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Be True To Your (Art) School

Our CagleCartoonist, Bob Englehart writes more about his cool career. Support Bob on Patreon,  See Bob’s Cartoon Archive, E-mail Bob

I visited my alma mater last week in Chicago, the American Academy of Art. Man, has it changed. When I went there from 1964 to 1966, it was a small commercial art school dedicated to the practical side of art (that is, how to make money). It offered a two or three year course and a frame-able certificate upon completion. It was on the corner of Wabash and Adams streets in the Loop. The first year was about teaching fundamentals and the second and third year was about specialties: illustration, oil painting, watercolor, layout, design and so on and was geared to industry demand for artists. It had no cartoon course, so in the middle of my second year when I decided I wanted to become a cartoonist, my fundamentals teacher, Mr. Staake, designed a course for me. He had me drawing greeting cards and anything he could think of that might sharpen my skills as a budding cartoonist. One of my assignments was to draw a political cartoon. I drew it in the style of Bill Mauldin who was my favorite political cartoonist at the time.

The greeting card assignment led to work as a freelance greeting card cartoonist that paid for my first house and my second one, too. The political cartoon became a sample I used to get a job in the art department of The Chicago Herald American. It also inspired me to draw my first political cartoon for the paper shortly after it changed its name to Chicago Today.

The story: a KKK cell was discovered in the Chicago Police Department. The art director of the paper had given me permission to publish an occasional political cartoon on Mondays when the regular political cartoonists, Vaughn Shoemaker and Wayne Stayskal were off. I was walking across the Michigan Avenue Bridge when a gust of wind blew a woman’s skirt and the idea popped in to my brain.

I’m happy to say the academy still delivers a practical education in art. I won’t tell you what the tuition was back in 1964 because it would break your heart. Today, the tuition is comparable to a four-year private college, which is what most art schools are. The academy is now on Michigan Ave. It has student housing and offers nine bachelors of fine arts degrees in traditional areas of art such as painting and drawing but also in 3-D modeling, digital illustration, art direction and more.

A number of famous and successful alumni are making a nice living in comic books, posters, painting, sculpture, design, advertising and graphic arts but the most famous is Kanye West. I talked to Kanye’s teacher and he said Kanye was a talented artist. The teacher told him he could have a fine career as an artist, but Kanye said he had this music thing he wanted to try.

Bob Englehart is a freelance cartoonist and his cartoons are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons.

Read Bob’s other posts:

My One-Day Career as a Courtroom Artist

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

The Birth of a Political Cartoonist

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Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Why I Started Drawing

Learn why my cartoonist buddy Randy Enos started drawing!

Email Randy Enos
Visit Randy’s archive –Daryl

It all started with the son of my father’s best friend, Jose. The kid’s name was Jerry and he was about my age. I must have been 8 or 9 when Jerry seriously stole my father’s affection by being very skilled at drawing. Jerry would go to the zoo, come back home and draw all the animals from memory. My father would rave about these drawings.

As I mentioned in another story, I would read the comics every Sunday with my dad and he would pour over the details of the drawing in the strips. He didn’t know much about art but wanted to. So this kid, Jerry, was encroaching on my territory with my father. One day, my father showed me a pencil drawing of an ear of corn that Jerry had made. It was, honestly, pretty damn good, with lots of neat shading and detail. My dad said that Jerry was taking classes at The Swain School of Design, New Bedford’s only art school. He asked if maybe I’d like to take some classes there. I wanted to get some of that admiration from my dad, so I went to the Swain school one summer and it was the most boring, tedious and frustrating experience of my life. The only thing I remember about the teacher was that he had one eye that refused to look in the same direction as the other one, which was a little unnerving. I was forced to hone my pencil to a wedge shape with a sandpaper block and then to draw smooth, even,  parallel strokes close together. I filled page after page of these pencil strokes only to be told that they weren’t up to par. We also made strokes that graduated from light to dark –over and over and over again. We would not be allowed to draw anything else until we mastered these exercises. I was failing miserably. I quit.

