Drawing Uncle Sam (circa 1940)


I collect old cartoon books from as far back as the 1930′s. One of my favorite cartoonist is an artist named Vaughn Shoemaker…he actually won 2 pulitzer prices for cartoons he drew!  (That’s HUGE  if you think about it…who says cartoons are just silly little pictures kids draw!)

Today I am drawing one of Vaughn Shoemaker’s pictures from the year 1940.  It’s of good ole Uncle Sam.  He was made up to represent America and our government.  In this picture  he looks determined and scrappy.  I like that look!  Here is the picture….it’s from a book called, ’41 and ’42 A.D. (cartoons he did during World War 2)…

This artist’s pen was more powerful than any gun or weapon at a time when a world war was getting ready to happen!  If you want to see a cool short video from you tube about Vaughn Shoemaker click here.  I liked it alot and you will see what this cartoonist was really like when you watch it.

My drawing is going to be a big picture.  I will draw with a fun pencil called a china marker that looks like a black crayon (Wal Mart usually has them pretty cheap) .  You can do some good shading with it….but you can’t erase the lines once you put them down!  So, I look at the picture in my book and look for the biggest shapes to draw first and lightly sketch them down on the paper…things like, the shape for the head and the body, etc.   Then I begin to decide where different parts and features of uncle sam will go and lightly sketch those down…I’m going pretty fast…this is like making a map so that I know where to go with my picture I.  I need to know the way to get there…and my sketch will help me…

I’ve decided to draw the head first.  From this point on, I will draw dark lines…so I start with the nose…ready or not, here I go….

Pretty scrappy looking dude!

Then I draw the body….I look at my book picture continually grabbing little pieces of the drawing in my mind, then turn to my drawing and just put down that little bit that I remember.  I do this over and over….I constantly compare what I am drawing to how the book picture looks….that’s really important!

Last, I’m going to do his vest that has the white stars on it…so I sketch out where the stars go and darken around them….I like drawing those dark areas really fast….and I make all of my scribble lines go the same diagonal direction (it makes it look unified).

Look how different it makes the whole drawing!  Uncle Sam really comes to life!  Drawing some dark shapes in your drawings can really take your drawing to the next level…but don’t do EVERYTHING dark…leave some shapes in your drawing white and others gray.  That will give your drawing variety and make it more interesting for others to look at.

And to let you see how big the finished drawing is, I took a picture of me standing beside it…I love drawing big!

oops, I forgot to smile…

Now I stand at a distance from the drawing and look at it with my “artist’s eye”… I realized that I have not drawn a couple of things on Uncle Sam the right size.  Wowy!  So I took the photo of the finished drawing into a program on the computer and fixed it.  See if you can tell what I changed below…

There we go!  The drawing took about 20 minutes and I had a great time!

If you can find some big sheets of paper that your mom and dad will let you draw on….or ask the butcher at your grocery store for a big piece of his white paper, you could try a big picture too!  Find a picture you like from a book or magazine or something and see if you can draw it big like I did!  You might even want to put on some fun music when you try it (not too loud!)….have a great time and leave a comment telling me what you tried to draw!  I’d love to know!

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