Take It Off, Pencil It In

How many of you draw? Well? Great? Good! Learning how to draw the human figure is lesson number one if you’re an artist — even an abstract one. Exposure to drawing knowledge for 75 cents was a bargain in 1957 and a gift today.

It says something about the power of drawing that Dell, the same company that published the Mapback Mystery series and other mass market lit, issued this paperback pocket-sized guide book a “Basic guide for the beginner.” The drawings are a tad strained, but Dell and the painter John R. Grabach, the author, showed great respect for art of a certain kind.

Incidentally, the blue edges of the book was common (although the color changed) for Dell and other mass market paperback publishers. The colored ink was designed to ward off vermin from eating the pages.

human figureJohn R. Grabach (1886-1981) was a New Jersey painter with a similar approach to the Ash Can School of gritty urbanism. His paintings captured the despair and evoked the raw emotions that Americans felt during the Great Depression.

He commuted to New York to take night classes at the Art Students League and studied under Kenyon Cox, George Bridgman, and Frank Vincent Dumond. Following the League, Grabach accepted a teaching spot at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, where he would go on to tutor over eight thousand art students.

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