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Hi. This is kinda intriguing.
You remember those commercials about "have you ever wanted to draw? do you like to doodle? take our take-home art test by drawing a pirate or a turtle and send it in and we'll evaluate it and turn you into a real live artist!"
they've been on forever and are the commercials for an art correspondence course called the Art Instruction Schools. well, last year my sister (one of the many people in my family concerned about me sitting around loafing all the time, despite my artistic aspirations) decided to apply for the thing for me via online or some such one afternoon. (no drawing was necessary, apparently, which is odd.)
she mentioned it to me and i went "oh ok." and nothing really happened from it. this was last may perhaps. i've gone on drawing infrequently and without focus, posting art, then even did a stint teaching art (since i've got a minor in drawing from college) at a local muslim private jr. high alongside some english i was teaching there.
but enough about me. today, i get a call from a guy out of the blue saying he is from the Art Instruction Schools, his name is Randy, he is from Tampa and he is in the area over the weekend meeting with art school applicants. My name is on his list, so he calls.
Now, Randy seems to be going through a somewhat regular rigmaroll for himself and is nice enough even to let me go freshen up a bit (go to the can) and call back in a few minutes. But y'know, the questions he's asking, out of the blue, first thing i wake up, are SO nice! He seems just, out of the blue, interested in my art. How often do I draw? Do I want to bring my skills up to a professional level? Who encourages my art? Do I want a career in it? There is some mention of a free art course. He wants to come over to my house, see whatever I have in terms of drawing to assess it, and give me a 90-minute presentation on the course to see if I'd be interested.
Well, once my sleep-haze has worn off a bit (the call came at 10 am on a Saturday), I'm pretty into it, though I'm wordly enough now to not fall for any quick sales pitches and my journalistic anti-scam radar is well in effect. But, hey why not. After all, I've been having trouble getting my art-head together and i'm recently free of my teaching responsiblities and gainfully in-between work, loafing at home for a bit, trying to gear myself up for my as-yet-going-pretty-slow-cause-i'm-a-loafer journalism career, so...
As I said, I'm like, "hey sure, why not." So, he'll be over at 11 tomorrow. But, Randy also said something a bit fishy, said I'd have to have a checking account or some sort of proof of financial something or other to show I've got money. Said it a couple times. But he seemed to loosen up a bit as I got up from my sleep-fog and put some more "serious" in my voice. But don't worry, I stayed aloof though earnest. Didn't sound like a sucker, I don't think.
Anyway, I get off the phone, he seems convinced I'm worth his drive over (he says he has trouble with the mapquest sometimes), leaves me an 800 number to get back in touch with him if needs be. (Which i will soon call to see if it's actually a working number.)
And I go, "hm." Apparently, Randy is an artist from Tampa, he drives down to South Florida once in a while to recruit. He visits with people who've drawn the pirate or the turtle, sees their drawings, also--wierdly? asked that anyone interested in my future art success be onhand as well. and anyone else who might be interested in such a program--decides who gets the free art course, goes back to tampa and teaches from there.
Oh, he also mentions--like the commercials do, I remember--that Charles M. Schulz, of Peanuts, was an alumnus and that it's been around for 80s years.
So I get off the phone, and I go online to look this thing up, and in the past half hour of digging around this is what i've found.
It's a correspondence art school based in minneapolis, minnesota, originally founded in 1914 as the "Federal School", and changes its name at some point to "Art Instruction Schools." As such it did indeed garner a number of noteworthy artists as alumni, mostly, apparently, at the very start of their art careers, as the only option available to them, or a stepping stone into more serious study.
As Randy mentioned on the phone, the school has an artist in each state who travels about teaching students for that area. Or at least meeting them and then teaching by correspondence. You do it in your spare time and get professional level skills, they say.
The school's first intro-to-art/drawing course seems to be the free one, with a general overview or drawing/art with a focus on illustration/cartooning. Particularly interesting to me that they throw in some color-wheel and design elements apparently, and use of professional materials. Text books are sent with each lesson, it says. Randy said a number of times that it would be a completely free course. But, I think it's clear that's just the first course.
The artists mentioned/linked on the company's website are all very accomplished masters in their area, but there isn't anyone who seems to be very accomplished in recent times.
A number of the other hits you get online are of kids who've taken the course and their art isn't too great. Hobby enthusiast level.
So in that regard it reminds me of one of those aren't-worth-the-paper-their-printed-on academic awards people try to get you to pay for near the end of high school nowadays, where you get to put it on your college resume but no one takes it seriously. But that's too quick a judgement, and after all, in this case there is an actual course and not just paper.
