You may remember Winky from your comic books. Winky, Tippy the turtle and Reggie the raccoon where all come-ons for the home study Art Instruction Schools out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. See how they offer scholarships and cash prizes? That is the reason why I sent away for one of their art tests (which graded your artistic ability) when is was thirteen years old. I filled it out when it came and then sent it back. What I did not know is that they would send two men to my house to try and convince my mother to pay for art lessons for me even though they gave me a "C" grade on test. That is when I figured out the prizes and scholarships were a scam.
I think I instinctively knew it was a scam but was willing to take the risk because the school I really want to get into was the one I knew I never would:
Yep, the Famous Artist School. Founded by the great Norman Rockwell and a bunch of other illustrators whose names I did not know but whose work I probably saw all the time in the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. I knew Norman Rockwell would never try to rip me off but, alas, I also knew I could never afford the tuition. So every time I saw one of these ads for the Famous Artists Course my heart broke a little.
Flash forward to last week. My husband and I went to lunch after swimming and then stopped into our favorite antiques store Dickens Alley. As I perused the art books I noticed four large binders stacked one on top of each other on the bottom shelf. On the spine of each binder was shield with the letters fa written inside it. At the bottom of the spine of each binder were numbers. One binder had the numbers 1-6 written on it, one had 7-13, one had 14-19 and the final one had the numbers 20-24. I lifted the top binder and turned it over and saw on the cover the same shield with the letters fa written inside it and, to the right of the shield, the words Famous Artists Course. I almost started crying. It was like finding the Holy Grail. I picked the stack of binders up and made my way to the counter and bought them all. It seems the store owner had three of the course series books for the longest time and the week before someone had walked in, saw the books, and said he had the final book and asked if the store owner want to buy it. The store owner did and there I was a week later ready to buy them all.
|A page from Lessons 1-6 binder.|
Now, I may not be able to become a commercial artist by studying these books and I know I can't even enroll in the school now since it has been closed since 1981, but I will be reading these lessons because understanding how something is done can only increase a person's appreciation of it. Sometimes your dreams come true in ways you never expect.
(If you are feeling inspired, below are links to all the artists listed as faculty in the Famous Art Course advertisement above. )
Harold Von Schmidt