A CENTURY AGO, ACROSS THE COUNTRY, on farms and in small towns, young artists eager to draw and ink their way to fame waited excitedly for mail from Cleveland.
They were all students of Charles N. Landon, a Cleveland Press illustrator who founded the nation’s first cartooning correspondence school. He taught basic illustrating to a generation of American cartoonists, from Bill Mauldlin, the great World War II soldier’s cartoonist, to Carl Barks, the Disney artist who imagined Uncle Scrooge.
Now Landon’s lost lessons have come back to life in The Landon School of Illustrating and Cartooning (Enchanted Images, $21.95), a 246-page book that reproduces Landon’s course materials for readers interested in comics history — or anyone who wants to learn to draw.
“You could take the lessons today and learn the basics of cartooning,” says John Garvin, an Oregon-based artist and designer and publisher of the book.
Landon, a caricature artist for the Press and, later, art director of a Cleveland-based news syndicate, ran his school from 1909 until his death in 1936, critiquing mailed-in work from cartoonists as far away as China and Australia.
“He had a multitude of styles he could draw in,” says Garvin. Landon’s coursebook is filled with sharply inked drawings of portly men, svelte athletes, pretty young women, matronly old ladies, toiling workers, clowny bums and dead-on likenesses of senators and presidents. He mostly taught the popular comics style of the 1910s: caricatures with exaggerated action depicted in heavily textured images with very clean pen lines. But Garvin says some of his lessons, such as his pen-and-ink tutorial, teach skills useful to artists of any era. Landon’s study of the hand, Garvin says, “improved my ability to draw hands.”
The book can be ordered at comics stores or through Garvin’s Web site, enchantedimages.com.