Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Practical Lessons in Drawing

In 1909, the World Color Printing Sunday comic section seemed to experience the defection of many long-time contributors, leaving the company occasionally scrambling for content. Surely otherwise they would not have accepted a new feature they added to the back page titled Practical Lessons in Drawing. The quarter-page feature was written by an uncredited but certainly self-important author who seemed oblivious that he was writing for a Sunday comics section, rather than a college-level academic drawing course. The result was both dry as dust and close to useless as an introduction to drawing. The author loved to expound on what I'll call the algebraic aspect of drawing -- a deer's head is exactly so many times the length of it's body, and the head is exactly so many eyes high, and the horns on its head are exactly so many times the length of a flea on its back, etc, ad absurdum. It surely made the author feel rather chuffed, but I can't imagine too many kiddies opening the WCP Sunday funnies and getting excited to learn the intricacies of drawing a Hindu Water Carrier (believe it or not, that really was a lesson).

Most lessons ended by admonishing the kiddies in no uncertain terms to learn the lessons in order or be left with a woefully bad education. Apparently it is very important, I gather, to become expert in drawing, say, a brown bear before one tries to draw a dog. We may shudder to think of the consequences if the kids did not follow this important rule. The author helpfully told his class that if they had missed a lesson that they should run down to their local newspaper's office, where the editor would be delighted to hand out missing drawing lessons from old editions of the paper.

The feature began on October 3 1909 and ended, after missing a couple weeks near the end, on March 13 1910. Apparently the author didn't realize his course was coming to its end, because the final installment tells students to look for another installment next week. WCP had other ideas, though, and dropped the feature in favor of a quarter page of puzzles and games.

Art for the feature was mostly supplied by D.C. Bartholomew, who exhibited an unexpectedly fine ability to do straight illustration. He was spelled a few times by others, on November 14 1908 by T. Benjamin Faucett, and on November 7 and 21 by someone who signed themselves only "W".


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