Saturday, March 2, 2013

Graphic Grandeur (Cram for Midterms Edition)

The above ad is from the September 1948 issue of Modern Mechanix. There seems to be very little about it that has anything to do with mechanics, though I imagine some 1940s smartass took one look at the drawing and quipped, "Nice chassis!"

The Professional School of Cartooning, Inc doesn't seem to have had any actual classrooms. A similar ad makes it clear that it offered correspondence courses only. I like the fact that this school felt the need to include "Inc" in its' name, as if not to confuse it with The Professional School of Cartooning, Mom-and-Pop Store. Its doors weren't, or mailbox wasn't, open for very long, I don't think. Every time I google the school's name looking for more information, I get either this ad or one just like it in the back of magazines published between '47 and '50. It seems to have fizzled out  just as the postwar economy was booming. Perhaps things would have turned out different if it had advertised in front of the magazine.

I mean, it does seem like a good deal. Or might if one knew exactly how much the whole thing cost. The first critique is free, except for the mailing charge, but what about the next two years? According to the ad, these weren't famous amateurs looking at your scribbles. An aspiring artist might have to make some sacrifices to continue with such a course. Maybe cancel their Modern Mechanix subscription.

And just how famous were those professionals critiquing your drawing of a five-legged dog? (Oops. Sorry. That last leg's actually a tail.) Well, while probably lacking the same 1940s name recognition of Humphrey Bogart or Bette Davis, they all had impressive enough resumes. Lawrence Lariar was a successful gag cartoonist who also edited Best Cartoons of...books for three decades. According to one web site, Lariar may have also drawn the girl in the ad. Brothers Irving Roir, Al Ross, Salo, and Ben Roth (the latter the only one to use the family name) were also popular.  Adolph Schus did both gag and political cartoons. George Wolfe was a gag cartoonist who later did newspaper strips. Ed Nofziger is remembered best for his talking animal cartoons. Henry Boltinoff worked for DC comics and did funny filler strips that ran between Superman and Batman stories. Anybody out there who knows more about these gentlemen (especially if you happen to have a comic strip-oriented blog of your own), feel free to expound about such knowledge in the comments section.

My point is, to get an A, B, or even a C+ from one of these guys would seem to me to be a big deal. Maybe potential customers/students were just too intimidated by the big names. More likely the big names got weary of all the customers/students stick drawings, and decided to close up Inc.

One last thing. The web site where I originally saw this ad (as I said earlier, it's on several) made mention that CUTE GIRLS appears in capital letters. What it didn't make mention of, but what I noticed anyway toward the bottom, was this:

Approved for Veterans
Remember, this was just after World War II. A serviceman returning to civilian life could look forward to meeting cute girls.

Even if he apparently had to draw them himself.


  1. Great ad !
    I still see a drawing school advertisement on TV now an again.
    And I remember seeing ads like this one when I was young. I always wondered if these schools where real and where was the city they were in.

    On the I-5 near the 55 in Orange County I saw the Office and warehouse (?) of the painters that advertised quite a lot when I was in school. His symbol was a brush and pallet with his name. I can't remember his name now but it was a shock to see his office/warehouse. He sold how to books and supplies. You just always think they are somewhere in space.

    What I like, miss (?) in this ad is the sense of optimism this ad promote. You can try, think and maybe do something with your life, Not at all like today.

    cheers parsnip

  2. Well, parsnip, such ads may have promoted a sense of optimism, and that you could try, think, and maybe do something with your life, but they also wanted to separate you from your money. That's the goal of all advertising.

    "Just write us a big enough check, and you can accomplish anything!"

    --THE POWER OF POSITIVE PUFFERY, by Norman Vincent Pitchman

    I'll be showing more ads in the future because, quite frankly, I think there's a lot of creativity to be had (in both senses of the word) in that most commercial of commercial art forms.

    Nice thing about advertising campaigns from a bygone era--epecially if the products they're hawking no longer exist--it's easier to enjoy the artistry and ignore the attendent manipulation.

  3. Oh you are so right... but I think after the war it felt like you could do something.
    I worked in advertising for a few years, I got out and yes it is all about separating you from your money. I think that is one reason why my children could want things but not always get them unless they though about it, told me why they needed it or how they could save/buy it.

    1. You're right, parsnip, the postwar period was a time of optimism.

      If only we could regain that sense of optimism, but this time without the global conflict that preceeded it.

