irrigation ditch where water was still flowing, and there were many adventures to be had. My parents established a commercial art business, which they conducted from home and named Karl Visuals. The studio was filled with papers, drawings and blueprints, two drafting tables, and lots of drafting tools. A whiff of rubber cement was always in the air. They did some graphic design, some of their own creative art when they had the time - but primarily they provided architectural renderings on contract to John Long, Del Webb, and quite a number of other home developers and architects in the Valley.

My father died of complications from a lung ailment in September of 1960 at the age of 42, when my mother was 39, 10 days before my eighth birthday. My grandparents, Peake and Clara, had retired to Prescott Arizona, about 90 minutes away, where we spent quite a lot of time as a family. They were very supportive, as best they could be. It was a challenging time for everyone.

From 1960, Jane - a single woman, who never remarried, with a child - made her way as a freelance artist, finding contracts, meeting deadlines, and paying a mortgage. She created a substantial body of architectural renderings both practical for their representation of the architectural features of the structures depicted, as well as being stylishly beautiful. Jane continued the architectural rendering business until her retirement in the late 1990s.

My mother died on February 14, 2012. She had developed a heart condition complicated by a blood disorder, which caused her to weaken dramatically. Throughout, she lived in her home of 56 years, to which she was very attached, on Colter Street in Central Phoenix.

Jane was a talented, sometimes stoic, and gentle person. She was a kind friend to everyone who knew her. She coped with the death of first her husband in 1960, then father in 1962, then her mother in 1982. As a single woman with a child, in that era, self-employed and vulnerable, her life's example shows a sort of quiet courage that is not dated by generation, or limited to any personal philosophy. Her approach to everything was based on hard work, creativity, and a trust in human decency. She's missed by everyone who knew her.

- Philip Karl

Select the collections to add or remove from your search