Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Vintage Ads for the Famous Artists School

Here's a classic advertisement for the Famous Artists School, the correspondence course headlined by 1950s illustrators like Norman Rockwell, Al Dorne, and Austin Briggs. (Link to YouTube)



The host, Jon Gnagy (1907-1981), introduces the course, and then draws a church using basic geometric forms. Gnagy was the first person to present art instruction on television.

Man with a Shovel Sequence, Robert Fawcett, gouache on board
The Norman Rockwell Museum is currently showing original artwork from the Famous Artists School at their exhibit: "Learning From The Masters: The Famous Artists School," which will be on view through November 19, 2017.



Here's another video advertising the school. (Archival video starts at 4:51)

The Museum's artist-instructor Patrick O'Donnell will be teaching workshops based on the FAC methods. The next one is August 17.

If you want a classic set of the original binders, I recommend the 1954 edition of the Famous Artists Course, Lessons 1-24. This edition has the best artwork and instruction from the original faculty. They cost more than $400, but they're worth it.

There's a new book: Drawing Lessons from the Famous Artists School: Classic Techniques and Expert Tips from the Golden Age of Illustration  with an introduction by curator Stephanie Plunkett and Magdalen Livesey of the FAS.

Thanks, Pedram Fazeldazeh • Video courtesy Norman Rockwell Museum Archives / Famous Artists School Collection. All rights reserved.

10 comments:

Peter Culos said...

I have fond memories of the John Gnagy drawing set I got for Christmas as a kid. I kept it for years and it was certainly a major influence on my love of painting and drawing. They were great for their instructional ability.

Sesco said...

Peter, I had the exact same experience! You can still purchase that Jon Gnagy set at a Hobby Lobby here in Richmond, Va. where they sell a lot of unopened vintage toys, games, and art sets.

Paul Sullivan said...


I received my set of the 1954 Famous Artists instruction books in 1954. I was 15 at the time and today I still have them here in my studio. They have been both instructional and inspirational. Some key pages were so important to me that I put them in a special folder that I’ve referred to through out my career.



Steve Gilzow said...

I still have my Jon Gnagy set, with its circle/sphere, square/cube shading exercises. I seem to recall some of the shows from around 1956 had us put a plastic film on the TV screen which adhered by static cling. A special crayon left marks on the film. You could then match lines right along with Jon.

rock995 said...

I took the FA course in 1969 and it was super-good. I think it cost $700 at the time--they had a salesman come to my apartment. Lyman Anderson was one of my instructors and even Al Parker critiqued one of my efforts. I learned plenty there. Thank you for the links to the 1954 editions. I used to watch Jon Gnagy also. Wish I still had the art kit he sent me. I never drew so many "silos" with conical tops in my life lol.

Biff said...

I remember watching TV shows of Jon Gnagy and Canadian cartoonist George Feyer. Feyer, wearing a beret and cape and with great speed and flourish, would transform a squiggle drawn by young audience participant into a funny cartoon character. Being so young, I'm not sure how much I learned from these two, but I certainly absorbed their enthusiasm - enough to run along the freshly wallpapered living and dining room walls, armed with a handful of crayons, drawing rapid circles as large as my little arms could reach. A week later, after their anger had subsided, my parents bought me an art kit to control my passion.

rock995 said...

P.S. The FA course books are MUCH cheaper on Ebay than Amazon. More like $150.

James Steadman said...

Excellent! Thank you so much for posting these. First as an art student, and secondly, as a direct-response copywriter. These ads were excellent examples of a good direct-response TV script---all of which I can only imagine how well they ended up selling...

Ruth Squitieri said...

I happened to get these books from a garage sale for 50 cents each just recently! I got the 1960 edition, and only 2 books, lessons 9-24. How cool! Now I really gotta delve into them, they have been sitting on my book shelf, but now my interest is definitely growing.

Debra Cooper said...

This is so great to see! My mother had started the Famous Artist course in 1969. I have all her books that were published in 1967 and was a set of 4. I also have her Talent Test she filled out and was graded on and some of her assignments with teacher critiques. I treasure all of it.

These books, as well as my mother, influenced me as an artist. I even took them with me to college.

I also have another set published in 1960, they were still just 3 binders 1-24, and these were personalized with the person's name on the front of each binder. I got these at a garage sale probably 15-20 years ago.