Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The FAS: Teaching the Art of the Inked Line

In the 'Commercial Art and Illustration' volume of the Famous Artists School binders, the art of the inked line is one of the very first lessons. Who could teach this lesson any better?

After all, the 12 founding members of the FAS were among the most skilled, successful and popular illustrators of the 20th century. You could do a lot worse than to be the beneficiary of their collective knowledge!

Some people scoff at the Famous Artists Course because the images are dated and because the course was offered by correspondence -- as if it were just a money-making scam. But for the sincere and ambitious student of illustration you could not ask for better instruction.

As a kid I learned a ton about drawing with pencil, pen, brush and ink from a book called How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way.

Now I realise that the lessons in that book were virtually lifted from the Famous Artists Course and simplified for a younger audience. I wonder how many other illustrators of more recent generations have studied from the teachings of Albert Dorne, Robert Fawcett, Austin Briggs, et al and, like me, didn't even know it?

Green kid or seasoned vet, we could all benefit from reviewing what the Famous Artists taught countless thousands all those years ago.

Take a look at these lessons at full size in my FAS Flickr set.


  1. These were great books, Leif-- perhaps the best distillation of the practicalities of picturemaking in the 20th century. It has been a while since I looked at these pages, but they always reward attention.

  2. Absolutely, David. In fact, the study of these lessons ought to be manditory for every art student. I only wish my own art education had been so thorough.

  3. Bob Cosgrove6:03 PM

    Hmmm. Have the Buscema book (though I haven't looked at it in a few years), and much later acquired the Famous Artist volumes. Never occured to me that there was a connection, any more than there was with some of the good books on ink work by Henry Pitz, Howard Guptill, or--if I'm remembering the name right--Fritz Henning. Anybody know if Buscema took the FA course? I would guess not (and it seems safe to assume that Stan Lee didn't), but perhaps he owned volumes. Time for me to go back and look at all this stuff.

  4. These pages from the Famous Artists Course are pure gold. Unfortunately, the books have become very rare, and no copies are available here in Belgium. Please post more pages from the Famous Artists Course. Best regards.

  5. Robert Heindel took the Famous artist school course.

  6. Thanks all for commenting!

    Bob; I might have read somewhere that Buscema cribbed a bunch of lessons from the FAS when he put together the Marvel Way book. Or I might be imagining it - but going through the FAS lessons I was struck by how familiar some of them looked, and how much they reminded me of the Marvel Way lessons of my youth, but I'm not speaking just about the inking aspect, I'm talking about throughout the book, perspective, composition, etc. I checked my copy of marvel way and the bibliography and "recommended reading lists do not include the FAS - but maybe that's because it was no longer available...?


    You might want to try ebay or Stuart Ng or Bud Plant - good luck!

    Robert; that's pretty neat to hear about Heindel... I know a *little* about comic artists ( a little more than I know about illustrators - which I know very little about ) and I remember reading that Berni Wrightson studied the FA course.

    I'm sure many illustrators had the binders even if they didn't actually take the course. Who could possibly think they weren't worth at least owning? ;-)

  7. The jewels of my library are my volumes of FAS and I also have the Famous Artist Cartooning Course binders which are priceless for their inspiration.

  8. Dom; Right you are! Long before I acquired my FAS binders, I had a complete set of reduced photocopies thanks to a friend whose grand dad took the course.

    I'm very curious about the FACC - maybe you could post a few pages on your blog...?

  9. FAS courses are treasure chests.

    I got lucky and got hold of the commercial art & illustration course, and I am simply drooling over the book page by page.

    This lesson that you have painfully scanned and posted speaks volumes about the clarity and pure information of this course.

    As commented, this book should be made mandatory for all art courses. If only one can go throught this religiously, how on earth can one not become proficient in the art?.

    I am curious about the other two courses.

    I do have the contents of teh cartooning course..

    Famous Artists Cartoon Course : July 21, 1960
    Lesson 1: The Comic Head
    Lesson 2: The Comic Figure
    Lesson 3: Inking the Head and Figure
    Lesson 4: The Head in Detail
    Lesson 5: The Figure in Detail
    Lesson 6: Anatomy
    Lesson 7: Pretty Girls
    Lesson 8: Action and the Figure
    Lesson 9: Clothes and Folds
    Lesson 10: Special Types
    Lesson 11: Drawing in the Panel
    Lesson 12: Form
    Lesson 13: Perspective
    Lesson 14: Light and Shade
    Lesson 15: Props and Backgrounds
    Lesson 16: Animals
    Lesson 17: Kids
    Lesson 18: Lettering
    Lesson 19: Rube Goldberg
    Lesson 20: Milton Caniff
    Lesson 21: Al Capp
    Lesson 22: Harry Haenigsen
    Lesson 23: Willard Mullin
    Lesson 24: Gurney Williams

  10. Actually, I'm doing the Painting course by FAS... The 10 first lessons are called the "Basic" course. By the end of the#10 you want to choose an area in particular you want to improve in painting: Figure Painting, Landscape, Animal Painting or General...

    I can assure just the reading of the books are a treat to the eyes with all those examples by Dorne, Fawcett etc... Well, I can't say more, I'm a art book's junkie collecting "old school" books...

    I always wanted to study seriously Art, specially Illustration, but only now I can do it freely, and knowing college, I wasn't in mood to do it again; started taking the old fashion distance courses as if were 1949...

    My first course was the Art Instruction Schools, where I learned the Abc of art ('cause I just was drawing in the wild from childhood!)... And after that, and still insecure of my painting (AIS is more drawing basics), I got into FAS.

  11. VERY interesting, Kalinides;

    Thanks for giving us a first-hand account of the course from the student's perspective!

  12. We organize the creation of beautiful artworks for home owners and businesses. Famous artists