Another troubling thing is that very quickly in the websearch, which doesn't produce as many hits as I would have liked, the word "scam" is used. One person describes a salesman coming to their home (presumably, Randy in this case) pitched them on the free course, but then revealed that the applicant wasn't qualified enough and then asked them to write out a big check for the paid version of the course. Well, we'll see about that. Another person online writes that they applied once when they were young, like many people taken in by the tv ad, but that once the school realized he was a kid of 13 with no money to get out of him they cut it off.
Well, for my purpose, I don't mind if they're only after people interested in art education on the side who have money to spare for it. Because that's what I am, basically. But the question of more importance for me is "how good is the art education in question?" and how honest are you about your effort being--like ALL school's efforts are, brick and mortar or not--in part about making a profit for you and providing a service for me?
There also seems to be some nostalgic defense of the school here or there where there's criticism, saying "hey, to each his own, you may not have liked it, but this correspondence course worked for person x that i knew, or i had my niece do it and she liked it." something to that effect.
So, this is my experience so far on this groggy Saturday morning.
What I'm wondering now is what you all know about this place, what your experiences are, if you have any information or reviews, if it's a scam or just a sort of quirky and perhaps silly-to-many-more-serious-and-focused-art-students way of getting some extra art ed on the side. also, i'm wondering if it'll be worth whatever amount of money they eventually try to hit me up for.
i'm thinking best case scenario: i "qualify" for the free intro art correspondence course, finish it easy, get at least a few skills polished up that way (since i haven't really been able to find the focus to apply to an art school), maybe get to learn a bit from this art teacher if his work/style's any good, and then see if i want to take any of the other courses they offer.
there is, shadily, no course catalogue or mention of prices on their website, but a few of the disparate people who mention online having taking classes with them seem to mention there being photoshop classes and the like. one person says they finished two courses with them, another says three.
What intrigues me also a bit is this person, Randy. It seems like an interesting life, doesn't it? Drawing in one town for a living and then on the side going around the state to look up(/hit up for money, perhaps) potential art students as a sort of door-to-door art instructor.
It mentions on the Charles Schulz website that a poor, young Schulz growing up in Minneapolis (home of the school itself) took the correspondence course in his senior year of high school, got a C+ in one, then got sent off to war where he honed his art drawing strips on G.I.'s letters back home.
But he had such a good experience with the place, or perhaps such a fond place for it in his heart, that after the war when he'd started cartooning some, he took a side job as one of the school's traveling art teachers.
It should be interesting to see what this thing is tomorrow.
But yeah, sorry for the super-long shpiel there. If anyone's got any info on this thing, please let me know. Would appreciate it. I'm actually trying to go into it pretty optimistic. See what's what. It's kinda fun knowing it might be bubkis in advance. and if not? well, allright then.
their online shpiel: http://www.artinstructionschools.com/
Last edited by Fawad; January 14th, 2006 at 05:26 PM.
"a real live artist"
-> I didnt know artists could be created by just adding water.
I have read half of your post ... I guess U wont be doing anything else with this school which U are not doing with CA.
Well .. in the end Ull still be in the same place .. & all motivation & work U have to do is up to you .. in the end U are paying for something I guess which U can get for free from some highly skilled & successful artists here on CA.
Maybe U can move away if U living ur sister & family if U have motivation problems .
"After high school, Shulz enrolled in a correspondence course in cartooning, at what is now the Art Instruction Schools Inc., in Minneapolis (Inge). Although the school was only a few miles from his house, he turned in all of his work by mail. Ironically, his instructor , Frank Wing, gave Shulz a c-plus in the drawing of children (Inge)."..."by V-J day, he was home again ready to pick up back where he left off. Shulz was soon hired by the Art Instruction in Minneapolis, correcting students correspondence."
The original Charlie Brown was a co-worker at the school, as perhaps was the red-headed girl Schulz fell in love with and was rejected by (like the comic strip Charlie).
thanks for the reply and encouragement actually, i think i might try it out. will see. any others with experience with it?
you did. trust me. i'm being up-beat and that's that. and actually, i don't live at my sister's place. she just applied for me. (i live at my mom's place. hah. well, my place, still, as well.)
"Tippy the Turtle is a Feeling": http://www.newyinzer.com/issue11/r-julin.html
linked above, a nice little read from another person's experience with the art instruction schools thing. think i'll put up whatever interesting stuff i find while looking into the school on this thread for the sake of anyone else out there thinking about it.
also, it seems that the school does publish its own texts, and has been for a while:
"525. Modern Illustrating (Including Cartooning). Minneapolis: Federal Schools. Volume 1 is copyrighted 1950, the other eleven 1931. 4to, 850pp, over 750 illus, wraps. VG to NF. A mixed but complete 12-volume set of this vintage correspondence course. This is the same course Charles Schulz took. Various chapters by a variety of illustrators and cartoonists: J.C. Leyendecker, Charles Dana Gibson, Neysa McMein, Dan Smith, A.B. Frost, Walter Wilwerding, Frank King, Bart, John McClutcheon, Chas. Sykes, “Ding”, Gaar Williams, Clare Briggs, etc. Illustrated by the above as well as Maxfield Parrish, Russell Patterson, Franklin Booth, John La Gatta, Harry Townsend, Fontaine Fox, others.  $150 "
listed on this art book site: http://www.stuartngbooks.com/catalog11ref.html
Last edited by Fawad; January 14th, 2006 at 05:23 PM.
