The Famous Artists School’s Cartooning Lesson Book

In 1948, illustrator Albert Dorne founded the Famous Artists School, a correspondence program for aspiring artists. Recruiting several other influential illustrators to be part of the project — including Norman Rockwell and Al Parker — Dorne and his colleagues distributed their curriculum and assessed student work by mail. The Al Parker Collection contains several of the school’s lesson books. A few excerpts from the 1956 edition of the cartooning course are below.

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A page from the Introduction about necessary and unnecessary lines calls cartooning “the art of simplification.”

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Lesson 7 is devoted to drawing “Pretty Girls.” Above are tips for hairstyles, which note that “smart cartoon girls should wear the latest styles.”

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A fantastic illustration from Lesson 13, “Perspective,” demonstrating successful technique.

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This page from Lesson 18 provides guidelines on balloon lettering.

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Each chapter concludes with an assignment the student is to complete and send in for evaluation. The above assignment follows Lesson 9, about drawing clothes and folds.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.