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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Drawing Lesson by Jon Gnagy - Snow Scene


Just what we need - a snow scene to cool us off from this summer heat.  I took a break today from my laundry and was snooping around the web for information on Children's book illustrators when I came across this video of Jon Gnagy.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I used to sit in front of the television and watch him draw - mesmerized by his perfection and ease of hand.  "I want to do that!" I'd yell to my Mother "Mommy! I want to draw like that!" 

Jon Gnagy Introduction

He was the first person ever to teach art on television back in the 40s and 50s.  By the time I rolled around and discovered him, I think we were watching re-runs.  Still, he was amazing and he still is.  After discovering this video on YouTube - My goodness you can find anything can't you? - my son Matthew sat beside me on the sofa and was just as mesmerized as I used to be when I was a child.  You can't help but want to pick up a pencil or a piece of charcoal and draw like Jon Gnagy.  

Jon Gnagy was a mid-westerner and although he was mostly a self-taught artist, he did attend classes at the Kansas City Art Institute when he was a young man.  Did you know that Andy Warhol claims he even learned to draw from Jon Gnagy - at least that is what he says.

Jon Gnagy Draws A Seaport Village

Jon made everything look so simple and his lines were always perfect.  How did he do that?  And so fast too!  A self-taught artist, Jon Gnagy was an art director for an advertising agency in New York before entertaining the masses blessed enough to have a television back in 1946.  That was the year my parents got married.  His show was called "You Are An Artist" and was broadcast on NBC-TV.  For some reason, he switched to CBS-TV in 1950. They probably made him an offer he couldn't refuse, but that doesn't make sense either, because from what I understand he didn't make a dime from the 700+ telecasts he created over a period of 14 years at CBS and NBC.  He did, however, create an art set called "The Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw Outfit" and earned royalties from every sale - including one that my mother purchased for me in the 1960s.  (Would you believe I googled "Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw Outfit" and I actually found it on Amazon.com!  What's even more amazing is that they have both of his art sets and you can still buy them!  I might just get this for my little ones)


I still remember it.  The kit had black, white, and gray pastels and charcoal.  The gray pastels were for the mid-tone shadows.  It was all so grown up for me back then.  I don't recall that I really understood how to use everything he had in his kit, but I liked to pretend I did and when his show came on the television, I would pull out my Jon Gnagy art kit and plain paper and draw my heart out.  I drew so much in fact that I would take my drawings to my neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, who lived alone and she would give me a Mary Jane candy for every picture I brought to her.  


Would you believe when I was in my 20s, I went to visit Mrs. Johnson one day.  She was much older and still living alone.  We had not seen each other in years.  She took me down to her basement and I could not believe that my childhood artwork was still taped to her walls together with artwork from her grandchildren. I couldn't believe she had saved them.  She told me at the time that she thought I was so talented and that I should be an artist one day.  Sadly, She passed away long before I ever had a chance to let her know that her words of encouragement shaped me into the artist I am today.


I learned to draw cubes and cones, balls and boxes, cylinders and shadows from Jon Gnagy - and Mrs. Nye, my elementary school art teacher who had the greatest influence on my career as an artist.  So you can imagine how my eyes popped out of my head today when I found these videos!

And, because it is never too late in life to ponder these wonderful Gnagy lessons and listen to him speak - he had a great television voice - I thought you would enjoy seeing this incredible telecast yourself. Actually, I think most men spoke with this kind of inflection back in the 40s and 50s.  It's kinda funny.

John Gnagy Draws a Snow Scene

Jon Gnagy passed away in 1981 at the age of 74 at his home in Idyllwild, California.  I hope you have enjoyed your time with him!  I know I have!  Makes me think that among the 526 other things I already do, I really should make some art tutorial videos.  I just don't know when I'm going to find the time.  Maybe I'll just have to settle for sharing these wonderful Jon Gnagy videos with all of you wonderful readers out there.




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