25 February 2018

How To Draw By E.G. Lutz: The Man Who Enabled Disney

Earlier tonight, at Powell's during Book Church, I stumbled on a couple of books by a man whose work was instrumental in giving us Disney via the public library.

Edwin George Lutz was a commercial artist and illustrator who authored several books on art and how to draw between 1913 and 1933. In 1913, the first of his books, What To Draw And How To Draw It, taught common-sense ways to render birds, houses, animals, people, and expressions in simple, cartoonish style. His 1921 work, Drawing Made Easy, showed the learner how to draw more realistic images of people and animals.

Latterly, facsimile editions of those books were produced by (respectively) LomArt and North Light Books and look like this:

The illustrations are charming, whimsical and very straightforward, clearly showing how, by breaking down natural shapes into shapes the beginner could draw, more complex forms could be built. This is a common concept that the beginning artist is introduced to; the genius of Lutz was his warm, accessable style.

The connection to Disney comes from a book published in 1920, Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origin and Development. This particular volume passed into the hands of one Walt Disney, who was at the time making his living in the commercial art trade in Kansas City during the 1920s, under the aegis of the Kansas City Public Library. Legend has it that Disney learned his animation technique from this very book.

The result is a lesson in two things: that the chancest exposure to literature can lead to absolute wonder (what if Walt hadn't seen the book?), and the importance a public library can have in self-education at large (what if KC had an inadequate (or no) public library).

If you love Disney, thank the E.G. Lutz ... and the public library.

This article at Print magazine's website has more information on the Lutz/KC Public Library/Disney connection. 

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