17 Minutes of Charles Schulz Drawing Peanuts

Any­one can learn to draw the cast of Peanuts, but few can do it every day for near­ly half a cen­tu­ry. The lat­ter, as far as we know, amounts to a group of one: Charles Schulz, who not only cre­at­ed that world-famous com­ic strip but drew it sin­gle-hand­ed through­out its entire run. He was, as a nine­teen-six­ties CBS pro­file put it, “a one-man pro­duc­tion team: writer, humorist, social crit­ic.” That clip opens the video above, which com­piles footage of Schulz draw­ing Peanuts while mak­ing obser­va­tions on the nature of his craft. “When you draw a com­ic strip, if you’re going to wait for inspi­ra­tion, you’ll nev­er make it,” he says. “You have to become pro­fes­sion­al enough at this so that you can almost delib­er­ate­ly set down an idea at will.”

Schulz’s ded­i­ca­tion to his work may have been an inborn trait, but he did­n’t find his way to that work only through his par­tic­u­lar abil­i­ties. His par­tic­u­lar inabil­i­ties also played their part: “I stud­ied art in a cor­re­spon­dence course, because I was afraid to go to art school,” he says in a lat­er BBC seg­ment.

“I could­n’t see myself sit­ting in a room where every­one else in the room could draw much bet­ter than I.” With bet­ter writ­ing skills, “per­haps I would have tried to become a nov­el­ist, and I might have become a fail­ure.” With bet­ter draw­ing skills, “I might have tried to become an illus­tra­tor or an artist. I would’ve failed there. But my entire being seems to be just right for being a car­toon­ist.”

In draw­ing, he also found a medi­um of thought. “The real­ly prac­ti­cal way of get­ting an idea, when you have noth­ing real­ly to draw, is just tak­ing a blank piece of paper and maybe draw­ing one of the char­ac­ters in a famil­iar pose, like Snoopy sleep­ing on top of the dog­house,” he says. Then, you might nat­u­ral­ly “imag­ine what would hap­pen if, say, it began to snow. And so you’d doo­dle in a few snowflakes, some­thing like that. Per­haps you would be led to won­der what would hap­pen if it snowed very hard, and the snow cov­ered him up com­plete­ly.” If you con­tin­ue on to draw, say, Snoopy­’s loy­al friend Wood­stock being sim­i­lar­ly snowed in, you’re well on your way to a com­plete strip. Now do it 17,897 times, and maybe you’ll qual­i­fy for Schulz’s league.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

Hayao Miyazaki’s Sketch­es Show­ing How to Draw Char­ac­ters Run­ning: From 1980 Edi­tion of Ani­ma­tion Mag­a­zine

Umber­to Eco Explains the Poet­ic Pow­er of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts

Hergé Draws Tintin in Vin­tage Footage (and What Explains the Character’s Endur­ing Appeal)

Car­toon­ists Draw Their Famous Car­toon Char­ac­ters While Blind­fold­ed (1947)

The Endur­ing Appeal of Schulz’s Peanuts — Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast #116

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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