I think I made it about a third of the way through your post...you're going in circles here, man. It seems like you enjoy the flattery this guy is giving you, as well as the apparent ease with which you could "study" art, but want to cover your ass against nay-sayers by pointing out that you've considered the "scam" angle. You seem very in to it, so at this point you'd probably regret not having a meeting with Randy so go ahead.
Beyond that...you'd get a better art education out of a community college or university. Hell, they'd be more acceptable to an employer than an Art Instructions Schools' paper.
fine, fine, i'll go back and edit my initial rant. (people insist on noting they didn't read it all for some reason.)
guess 's what i get for trying to make it more inquisitive stream-of-consciousness writing piece than just the regular "does anyone know about this? thanks!" (which i saw a few of on here without any reply, so i guess i'm ahead.)
it'd be nice to get a tiny bit less critical psycho-analysis and more comments based on experiences with the actual program if anyone's got it, though.
oh, and he didn't flatter. he was very matter of fact. i just liked the questions. 's not everyday someone calls you up and asks how often you draw.
anyway, enough of my passive aggressive defensiveness, here, another tidbit about it from an article on distance learning programs such as the acme online, the university of phoenix, and the art instruction blah blah:
"Of course, distance-learning programs were available long before the computer. The Art Instruction School, for example, was formed in 1914. It offers a certificate program in basic art education, with a few thousand students taking courses at any given time. While AIS does not
specialize in animation, it incorporates various art styles, including cartooning, into its lessons and has cartooning instructors on staff. It holds an annual Charles Schulz Cartoon Art Scholarship Competition, named for the Peanuts creator, who was an AIS student and instructor. The contest,
which attracts 500 entries per year, awards one full and two half scholarships. Steve Unverzagt, AIS’s director of marketing, notes that some graduates have gone on to animation schools including Sheridan College. “[Students] use our course as a springboard for skills and confidence-building."
Last edited by Fawad; January 15th, 2006 at 01:20 AM.
ooh, a very cool intro to these old art correspondence courses (there seem to have been another big rival to the art instruction ones) at http://www.stuartngbooks.com/catalog13refartsch.html
"Art Instruction Inc. As the Federal School, this art correspondence school included instruction by Franklin Booth, Charles Dana Gibson, Winsor McCay, and many other famous illustrators. As a rival of the Famous Artists School, Art Instruction Inc. had its own roster of fine illustrators and cartoonists. Its courses are filled with many fine illustrations/examples that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
"Famous Artists School. In the late 1940s, Albert Dorne, founded this illustration correspondence school. The famous artists were John Atherton, Austin Briggs, Stevan Dohanos, Robert Fawcett, Peter Helck, Fred Ludekens, Al Parker, Norman Rockwell, Ben Stahl, Harold von Schmidt, and Jon Whitcomb. Almost all were illustrators or cover artists for The Saturday Evening Post. Parker and Whitcomb were regular cover artists for Lady’s Home Journal and Cosmopolitan. The course went through a major revision in 1967 when Tom Allen, Lorraine Fox, Bernie Fuchs, Franklin McMahon, and Bob Peak added to the course."
and, ooh, look! the rival school's still around, too: http://www.famous-artists-school.com...p/fas/courses/ (with a bit more straightforward course/faculty/company description and a bit less sales pitch on their site than with the art instruction schools.) and the courses seem to work the same way. get a set of books, send them into a professional artist who acts as an instructor who sends em back graded. and most importantly, it gives prices: http://www.famous-artists-school.com...72460d2253b49d. we seem to be talking $500-$1,000 bucks per course.
(here's their sphiel, a bit more frank, upfront and therefore trustworthy seeming: http://www.famous-artists-school.com.../whychoosefas/)
hm. come to think of it, doesn't Kubert's school also have correspondence courses? heard they do.
Last edited by Fawad; January 15th, 2006 at 01:45 AM.
Randy was a bit obnoxious in the end. But after getting the full rundown on the program from him today it actually seemed like some good stuff that i'd be interested in taking a crack at, BUT ODD pressure-tactics to "buy now, or never" and a hidden fixed pricetag of $2,885--about double their competitor's cost--for the program to be paid in 21 installments over 2 years (at least $130-$288 of which they wanted on the spot) made this a no-go.