  4. kirk, your mind moves in mysterious ways! i agree, there is an element of optimism that is lacking these days. i wonder if that results from an accurate perception of circumstances, or from a perception that has been orchestrated to depress, and oppress the populace. there are dark corners into which my mind wanders.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. rraine, I guess we have to separate societal or cultural optimism from more personal forms. Parsnip's comment, I THINK, was referring to the former. Your's, too, I imagine.

      A lot liberals seem to favor the orchestrated explanation. There's a Facebook page called "Hopeworthy" and Obama famously called his book THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. I may be the only liberal alive who actually favors the accurate perception of cirumstances. Now, before you get too upset, I believe these are manmade circumstances rather than a punishment from God. And they can be changed. But first you have to acknowledge the circumstances in the first place. How in the world can you turn Bad into Good unless you admit Bad exists in the first place?

      My problem with the title of Obama's book is this. In the United States of America, in which "the pursuit of happiness" is written right into one of its founding documents; where every movie, even sicko violent ones, seems to have a happy ending; where you can go to a Hallmark gift store and find poster after poster, placard after placard, filled with inspirational sayings; what exactly is so audacious about hope? Frankly, from a cultural standpoint, I think despair is much more audacious than hope.

      Parsnip is of a different political bent than I, so I'm not sure what she's so pessimistic about, unless it's just that she feels the wrong person's in the White House. Me, I think, given the restrictions of the two-party sytem, the right person is there, yet I'm STILL pessimistic. But that could change. Things can always change. Change is the one thing in life that never changes (heh, heh)

      Personally, rraine, I'm not convinced either optimism or pessimism, positive or negative thinking, are the best ways to gauge reality. But so many people swear otherwise, and insist you choose one or the other.

    3. I just checked. The Facebook page is called "Upworthy". It has some pretty good things on it, but the title absolutely makes me cringe.

    4. rraine, if you haven't completely fallen asleep at my reply to your comment, let me say "the only liberal alive who favors the accurate perception of circumstances" was a poor choice of words on my part. What I was really getting at is that systemic or structual problems are sometimes overlooked, and liberals of late (perhaps out of a sense of futility, making them thorough pessimists) tend to attack the symptoms. Mike Williams, whether he meant to or not, provided me with a good example in his comment to my Andy Warhol post. Some liberals tend to get on poor people for eating poorly, and overlook that it's CHEAPER to eat poorly.

      But whether the Establishment, or whatever you want to call it, is encouraging people to be pessimistic, I just don't see it. Keep-a-smile-on-your-face-at-all-costs is still very much our national mantra. If people aren't doing that, then they're just not buying into it anymore.

      raine, raine, wake up! My reply to your comment is over!

  5. Maybe if I took this course I could quit my day job!

    1. You'd have to quit your day job in 1948, Jim.

  6. i love your blog, to express your views, this is the correct way.

  7. Kirk, thanks for posting this ad. I'm not familiar with this particular correspondence course, but there were at least a couple of famous cartooning courses offered by mail in the past century. The Landon Course graduated a lot of cartoonists including Bill Holman and Jack Cole...even Chic Young. There were the Art Instruction and Famous Artists schools, too. Charles Schulz and Mort Walker worked for Art Instruction, headquartered in Minneapolis . From what I understand, the instructors would actually take the drawings of the students and re-draw them to show them how to do it. Can you imagine having Sparky Schulz or Mort Walker show you how to do a funny cartoon?

    ...and what you say about optimism is true. It's something I believe we've always had in this country. We've always had political opposites arguing their points but in the main even the fiercest opponents could work things out. The change I see in my lifetime is the narrowing of viewpoints and the lack of constructive compromise. No wonder we're all feeling depressed!

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Postino. I was hoping you would. I knew Schulz worked for the Minneapolis school, but not Walker.

      The Landon course, as well as the ad above, interest me because they specified "cartooning" rather than simply "drawing". I wonder if those schools taught students (as much as can be taught in a correspondence course) to first draw realistically, and then from there segued into the more abstract, exaggerated realm of cartooning. As a kid, I was never really interested in drawing realistically, because I assumed people like Charles Schulz and Mort Walker cound only draw in the styles that they did. Much later on, I found out, to my chagrin, that both men could draw like Milt Cannif if they wanted to. But then even Picasso started out drawing realistically.

      As for what's going on politically, let's just say my optimism has been sequestered.


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