Draw Me… you know you want to!

« The desire to draw is important! »

A couple of days ago, I came upon a recent piece by the one-and-only Robert Crumb, one that’s currently up for (well-heeled) grabs through the auspices of Heritage Auctions.

Quoting Heritage’s description: « Robert Crumb and Others – ‘Spike and Mike’ Jam Mural on Canvas (2015-16). An approximately 80″ x 60″ sheet of canvas, with sketches on both sides. Chief among them is a “Draw Me” ad parody by Robert Crumb. Getting Mr. Crumb’s involvement was not easy; it took a friend lugging this oversized piece of canvas around Europe to track down the elusive artist, but the results were worthwhile. Crumb’s art measures 8″ x 11″, and is on the “unfinished” (cream-colored) side of the canvas, with several other sketches. »

It brought to mind the rich, if often sordid, history of art lessons offered in comic book ad spaces. Here’s a sampling.

The face that launched a thousand backroom businesses, and the object of Crumb’s homage/parody (1952). Note the sharp bit of self-serving credibility-boosting: « Amateurs Only! Our students not eligible. » The implication being that, naturally, their students are now all successful, seasoned pros… but you still need to tell them to butt out of the contest. The beautifully-drawn girl anticipates Jaime Hernandez‘s stripped-down style, if you ask me.
Apparently a dry run (1954) for the great Joe Kubert’s School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (established in 1976, and still around); its (early) graduates include Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch and Timothy Truman. Joe’s then-partner Norman Maurer, aside from being a fine cartoonist himself, was the son-in-law of Stooge Moe Howard, for which Maurer produced many 3 Stooges cartoons and comic books. Maurer and Kubert were also co-originators (with Leonard Maurer) of 3D Comics in 1953.
Well, if you can’t draw… there’s always tracing; though even there, talent is an asset (1963.) According to Kirk Demarais‘ excellent book, Mail-Order Mysteries, this was « a rip-off. »
This little ad was quite ubiquitous in 1970s comics. Was the product offered worth a damn? The mystery endures; well, that and the newly-wealthy cartoonist’s memorably frazzled expression.
Roy Wilson’s book can still be found with a little digging. It certainly boasts a great cover. I’d mark this one as an honest enterprise (1973.)
According to Kirk Demarais, You received «  A thirty-two page booklet that teaches you, not only to draw monsters, but how to draw, period. Art history and artists’ tools and techniques are covered, along with a gruesome collection of creeps. It’s all presented with a healthy dose of encouragement for young pencil bearers. » Monsterman (aka Harry Borgman) earned himself a thumbs-up verdict from Mr. Demarais: « In a sea of shysters, Borgman is the real deal. » (1975)
Mail Sack, Inc.? Still, a quarter doesn’t seem like too much of a gamble… (1971)
Corner-cutting maestro and Marvel yes-man Big John B.’s art class gave the world such enduring talents as… er, Bob Hall. (1976)
For some reason, this one leaves me… somewhat skeptical (1978.) Nice perspective, chump.
And of  course, we can’t leave out the cream of the crop (1982.)

Mr. Crumb is right, of course: the bottom line is that « You need to knuckle down and really learn how to draw! »

– RG

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