When I was a grade-schooler in the early 1970s, there was a popular series of “how to draw” books for young children, by some guy whose name starts with an E. Now it could be his first name starts with E, or it could be his last name, so watch out. And I’m about 80% certain the author is a man, not a woman.
It’s driving me crazy though, trying to remember him now. I’m sure you won’t mind dropping everything you’re doing and helping me out here.
The books showed you how to draw all sorts of things — garbage trucks, ocean liners, washing machines, the Eiffel Tower, the flag of Canada — in a step-by-step procedure using simple geometric shapes. A bit reminiscent of the instructions that come with small Lego sets, only cartoonish and two-dimensional. Each book in the series would demonstrate dozens and dozens of such objects using this progressive copy-me technique. So you draw these line segments here, now draw a semi-circle here, now put two right triangles there and there. Shazam, you just drew yourself a convincing little ocean liner, young lady. Young man, sorry. Now go show Daddy.
The books tended to be pretty thin, but wide, and they opened up flat onto the table or floor where you were drawing. The lines and curves were meant to be drawn with pen or pencil, and the various object parts colored using the medium of your choice: crayon, magic marker, pig’s blood, what have you. The books themselves used only simple primary colors, and as I recall, the object outlines and their colored interior parts were often misaligned. Such was the state of publishing in the 1970s.
If you’re not familiar with this book series, it might sound offhand like it would tend to stifle a child’s creativity. You’re not drawing your own race car, you’re drawing Mr. Whatsisname’s canonical version of a race car, already thought out beforehand. But I think the intent was for your creativity to work at a higher level. You decide what sort of scene you want, what objects you want in it and where, and the book helps you render your drawing so that other people will recognize what the hell is going on.
I hope this is enough description to go on. It’s probably just enough to provoke the same half-forgotten memories in other people my age, who won’t remember the guy’s name either. But I have to try.
Color me hopeful.