Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Draw Me!" The Classic Ads of Art Instruction Inc.!

As I clip out interesting/useful images from stacks of old magazines for my 'swipe' files (something artists did for reference before you could find everything on Google), I've come up with stacks of the fondly remembered "Draw Me' ads for 'Art Instruction, Inc.' of the familiar "Talent Test" advertising campaign.
And since the whole point of this blog is to share things I find interesting, here you go!
I'm sure there are 100s more examples since the company started in 1914 (and still in business online today), so if you run across any, email 'em off ( and I'll add 'em for the benefit of all art historians!

My mother took these courses in the late 50s, and I still have many of her instruction books and lessons. The quality of artist talent in the lesson books, and the ability of the actual hands on instructors, is stunningly impressive. Just looking at her 'via mail' assignments, where the teachers went over her drawing with tracing paper, are all spot on helpful and beautiful. Any aspiring artist nowadays who is interested in learning the actual skills and basics that go into illustration, would do well by finding these on ebay, and then reading them over and over and over again.

Thanks to Wiki- here's what you should be looking for...
"As the company grew in popularity, it added instruction in cartooning, color, comics, composition, perspective and graphic design. TheFundamentals of Art course expanded to include all popular art techniques and contributions from Jay Norwood Darling, Charles M. Russell, Gaar Williams, wildlife artist Walter J. Wilwerding and cartoonist Frank Wing. The 12 textbooks also included contributions from J. C. Leyendecker, Charles Dana Gibson, Neysa McMein, Daniel Smith, A. B. Frost, John T. McCutcheon, Charles Sykes and Clare Briggs, plus illustrations by Maxfield Parrish, Russell Patterson, Franklin Booth, John La Gatta, Harry Townsend and Fontaine Fox.

In 1957-60, students received these 26 books by Wilwerding and others: Practical Lettering, Animal Drawing, Children and Animal Portraiture, Advertising Layout, Landscape & Seascape in Oil, Still life Techniques, Composition, Outline Drawing, Perspective, Wash and Beginning Color, Color Harmony, Portrait painting in Oil, Still Life in Oil, Painting Techniques, Commercial Art Techniques, Decorative Design, Advertising Illustration, Basic Figure Drawing, Fashion Illustration, Magazine Illustrating, Reproduction Processes, General Illustrating, Ink Drawing, Proportions and Shading, The Human Figure and The Technique of J. Clymer."

It turns out you might not be actually judged by your ability to copy these "Draw Me" doodles.
It was more of a very clever way for Art Instruction Inc to find out you existed.
When the company received "Draw me" submissions, these were turned over to salesmen who drove from one town to another, often arriving at a home unannounced and launching into a sales pitch.
But, like a student setting up an easel at The Art Institute of Chicago and coping a Renior, it still can't hurt to try your hand at replicating these classic illustrations, and, for the inspired students, you can do the more advanced test that I actually received in the mail after sending in my try at 'Binky'!
6465 Wayzata Blvd Suite 240, Minneapolis, MN 55426
Phone: (800) 801-6940


  1. Thanks for assembling this great collection. It brings back a lot of memories of the compelling challenge these presented, and finally got me to send one in to the Famous Artists School, whose course through its books was great. - Joe

  2. This is incredible. I remember seeing a lot of these as a kid, and seeing them all here, on one page, was surprisingly kind of emotional. Thanks for this.

  3. Yeah, and howdy, i remember drawing "Binki", then getting that drawing test afterwards in the mail like i was someone special, and sending it back, and waiting what seemed forever to an 8 year old boy.
    Then one day as you said that salesman showed up to congratulate my parents for having such a talented boy, yup, but the bottom line, as always is "money", not really talent and my father being in the Army at the time didn't have the $800 to supposedly make my dreams come true, so I didn't become an artist, I became an illustrator instead, Lol
    Because when it's in ya to do, you do it no matter what, Lol