Get Wealthy - Be an Artist!

Really old Popular Mechanics magazines contain at least one great laugh per page. This one's from 1940. I scanned the whole page, partly because grayscale images are storage-cheap and partly because all the ads on the page reange from quaint to really funny. Today, we're here to laugh at the idea that becoming an artist is the easy road to the good life.

Washington School of Art: "stART drawing big money!" You see what they did there? They realized that the word "start" has the letters that, carefully rearranged, will spell "art". That's not very ridiculous, just corny, and back in 1940, all humor was corny. If they had invented irony or sarcasm at that time, I don't think they were out of the prototype stage on either one. Because I'm weird, I listen to old radio programs on my iPod, and trust me: all humor before, say 1960, was pun-based.

No, the really hilarious and/or amazing thing here is the idea that during hard times (WWII was already yanking and cranking, although the U.S. had yet to join the party), becoming an artist was a genius career move. In 2009, this is laughable. I'm an artist, and yes, I have a good job - for an art job. I have an office to go to and a health plan and a cafeteria and everything. For an art job these are amazingly cushy perks. But if I were a business major with eighteen years in the workplace, I'd stand a pretty good chance of having a small army or worker bees bowing and scraping to me and perhaps my own hovercraft with it's own helipad on board, and my own subterranean lair to park it in.
I suppose that in 1940 it was different. For reasons not yet clear to me, there were a lot more illustrations in magazines. This is, of course, partly due to the fact that Photoshop was still a thing that science fiction writers would pants you for suggesting may one day be ubiquitous. Also, painted ads were way more common then. For some reason, they didn't use photographs by default. A beauty shot in a magazine was pretty likely to be a painting rather than a photo. I imagine that, at the time, it was cheaper to pay a guy to paint the thing rather than stage a photo shoot, hire models, and hope the weather cooperates.

Still, has there ever been a time when commercial artists were envied for their piles of cash and freewheeling lifestyle? My coolest job ever, bay far, was at StarToons; a cartoon studio in Chicago that did a lot of work for Warner Bros TV. Some of my friends are bloggers, like this guy, this guy, this guy, and this guy. We're all getting by, but we're not stinking with richness.

The very idea that you can "teach" someone to be an artist is laughable to me. It's easier now, becuase schools can promise parents that they will teach their kid 3DSMax, Photoshop, Painter, Illustrator, Flash, Maya, and whatever software, but they can't promise that their kid will "get it". I see portfolios wll the time from kids just out of college, wanting to be artists, that do know their way around a program, but are still terrible, terrible artists that can do nothing decent with their knowledge because their basic art skills are completely undeveloped. "You poor fool" I think to myself. "You're wasted four years and many thousands of dollars, and nobody will hire you while you do horrible work like this". In 1940, all there were were basic art skills, so to promise someone that you could teach them to be an artist is, to my mind, dishonest, because I think you can't teach just anybody to "get it". There needs to be potential there to start with.

We do get to draw naked ladies, though. Even drawing a naked lady very badly is better than studying finance.


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