Charles Schulz Draws Charlie Brown in 45 Seconds and Exorcises His Demons

Would that we had a dime for every car­toon­ist whose course was chart­ed hap­pi­ly copy­ing Charles Schulz’s sem­i­nal strip, Peanuts, while oth­er, more ath­let­ic chil­dren played togeth­er in the fresh air and sun­shine.

Such admis­sions pro­lif­er­ate in inter­views and blog posts. They’re near­ly as numer­ous as the online tuto­ri­als on draw­ing such beloved Peanuts char­ac­ters as Wood­stock, Linus Van Pelt, and Schulz’ sad sack stand-in Char­lie Brown.

The short video above melds the edu­ca­tion­al ease of a YouTube how-to with the self-direct­ed, per­haps more artis­ti­cal­ly pure aspects of the pre-dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence, as Charles Schulz him­self pen­cils Char­lie Brown seat­ed at Schroeder’s toy piano in well under a minute.

You’ll have to watch close­ly if you want to pick up Sparky’s step-by-step tech­nique. There are no geo­met­ric point­ers, only a spir­i­tu­al dis­clo­sure that “poor old Char­lie Brown” was a scape­goat whose suf­fer­ing was com­men­su­rate with that of his cre­ator.

His voiceover down­grades the psy­chic pain to the lev­el of lost golf and bridge games, but as car­toon­ist and for­mer Peanuts copy­ist Bill Wat­ter­son, cre­ator of Calvin and Hobbes, point­ed out in a 2007 review of David Michaelis’ Schulz biog­ra­phy, Schulz’s unhap­pi­ness was deep seat­ed:

Schulz always held his par­ents in high regard, but they were emo­tion­al­ly remote and strange­ly inat­ten­tive to their only child. Schulz was shy and alien­at­ed dur­ing his school years, retreat­ing from near­ly every oppor­tu­ni­ty to reveal him­self or his gifts. Teach­ers and stu­dents con­se­quent­ly ignored him, and Schulz nursed a life­long grudge that so few attempt­ed to draw him out or rec­og­nized his tal­ent…

Once he final­ly achieved his child­hood dream of draw­ing a com­ic strip, how­ev­er, he was able to expose and con­front his inner tor­ments through his cre­ative work, mak­ing inse­cu­ri­ty, fail­ure and rejec­tion the cen­tral themes of his humor. Know­ing that his mis­eries fueled his work, he resist­ed help or change, appar­ent­ly pre­fer­ring pro­fes­sion­al suc­cess over per­son­al hap­pi­ness. Des­per­ate­ly lone­ly and sad through­out his life, he saw him­self as “a noth­ing,” yet he was also con­vinced that his artis­tic abil­i­ty made him spe­cial.

Good grief. I have a hunch none of this found its way into the life­long workaholic’s own guide to draw­ing Peanuts char­ac­ters. It’s not a secret, how­ev­er, that a dark side often comes with the ter­ri­to­ry as a slew of recent auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal graph­ic nov­els from those drawn to the pro­fes­sion will attest.

Via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the First Ani­ma­tions of Peanuts: Com­mer­cials for the Ford Motor Com­pa­ny (1959–1961)

The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb: A Por­trait Script­ed by the Under­ground Comics Leg­end Him­self (1987)

New York­er Car­toon Edi­tor Bob Mankoff Reveals the Secret of a Suc­cess­ful New York­er Car­toon

23 Car­toon­ists Unite to Demand Action to Reduce Gun Vio­lence: Watch the Result

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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  • jan says:

    Who do we hear nar­rat­ing at the end of the clip? Is that Mor­ley Safer?

  • John Howard says:

    What always puzzles/fascinates me is how car­toon­ists jump around doing bits and pieces of what they are draw­ing. A part of this, a part of that, some more over here, now over there. It all seems so ran­dom.

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