This brief story takes place in the mid-1950s. A girl, age 10 or 11, whose mother teaches piano, gets a huge crush on her mother’s beautiful thirteen-year-old student. While waiting for her piano lesson, the older girl entertains her young admirer by drawing wonderful cartoon “pin-ups” of nude women. To make these mesmerizing sketches of the female form, the teenager employs tools from her “Speedball Artist Set No. 5,” which comes in a compact 3.5″ x 7″ red, white and blue cardboard box, with lid copy that reads, in part, “Pocket Size for Students and Professional Artists.” Noting all this, our clever younger heroine also falls in love with the lettering and sketching kit. She arranges to get an identical one for her birthday only days later. (Click images to enlarge them.)
The Speedball kit includes a folded 6″ x 4″ four page Principles of Pen Drawing brochure jammed-packed with useful information for the beginner or the professional artist. So one can easily understand why, aside from the array of intriguing pen holders and pen points —not to mention the shapely female form of the small bottle of waterproof black India ink — the young girl finds it all just too, too attractive to resist.
For easier reading, I’ve retyped the drawing tips.
Figure A — Here is an unusually interesting sky technique which distinguishes the artist’s work. The drifting lines and absence of harsh cloud outlines gives a true feeling of atmospheric perspective. Hunt 104 and 102 pens were used.
Figure B — Here the artist demonstrates his knowledge of line, freely conceived, bold and open. Study of this example of bold outline can teach us to realize, as each line is crisply drawn, what its precise value in the total finished pen drawing will be. Hunt 102 and 108 pens were used.
Figure C — Cross-Hatching. Note how sparingly cross-hatching is used. In its application texture and tonal values produce the shape and feel of canvas. The highlights and direction and length of the single lines should be carefully studied to get the relaxed portion of the sails. This is a good demonstration of the quality of line, its combination, or contrasting of line values, and directions as serving the additional function of expressing texture and color. Hunt 102, 107, and 108 pens were used.
Figure D — The Structure of Background. The simplified vertical lines with a minimum of cross-hatching which characterizes the background. The mast itself is treated with strong cross-hatching which moves it forward in proper relation to the background. Hunt 102 and 107 pens were used.
Figure E — Modeling and strong highlights dominate this portion of our study. Note the highlighting of the ropes and the curving side of the barkatine, the heavy blacks in the deep shadows at ship’s bottom. Hunt 102 and 108 pens were used.
Figure F — Here we have an effective combination of stipple both light and heavy, with corresponding undefined and decisive lines to give us the feeling of ground around the wharf. Hunt 102, 107, and 108 pens were used. (Copy writer Earl Horter was an illustrator/painter 1881-1940.)
The young girl, sad to say, eventually gives up trying to master hand lettering — she now says that practicing the strokes proved to be just too, too boring. However, she loves the feel of the crowquill drawing pens from the kit and, with time, becomes skilled at sketching natural scenes in pen and ink. (And, happily for me, she gives up her girly crushes and substitutes boy crushes instead.)