Friday, May 21, 2010

"How I Make a Picture" by Al Parker

For a long time, it frustrated me that I couldn't find much information about Al Parker, one of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century. I'd seen enough of his work on Today's Inspiration and 100 Years of Illustration that I had to know more about this man and his art. Fortunately, Mr. Parker, the "Dean of Illustrators" was also one of the faculty of the Famous Artists' Schools, so several of his works are used to illustrate concepts in the lessons. I was excited to learn that Mr. Parker even wrote many examples in the lessons himself.

But that wasn't enough. What I wanted was a book on Mr. Parker. Forget a book written by Mr. Parker himself - I knew that didn't exist.

Or did it? Actually, it did and still does - if you are lucky enough to have access to it. Fortunately, I work for a university, and through our library, I'm able to get pretty much any book available at a library or other university in the United States. That's how I was able to get my hands on "How I Make a Picture", the book that Mr. Parker wrote as a Master Course for the Famous Artists' School. The book exceeded my expectations - it's 189 pages written by the artist, and gives a complete, and I mean complete, lesson on, well, how he made pictures. Thank goodness for libraries; otherwise, you're looking at $225 to $850 for one of these babies, and they're certainly not easy to come by.

I'm now in heaven. Not only did Mr. Parker write this book, but just about every founding faculty member of the Famous Artists' School also wrote one by the same title. Imagine picking the brains of Norman Rockwell, Jon Whitcomb, Robert Fawcett, Stevan Dohanos, Austin Briggs, Harold von Schmidt, Fred Ludekens, John Atherton, Ben Stahl and Peter Helck. That's what these books are like. Man, I can't wait to read them all.


Leif Peng said...

Stephen; You may also be interested in picking up a copy of "Ephemeral Beauty" - the catalogue from last year's Al Parker show at the Norman Rockwell Museum:,1383,3.html

Its no a 'step-by-step' book, but it does have a ton of interesting biographical info as well as excellent analysis and appreciation pieces and many examples of some of Parker's best work.

tj said...


I purchased my copy of "How I Make a Picture" many years ago, and it seems it was a good investment!
Lesson 6 produced the artwork for the 2001 USPS stamp with Al Parker's art.

Tom Johnson

Jesse Marinoff Reyes said...

Did you scan your image from "How I Make a Picture," or did it come from another source? One of the contributors to the Today's Inspiration Facebook page (also moderated by Leif Peng) is trying to identify it for possible use in a book on Parker.

Stephen said...

Hi, Jesse. It came from "How I Make a Picture", at the end of Lesson 8. Here's hoping someone can identify where it came from!