When I was about 10, I think, I was walking with a fellow classmate, Barbara Camara, down at the bottom of the street where I lived and where her father had a hardware store. All of a sudden, I saw a new little shop that hadn’t been there before. It was just a tiny place next to the hardware store. It was a store front with two windows, one on either side of the doorway. It seemed to be the studio/shop of a commercial artist. A small sign said “Art Lessons”. I went in and met the artist inside seated at a drawing board. He told me the price of lessons. It wasn’t very much. I rushed home and told my dad and he agreed to me taking some lessons there.

This was a whole other world from the Swain school. I went down to the shop once or twice a week and the guy sat me on a stool at a drawing board right next to his and encouraged me to draw anything I wanted. I wish I could remember his name but it escapes me. He gave me India ink and a brush and a pen with which to draw. I told him what interested me and he helped me in that direction. Milton Caniff was making a big impression on me at that time so our efforts were on replicating some facsimile of Caniff’s brushwork. I didn’t know cartoonists used brushes as well as pens until this fellow told me about it. He showed me how to draw half-lock folds. He showed me how to crosshatch. He inspired the hell out of me. He had a friend who often dropped by and they would include me in their “art talk”. I realized, at a certain point, that their main source of work was in drawing the corny little spots you see in the phone book. They were two very small-time commercial artists but they had big hearts and they shared my enthusiasm about drawing and comics etc.. I was finally getting excited about the world of art and illustrating and cartooning. They showed me books and discussed the leading artists of the day.

One memorable sunny day, they said that they were going out to paint watercolors in the outdoors. They asked me if I wanted to go along. Do bears do poo poo in the woods? Of course I wanted to go along and paint with two professional artists, so off we went. We arrived at a farm house. We trudged out into a field and split up, each finding something interesting to paint. So, I’m there with my little watercolor box and my brushes and I settle down to paint the barn I see before me. Halfway into my very enjoyable foray into the plein arts, I became aware of a presence off a way to my left. I turned my head to see a big cow bearing down me! I had never had a large cow bearing down on me before and didn’t quite know what to do about it. She very determinably strode directly at me and was gaining speed all the while. I leaped up and stepped away from my watercolors, brushes and watercolor pad which were on the ground. The cow didn’t seem interested in me but, rather my painting of the barn, because she didn’t come at me anymore, but strode directly at my painting and stopped. She lowered her head to my picture. Then, this giant cow tongue came out of her mouth and slurped across my freshly painted watercolor. Then, she looked at me and walked back from whence she came. My watercolor had this big “splootch” right across the barn.

Afterwards, I enjoyed showing people the watercolor that a cow helped me paint.

And, Oh … remember Jerry back up there in the beginning of this story, the kid who was a drawing genius ? He became a car mechanic and never drew any more.


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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories:

The Fastest Illustrator in the World!

Me and the GhostBusters

The Bohemian Bohemian

Take it Off … Take it ALL Off!

I Eat Standing Up

The Funniest Cartoon I’ve Ever Seen

The Beatles had a Few Good Tunes

Andy Warhol Meets King Kong

Jacques and the Cowboy

The Gray Lady (The New York Times)

The BIG Eye

Historic Max’s

The Real Moby Dick

The Norman Conquests

Man’s Achievements in an Ever Expanding Universe

How to Murder Your Wife

I Yam What I Yam

The Smallest Cartoon Characters in the World

Chicken Gutz

Brought to You in Living Black and White

The Hooker and the Rabbit

Art School Days in the Whorehouse

The Card Trick that Caused a Divorce

The Mysterious Mr. Quist

Monty Python Comes to Town

Riding the Rails

The Pyramid of Success

The Day I Chased the Bus

The Other Ol’ Blue Eyes

8th Grade and Harold von Schmidt

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

The Bullpen

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 NCS