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8th Grade and Harold von Schmidt

Here’s another cartooning memory from my buddy, Randy Enos.

When I was in the 8th grade, we had desks that had lids. You lifted the lid and there inside were your pencils, notebooks and school books.

A Saturday Evening Post had come to my house with an amazing double-page Harold von Schmidt illustration. I cut it out and took it to school to paste on the inside of my desk so I could look at it every morning. It depicted a stalwart cavalry soldier standing astride a fallen comrade while he faced, rifle in hand, what seemed to be the entire Indian nation bearing down on him. The hopelessness and drama of the situation gripped me. I was enthralled by the terrifying way the action was depicted. Each morning, I would lift the desk top, look at the picture and then over to my right where my friend Ottello sat and say, “He’s still standing!”

Years later, I met the illustrator who everybody called “Von” when I worked at the Famous Artists Schools. He lived nearby in Westport and would visit the school frequently. A former cowboy, he would ride a horse in our Memorial day parades.

When Von died, his son Eric came down from Boston and moved into his father’s studio and rented out the big family house across the driveway. Eric and I became good friends. He was also an illustrator, painter and a well known blues and folk musician. He was close friends with all the famous folk people of the day like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan (Eric taught Dylan the song “Baby, Let Me Carry You Down” and is mentioned by name in Dylan’s introduction to the song on his first Columbia record). Another great friend of his was Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (called “Ramblin’” not because he travels a lot but because he rambles on and on when he talks). I got to play music with him one time at Eric’s studio/house.

The studio was a fantastic place where, every New Year’s Eve, Eric would throw a humdinger of a party where, it seemed like, hundreds of people would cram into the small studio with the big dusty north light window and where the Indian headdresses and drums and racks and racks of big canvases depicting scenes of the old west competed with space alongside easels, drawing boards, a model stand and an old piano. You could barely move in there when more and more people would show up as the evening wore on. Musicians also filled the room. There were banjos, guitars, gut-buckets, washboards, fiddles and mandolins… and, of course, the piano manned by a crippled fellow also named Eric. Chance Browne, who draws Hi & Lois, would always be there playing his great blues guitar and as the morning hours approached, Guy Lombardo’s nephew would arrive from his gig in New York all dressed up in a tuxedo. We always ended the evening with a very loooooong rendition of “Irene Goodnight”. While everybody always sang the accepted version “I’ll see you in my dreams”, I always insisted on singing Led Belly’s original lyric which was “I’ll GET you in my dreams”.

One year, Leann and I went to the party early before the crowd arrived because I wanted to ask Eric something. I told him about loving that picture of the lone cavalryman standing his ground in the face of certain death. I asked him if he knew the picture. I said that I’d really like to see it again. It didn’t register on his memory but he said, “Let’s take a look at these books I have of my father’s work and see if we can find it”.

We went through a few books and suddenly there it was. What a jolt it was to see that old familiar picture again! The memories flooded back… of the 8th grade and my daily morning ritual of opening my desk to that dynamic flurry of stampeding hooves, howling Indians and the one Indian who was bearing down on the poor cavalryman with his rifle pointed dead at him.

And then Eric said … “Oh, yeah, I posed for that cavalryman. I remember standing on that model stand over there while my father painted me”.

Randy Enos

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Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories:

Rembrandt of the Skies

The Funniest Man I’ve Ever Known

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part One”

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part Two”

Famous Artists Visit the Famous Artists School

Randy Remembers Tomi Ungerer

Randy’s Overnight Parade

Famous Artists Schools

Dik Browne: Hot Golfer

Randy and the National Lampoon

Randy’s Only Great Idea

A Brief Visit to Outer Space

Enos, Love and Westport

Randy Remembers the National Cartoonists Society

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Famous Artists Visit the Famous Artists School

Here is another memory from Randy Enos‘ tenure at the Famous Artists School.

The Famous Artists Schools had five correspondence art courses, cartooning, illustrating, painting, writing and photography; they always wanted to do sculpture too but couldn’t figure out how to deal with the student submissions of assignment work.