Not enough info upfront for those genuinely looking into this sort of thing who wouldn't have been scared away by a pricetag. Oh, and he wasn't an artist, just a seller. all the art staff is at the school's school up in minneapolis.
he said the school offered just as good a fundamental art education for potential illustrators as local art colleges such as ringling school or the ft. lauderdale art institute at a fraction of the cost, and after some more digging if i found it to be true (or even marginally true), and i think there's a chance it could be, i might've been interested in going with this one if it genuinely is 2 times better than its correspondence competitors. because buying art materials is easy, and there's droves of tutorials online, but navigating them all with discipline enough to elevate my art to commercial artist levels is proving challenging for me.
but the guy said that by the school's policy i can't sign up unless i've got the rep at my house, and he said that even if i requested him to come back and the school sent him the request, he wouldn't do it. now or never. so never, it looks like. (though never say "never," right?) nevermind the fact that he said on the phone it would be a free course and it wasn't. he got out quick once he realized i wasn't writing him a $130 buck check today.
ah well, at least it was a good excuse to clean up my art table and get my work in order a bit. and i do think i might try out some of the other correspondence options available now that i know about them, particularly kubert or famous artist's.
Last edited by Fawad; January 15th, 2006 at 03:56 PM.
I'm curious as to their "enrollment" now. Who are their recent famous alums?? I'm a little skeptical considering back in the day when Charles Schulz took their classes, that's all that was offered. Back then, I don't think they had Bachelors degrees in commercial art. I think in order to earn an art degree you had to go to a regular university in those days- there weren't any specialized art colleges like there are today. You quite frankly didn't have a choice. These schools seem more like trade schools of today than true BFA granting places.
well they've got some of their successful alumni listed on their website with links, but even those seem a bit dated in terms of when they studied with the school. like middle-aged people who took it in their teens for the most part.
when here he showed me the school's bi-annual magazine which had bits about more recent alumns and it looked good, though they weren't famous, they did seem capable and they were apparently working as professional commercial artists.
online i didn't find many hits by just typing their name into google, but their name plus "charles schultz" brought up a number of people with polished work currently on deviantart.com who listed art instruction schools courses among their previous studies.
I took some classes through them they give real good advise and critiques. I had a good experience with them though I would recommend going to an art college or take classes at a community college somewhere. Btw I learned alot through those courses.
Some m#therf@cker is always trying to iceskate uphill.
Funny thing while looking at the site,I am a student of one of the graduates and this guy kicks all kinds of drawing ass(samuels). But granted he also studied under burne hogarth and joe shepard among other schools.
Some m#therf@cker is always trying to iceskate uphill.
yeah, it's pricier than the other correspondence drawing courses, but the program seems to be good, particularly the couple samples of critiques he showed me drawn onto tracing paper over student's original art which are sent back to the student seemed to be good. what SUCKS is their psychotic scam-esque selling style. why do they do that? the guy all but told me that if i didn't buy in right then and there he'd never come back.
Last edited by Fawad; January 22nd, 2006 at 01:17 PM.
I can also see how this sort of program works. The one downside about any correspondence class is the interaction that you lack with other students. I learned so much from watching how other people did or didn't do things in my classes.Originally Posted by DpendletonI took some classes through them they give real good advise and critiques. I had a good experience with them though I would recommend going to an art college or take classes at a community college somewhere. Btw I learned alot through those courses.
Yeah thats why I just go to my art leaugue now,you get help right away and it is good to interact with other students.
Some m#therf@cker is always trying to iceskate uphill.
An Open Letter from Art Instruction Shcools
I found your conversation thread and wanted to apologize for any misgivings you may have been left with, after meeting with our enrollment representative. Our reps do travel a large area (in some cases, several states) and they usually call to set appointments a week or two ahead of when they plan to be in an area -- and, it may be some time before that rep can get back into that area. Unfortunately, what may come across as an all-or-none sales presentation, is usually just a rep trying to keep as many 90-minute appointments as possible, often with a long drive between.
We take great pride in presenting our story to aspiring artists all across the US and Canada. Each prospective student we call on has indicated some interest in becoming a better artist and we know how much effort it takes to complete even a simple sketch, or a perfected likeness of one of our famous "Draw Me" heads. It's that motivation to do good work and the confidence to learn by making mistakes that can turn a beginning artist into a professional. Like our commercial says, "Since 1914, we've helped thousands of aspiring artists become more skilled, more confident and more creative in their art." And it's true.
While only a few artists will ever become rock-star "famous," many Art Instruction Schools graduates live very happy and productive lives in their creative careers, throughout their entire lives. Many students use our accredited, 2-year, Fundamentals of Art course as a starting point and go on to specialize at other more expensive art schools, often getting up to 24 college credits toward advanced placement.
I would be happy to share a copy of our annual ILLUSTRATOR magazine with you. It's a showcase of our best students' best work and should give you a much better idea of the kind of success our students can acheive.
Please feel free to send an email request to me at
and thank you for your continued interest in Art Instruction Schools.