Ob­serv­ing the masters

Stu­dents learn first­hand with stu­dio tour



— There’s a lot to take in at Frank E. Schoonover Stu­dios.

A bust of Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln, a pair of worn snow shoes, a rail­road lantern and sev­eral used paint pal­ettes can be found — and


that’s just by the fire­place.

Then there are the books, stacked on shelves against ev­ery wall, some be­hind pro­tec­tive glass, most still un­der the orig­i­nal dust jacket, all con­tain­ing eye-catch­ing art­work of cow­boys, pi­rates, fairy­tale char­ac­ters or even Mar­tian princesses.

So, when about 20 stu­dents from Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle School vis­ited with art

teacher Carol Mangano for a tour on Mon­day, there were lots of places to find in­spi­ra­tion when Mangano told stu­dents to bring out their sketch­books or cam­eras.

An artist her­self, Mangano is a firm be­liever in re­search­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a scene be­fore putting it to pa­per. An au­then­tic scene is one that comes from an in­formed artist, Mangano said.

“Artists need to go there,” she ex­plained.

Opened in 1906, Schoonover Stu­dios was once used by the stu­dents of il­lus­tra­tor Howard Pyle, in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal ten­ants Frank Schoonover, N.C. Wyeth, Har­vey Dunn and Clif­ford Ash­ley. The works of the artists in­volved in the Brandy­wine School ap­peared in the pop­u­lar ad­ven­ture nov­els and mag­a­zines of the time. It was Schoonover who cre­ated the ap­pear­ance of fic­tional cow­boy Hopa­long Cas­sidy and explorer John Carter of Mars.

It was Pyle who founded the Brandy­wine School — which refers to both a style of illustration and an artists colony in Wilm­ing­ton and in Chadds Ford, Pa., near the Brandy­wine River — at the end of the 19th cen­tury. Also dur­ing the Mon­day field trip, stu­dents walked to the stu­dio of Howard Pyle, just a cou­ple blocks away from Schoonover Stu­dios. Join­ing Mangano in lead­ing the tour was John Schoonover, grand­son of the il­lus­tra­tor.

The visit came a year af­ter Schoonover dropped in on a Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle field trip to the Delaware Art Mu­seum. While there look- ing at the mu­seum’s Amer­i­can illustration col­lec­tion, Schoonover shared sto­ries of his grand­fa­ther while point­ing to his work hang­ing on the wall.

The mu­seum is home to such Schoonover il­lus­tra­tions as “Mac­beth” — com­pleted for the 1918 book “Tales of Shakespeare” — and “Hans Brinker” — com­pleted for the epony­mous 1924 book.

Help­ing Schoonover’s grand­fa­ther cre­ate these scenes were props, like stuffed birds and an­tique ri­fles, which are still in Schoonover Stu­dio. On Mon­day, Schoonover pulled down books and ob­jects to show stu­dents where his grand­fa­ther got in­spi­ra­tion.

For many stu­dents, this was their first time in­side a real artist stu­dio.

“This is the real thing,” Schoonover said, re­mark­ing how lit­tle the place had changed. “The only thing we don’t do is have fires in the fire­place.”

The younger Schoonover is now owner of Schoonover Stu­dios. He also works in art col­lect­ing and fram­ing. Although he did not be­come an artist him­self, Schoonover can share this per­sonal art his­tory.

“Their whole life was art,” he told one stu­dent while talk­ing about the Brandy­wine School pain­ters, not­ing the Wyeth fam­ily has sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of artists.

He en­cour­aged stu­dents to keep at their art ev­ery day if they too were se­ri­ous about it. Schoonover said he hopes stu­dents walk away hav­ing seen some­thing they didn’t know about be­fore. When asked how of­ten stu­dents or young artists visit the stu- dio, he replied, “Not of­ten enough.”

“It’d be won­der­ful to have more young adults come in and really ex­pe­ri­ence the world of illustration,” he said.

While it may look dif­fer­ent, he pointed out there is a con­nec­tion between the early style of illustration and to­day’s comic books.

Due to sched­ul­ing con­flicts, this is the first time in sev­eral years Mangano has taken her stu­dents to Schoonover Stu­dios. Rather than go to Bal­ti­more or Philadel­phia, the trips are close enough to keep costs down and al­low stu­dents to re­turn on their own, Mangano said. At the end of May, her stu­dents will par­tic­i­pate in an art show at the Delaware Art Mu­seum. In the fall, she will of­fer a trip to Long­wood Gar­dens in Ken­nett Square, Pa.

How­ever, when Mangano can­not lit­er­ally take her stu­dents to an artis­tic scene, she does so fig­u­ra­tively. On a re­cent va­ca­tion to Colo­nial Wil­liams­burg, Va., Mangano took pho­tos that she later showed to stu­dents in hopes of in­spir­ing pos­si­ble still lifes. She will also recre­ate scenes in her art classes — ar­rang­ing quilts, tea cups or vases for stu­dents to sketch — and en­cour­age them to look to their own be­long­ings for in­spi­ra­tion.

Some of her stu­dents are able to skip into an ad­vanced art class once they are in high school. Those who at­tended the trip Mon­day were in sev­enth and eighth grades.

While Mol­loy Fop­pi­ano, an eighth-grader, said she has a strong in­ter­est in math and science, she said she is also drawn to pho­tog­ra­phy and film­mak­ing. She spent Mon­day’s trip tak­ing pho­tos around Schoonover Stu­dios.

“There’s an­other part of me that wants to go into di­rect­ing,” she said.

Stu­dents on the trip shared an in­ter­est in art. Maddy Ste­wart, an­other eighth­grader, said her older sis­ter sparked her in­ter­est in art. She said she’s es­pe­cially drawn to oil paint­ing be­cause of the way the paint­ings re­flect the light.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to try it,” she said.

Ste­wart and other stu­dents walked away feel­ing a lit­tle daunted af­ter learn­ing the im­pres­sive his­tory and ded­i­ca­tion of the lo­cal artists — but also en­cour­aged to keep at their art.

“Even if you don’t think you’re good, you should still pur­sue it any­way,” she said.


John Schoonover, grand­son of Amer­i­can il­lus­tra­tor Frank E. Schoonover, talks with Carol Mangano’s Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle School art stu­dents in­side his late grand­fa­ther’s stu­dio.


A col­lec­tion of ad­ven­ture sto­ries with il­lus­tra­tions from Amer­i­can il­lus­tra­tor Frank E. Schoonover sit in­side Schoonover Stu­dios.


An­tiques and copies of il­lus­tra­tions sit on dis­play at Schoonover Stu­dios.

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