This commission was the first Lack received of a prominent Twin Cities businessman. While not documented, it is believed Lack’s execution of the Kennedy portrait provided credibility to his acumen as a portrait painter. In all, Lack painted over 70 prominent civic and business leaders.
After returning to Minneapolis, Lack was looking for employment while he developed a career as a painter. Several friends of his from the Minneapolis School of Art were working at Art Instruction Schools (AIS)sup>1, a home instruction program offered through the mail by The Bureau of Engraving. AIS’ most famous instructor was Charles Schulz, who developed and then syndicated the Peanuts comic strip.sup>2 Lack began working at AIS in 1957. While employed at AIS Lack was commissioned to paint Mr. Buckbee’s portrait.sup>3 Lack’s employment at AIS provided an income while he built his career as a painter.
John C. Buckbee II joined his father, John C. Buckbee I, (b.1849-d.1921) who founded the Bureau of Engraving in 1911. Buckbee II’s first position was Secretary of the firm and later General Manager in 1918, followed by his promotion to President in 1928. He stepped down as President in 1960 when he took the position of Chairman of the Board, with his son, John Colgate Buckbee III named Presiding Officer.sup>4
1 http://www.thebureau.com/company/history: “The Bureau of Engraving, Inc. continued to expand its services and in 1914, they started the Art Instruction Schools to help with the lack of trained illustrators for a growing printing and advertising market.”
2 Patrick Stuart, COO, Art Instruction Schools, Our History. Art Instruction, Inc. was known to many aspiring artists as the Draw Me! School, because of the familiar “Talent Test” advertising campaigns seen in magazine ads, matchbook covers with Spunky the Donkey, TV commercials and online promotions with the “Draw Me!” ad copy.
Two of the school’s instructors were cartoonist Mort Walker and Minneapolis native Charles M. Schulz (later of Peanuts fame). When Schulz was in high school, his mother saw an ad for the Art Instruction, Inc. talent test that asked, “Do you like to draw?” Schulz took the $170 course, a huge sum during the Depression, while his father labored to make the payments. After World War II, Schulz worked on Catholic comic magazines and then signed on as an instructor with Art Instruction, Inc. He was still employed there when he began sketching the characters that later were developed into Peanuts. Several of the Peanuts characters, including Charlie Brown, Linus, Frieda and “the little red-haired girl” were based on Schulz’ co-workers and friends at Art Instruction.
Other famed alumni include the illustrator John Clymer, comic strip artist Morrie Turner (Wee Pals) and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson. The school later capitalized on Clymer’s fame with a textbook titled The Technique of J. Clymer.
3 Katherine Lack interview, 2010. Lack was employed as an instructor at AIS 1957-65.
4 John Colgate Buckbee, Genealogy, Alexander York, Minneapolis, MN. pp. 131-132