Friday, November 25, 2011

Camouflage Artist | Kimon Nicolaides

Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw

American artist and teacher Kimon Nicolaides (1891-1938) is best-known as the author of a famous drawing textbook, The Natural Way to Draw (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941). But he was also an American Army camoufleur during World War I.

From "Heard and Seen" in the Washington Times, February 17, 1919 (editorial page): "Sergt. Kimon Nicolaides, camoufleur, is here again. He is studying art."

Born in Washington DC, Nicolaides' father was a Greek-born importer of Oriental artifacts, while his mother's ancestors can be traced to the US Colonial period. As a young man, he earned money by framing pictures, writing newspaper articles, and playing the role of an art student as an extra in a film. He studied drawing at the Art Students League with George Bridgman and John Sloan.

When the US entered WWI, Nicolaides volunteered for the American Camouflage Corps. He served in France for over a year, for which he received a citation. One of his wartime duties required the study of geographical contour maps, an experience that may have influenced his use of 'contour drawing' as Exercise One later in his drawing book. He died before the book came out. Its completion and publication were overseen by a devoted former student, Mamie Harmon, whose papers are in the Archives of American Art.