As it celebrates 100 years, Walter Foster offers a publishing success story for the ages. Its very first instructional manual, How to Draw by Walter T. Foster, has never been out of print and has sold more than three million copies in 23 languages. It also launched a spinoff series of titles and an ever-growing publishing juggernaut of instructional art books and craft kits that have inspired and delighted generations of kids and adults alike.
For Anne Landa, group publisher at the Quarto Group, the enduring appeal of the imprint’s signature title can be attributed to the book’s reader-friendly design—which features simple step-by-step lessons that speak to beginners— as well as the emotional connection readers have to the Walter Foster brand. “We hear repeatedly from our readers, ‘I grew up with Walter Foster books’ or ‘My mother was an artist and had Walter Foster books,’” she says. “People see the large format book and immediately connect it to a moment in time where they enjoyed learning an art technique or discovering an innate artistic talent.”
Today, original, retro-cool copies of How to Draw have even become antique shop and eBay collectibles. All the while, Walter Foster has continued to expand— from beginner’s titles to practical fine art instruction and contemporary arts-and-crafts books—and thrive as part of the Quarto Group. Along the way, there have been plenty of milestones, such as the launch of the kid-focused Walter Foster Jr. imprint; the line’s first big Amazon bestseller, Creative Lettering & Beyond; and an innovative licensing deal that began with Disney in
the late 1990s. “At the time, it was a revolutionary idea,” Landa says. “Nobody was licensing content in the drawing space.”Now aspiring artists can still find How to Draw books featuring classic characters from Disney movies as well as Marvel, Star Wars, and most recently beloved painter Bob Ross.
As popular as its drawing instruction books are, there’s another evergreen category at Walter Foster: craft books and kits, with the imprint recently launching a new line of titles in the needlecraft space. “With so many people working from home, hobbies like embroidery, knitting, crocheting, crossstitching, and push-needle crafts have become more popular,” Landa says. “We saw some of our biggest sales in the early days of the pandemic. Without anywhere to go, people seemed to grow tired of only getting content online and they returned to books. It was like an opportunity to reset themselves and remember the joys associated with holding a physical book filled with beautiful photographs, to learn a new skill, and to create they had made with their own hands.” That said, the publisher recently launched a new website featuring free step-by-step video tutorials and downloadable projects with expert advice from Walter Foster authors, as well as information on all their books and popular series, such as ABC for Me, Art Makers, Artist’s Studio, and Creative & Beyond.
As it marks 100 years, Walter Foster is also taking time to celebrate its authors and add to its prestigious roster. “We wanted to give previously unpublished artists of all disciplines the opportunity to win a book deal,” Landa says. “We invited artists from a range of creative backgrounds to enter our contest, and, by extension, an opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with beginning and aspiring artists from around the globe.” When asked about the future of Walter Foster, Landa emphasizes the imprint’s continued commitment to supporting the creative arts-and-crafts community. “Our heritage is built upon a solid foundation that combines clear step-by-step instruction with inspirational and aspirational projects,” she says. “Our content ranges from the timeless and evergreen to
the trend-driven and innovative.” She adds that the imprint plans to expand its channels by generating more online visibility, connecting specialist audiences with exciting new titles.
And the latest technology will play a role as well. New titles are set to be published with QR codes that link to video tutorials. “We are thinking about ways we could get involved in NFT art to further our authors’ platforms,” Landa says. “Our passion, creativity, quality, and drive have never been stronger, and we are excited for the next 100.”