Could You Draw This Turtle?

As a high school senior in St. Paul, Minnesota, Charles Schulz knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. He also knew he didn’t want to go to college or pursue any formal art education, afraid of being told he couldn’t cut it. Instead, Schulz asked his father for $169 to enroll in Art Instruction Schools, a Minneapolis-based correspondence course that promised students they could become proficient in any number of artistic pursuits by taking a 12-step lesson via the mail.

Since the 1920s, they’d been running ads in newspapers and magazines like this one:

While Tippy the Turtle was probably the most recognizable figure, it’s not known which character Schulz drew and submitted. It could have been Winky the Deer, or Reggie the Raccoon, or Spunky the Donkey. It also really didn’t matter if he could do it well; applicants to the school were accepted so long as their check cleared.

Despite the exorbitant cost to his father during the Great Depression, Schulz enrolled. Thanks to the debut of his Peanuts strip in 1950, he remains their most famous alumnus.

Founded in 1914 to find talent for a local engraving business, Art Instruction Schools (AIS) was one of a number of mail-away art courses that prospered in the middle of the 20th century. With photography yet to fully take hold in advertising, commercial illustration was still a popular field. Universities, however, didn’t have the kind of extensive art curriculums of today. Thanks to eye-catching advertisements in newspapers, magazines, and on matchbooks, tens of thousands of would-be artists signed up for the programs.

AIS’s biggest competitor for that business was Famous Artists School, which counted Norman Rockwell among its celebrity endorsees—although he rarely evaluated submissions. At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, Famous Artists had 40,000 doodlers taking the course. Once a drawing “test” was mailed in, the company would sometimes dispatch door-to-door salesmen to convince budding talent they had what it took to pursue a formal education in the arts and boasted accreditation by the Distance Education and Training Council.

Both AIS and FAS are still in operation today, although it’s difficult to estimate how many of their pupils have gone on to have careers in illustration; some of their critics have pointed out that art is very much a hands-on learning experience. Schulz, however, was enamored enough with AIS to migrate to their Minneapolis headquarters after a stint in the Army, becoming an instructor in the late 1940s. While there, he struck up several friendships with fellow teachers and asked if he could use their names for a strip he was planning to submit to newspaper syndicates. Both Linus Maurer and Charlie Brown said yes.

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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