To be considered an artist, must someone necessarily conceive of the subject of their artwork in their own mind, or is it acceptable for them to use a “blueprint” provided by another artist? Dan Robbins, the designer of “paint by number” art kits, would agree that individuals can indeed use patterns to assist them in art making and still be accepted as legitimate artists.
Dan Robbins designed paint by number, a product that allows people to paint pictures according to set patterns, in the 1950s. Max Klein, who was the president of the Palmer Paint Company, sought Robbins out as the designer of the yet-to-be discovered product that would later be known as paint by number. Robbins was admonished by Klein to conceive of and design a product that could help anyone become an artist.
Robbins looked to Leonardo da Vinci for inspiration in his endeavor to create a phenomenal art product. (This is because Da Vinci was known to supply his apprentices with “numbered patterns” on which to paint.) Robbins wondered why the same principle Da Vinci applied to his apprentices wouldn’t work for modern art enthusiasts and soon began developing paint by number kits.
Not long after paint by number was developed and marketed, kits began to sell in droves as Americans became addicted to the product that enabled them to make beautiful, intricate paintings. Robbins created even more kits and trained paint by number designers (Adam Grant was one such designer). Today, Dan Robbins’ art “has been displayed on more walls than that of any other artist.” To say that paint by number kits made Dan Robbins a success is an understatement.
Paint by number has been supplying art enthusiasts with art “blueprints,” so to speak, for decades. As a result, thousands of individuals having dormant artistic skills have blossomed into artists. This has made paint by number somewhat of an American legend, and has afforded many individuals cherished memories and increased artistic ability.
How much do you enjoy paint by number and Segmation? Whether you love crafting perfect paintings, creating great digital art, or have fond childhood memories of coloring inside the lines, your experience is unique. We want to hear your story in the comment section below. What does paint by number mean to you?
Coming Soon: Read Segmation’s exclusive article about William L. Bird, a historian and curator at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, where in 2001 he organized an exhibition on paint by numbers on which his book is based.
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