Thursday, September 01, 2011

ART: The Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge Series of Booklets

From 1968, here's the ART booklet, in its entirety. It's one of The Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge Series of Booklets, designed to, of course, assist the young Scouts' earn their Badge. Above is the cover. Hey, we used to have a whole set of those Collier's encyclopedias in our house too!

This is a handy guide, full of information, and boy oh boy, did it make me angry!

Now, looky there. It was reprinted in 1998. Hoo boy. Why did they keep that 1968 boy on the cover? That kid would have been pushing 40 by the time this was reprinted. Also: no mention of the mere existence of the Web, the Internet, that series of tubes or whatever, y'know? Even by 1998, that's a pretty big omission. (The BSA site, according to the Wayback Machine, would not even be up until 2000.)

Oh, and there's a typo on the page above, left hand side. Hoo boy.

This is where I started to get just a wee bit steamed. This 2 page spread which opens the official BSA ART pamphlet asks "What Is Art?"

Two pages devoted to defining what this book is about.

And the answer is ...

Even though "the question has occupied the thoughts of philosophers ever since man began to think" the Scouts "will not give an answer in this pamphlet." OK, that's a cop out.

And here's a comic strip drawn by ... well, we don't know WHO drew it. Having your art published without a credit is a "clear story of frustration and disappointment," isn't it? Maybe there will be a credit at the end of this publication.Crossing fingers and toes ....

Scouts revere Rockwell. He may have been one of "America's greatest artists" (we cannot say for sure since there is no answer to "what is art?"), but it should be pointed out that he was foremost a commercial artist who painted that nice scoutmaster for money. The above painting was used for a scoutmaster handbook cover for years.

There is good advice here: show your story, don't tell it.

The uncredited drawing of that chiaroscuro scout and the black blob that's supposed to be a tent disturbs me.

OK, I'll try not to interrupt. 

Can anyone make out the signature above? I'm lost.

Above: even more Rockwell.

Above right: some great spot illustrations.

And this is what REALLY peeves me: no credit at all for the cartoon strip, the spot illustrations or anything other than the photos. The photos get credit in the book about art -- but the artists (except Rockwell) get no recognition.

My thanks to Stephanie Piro for pointing the book out to me at a library sale!


Smurfswacker said...

The Indian drawing is by Tom Scheuer. He's the ex-comic book and advertising artist who as Tom Sawyer became a big time TV writer and producer (most notably "Murder, She Wrote").

Mike Lynch said...

Thank you, Smurfswacker! It sure looked like a Gold Key-style pro comic book artist drawing. Damn shame the BSA powers-that-be did not give Tom Scheuer (or any other artists aside from Norman F.) any due credit.

Mike said...

Odd that their visual storytelling example was that uncredited but also not terribly dynamic piece when Boys Life featured some pretty good visual storytelling with "Scouts in Action" and, on another level, PeeWee Harris.

Also kind of wonder about the offer on the back that suggests Scouts can subscribe to Boys' Life for half the regular price. Is that half the regular price that all those people pay who aren't Scouts but who subscribe to Boys Life anyway? Who are they???

Mike Lynch said...

Mike, I agree that it's odd that the BSA did not use Creig Flessel, Orlando Busino or one of the many great cartoonists featured in their flagship mag.

I remember back in 2005 or 2006, WSJ did a big campaign using cartoons to promote its redesign. WSJ DID NOT use any of the many cartoonists who have appeared in the "Pepper... and Salt" single panel.

I think the reason for this is the wide divide between editorial and promotion.