Each course was laid out the same way. The school had 12 famous practitioners in each field as their “Guiding Faculty” who were the ones that created the texts and assignments that I and the other “instructors” would criticize by means of written, drawn or painted corrections and advice on the lessons.

The Guiding Faculty, of course, didn’t work in our Westport, Connecticut office buildings but they did visit from time to time and give us lectures on their own work and look at some of our student critiques. Some of them who happened to live locally came over to the school frequently like Robert Fawcett (who got friendly with me and would give me tips on my own work). Harold von Schmidt also came to visit quite often to see his friend Al Dorne our fearless leader and principal founder of the schools. A few of our cartoon course Guiding Faculty like Whitney Darrow lived in Westport.

The cartoonist Virgil Partch (VIP) would come from California to visit and Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon) and others would come, and when they did, Dorne would take our small group of cartoon instructors and the visitor out to lunch at a very high class restaurant in Westport. I remember going out once with Rube Goldberg and after we had our lunch we all sat there and smoked great long cigars.

One notable visit was from the legendary sports cartoonist Willard Mullin, who decided that he’d like to try a critique of one of the students’ works before we went out to lunch. He sat down at my drawing board and a lucky student got an original Mullin drawing of a baseball pitcher. I watched in awe as the master started with the pitcher’s throwing hand extended forward in the throw and drew a sweeping arm line down to the pitcher leaning into the thrust.

Young Randy Enos (left) watches legendary sports cartoonist Willard Mullin draw.

When the painting course’s Ben Shahn would visit, I would show his slides of paintings to invited guests from the Westport Womens Club. I was chosen to do that because I was the only one in the building who knew Shahn’s work so well that I could navigate, looking at and putting each individual slide into our antique slide projector one at a time (it only held two slides). I did the same thing for the famous Chinese watercolorist Dong Kingman who used to make believe he couldn’t speak English well enough to answer the dumb questions from the audience (more about Dong in another story).

I think the funniest visit was from our superstar Guiding Faculty member … the one and only Norman Rockwell. He visited about once a year but the visit I remember best was when my friend and car-pool buddy, Zoltan raised his hand to praise Mr. Rockwell’s work. Zoltan was the schools’ staff photographer. He shot stuff for the text books mainly; it was pretty pedestrian stuff. Zoltan was a nice, simple soul, not very well versed in the art that surrounded him at the school.

Zoltan stood up and said that his favorite work of Rockwell’s was his annual Santa Claus in the Coke ads. Rockwell answered that he didn’t do the Coke ads. Zoltan’s reply was, “Yes you do … you know those great Santa Clauses… I love them!” Rockwell reiterated that he was not the illustrator that did the Coke Santa Clauses. To which, Zoltan replied, “Yes you do… the Coke ads!” Now, Zoltan was arguing with Rockwell. Finally after a few more back and forths, Zoltan quietly sat down.

I know that Zoltan was never convinced, like so many other Americans, that Rockwell didn’t do Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Clauses.

Randy Enos

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Enos, Love and Westport

The Saturday Evening Post or How I Got Married

By Randy Enos

When I was a tadpole, my family subscribed to The Saturday Evening Post. Each week when it arrived at our house, I would have my little sister take it, before I could see it, and stand across the room from me and turn the pages slowly as I named off each illustrator and cartoonist recognizing them by their styles. As I grew older and read more and more about these artists in books and magazines, I found a common thread. An awful lot of them lived in Westport, Connecticut. Curious!

Later on, after I graduated from high school, I went to art school in Boston which was not far from my hometown of New Bedford. In my second year there, a beautiful girl showed up in the classes. I asked her name and where she was from. She said Westport, Connecticut!

I said, “That’s where all the illustrators live.”

She said, “Yes, I know them all!”

Randy’s lovely, un-named wife.

I said, “What do you mean you know them all?”

She said, “My mother is a painter and she and my father own a frame shop and they frame all the artists’ work and my mother and the illustrators get a model and draw and paint from them every week. I go to the life classes and sit there with them and draw right next to Steven Dohanos and Harold von Schmidt and Robert Fawcett and…”

So, I married her immediately.

And I went to live in Westport and got to not only meet all my heroes, but become close friends with many of them.

Randall Enos
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