If you're of a certain age your first introduction to drawing might have been watching Jon Gnagy on tv. My mother watched it religiously. She also watched Jack LaLane. These two men visited our house on a regular basis. My dad seemed okay with it.
My mother purchased the Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw kit. I still have the book and the chalk. Somewhere I have a few drawings she did.
Jon Gnagy, known to millions as America's television art teacher, was born at Varner's Forge, an outpost settlement near Pretty Prairie Kansas in 1907. The pioneer environment of his first seven years at the Forge and family farm reflect a strong influence in his work as an artist. Son of Hungarian-Swiss Mennonites, Jon early developed inventive skills common to rural craftsmen. At the age of eleven he began drawing and painting without instruction, winning sweepstake prizes at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson when he was thirteen years old. Gaining attention each year at the State Fair as the self-taught "blacksmith" of art, his vigorous compositions of the American Scene brought him an offer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. When he was seventeen he accepted the position of art director with an industrial public relations organization in the Oil Capital, where he produced posters for the International Petroleum Exposition. (SOURCE: Jon Gnagy)
The above is from a web site his daughter runs. There you'll find links to the art kits that are still sold under Gnagy's name. You'll also be able to watch full 10 minute broadcast lessons.
And the following is a portion from a piece that appeared in Reminisce Magazine November 22, 1997. To read the complete article click here.
Did You "Learn to Draw" With Jon Gnagy?Television pioneer convinced a generation of viewers that anyone could be an artistby Bill Einhorn,Fairfield, ConnecticutIf you watched television during the 1940s, '50s or '60s, you likely recall Jon Gnagy, the engaging art teacher who assured folks that anyone could draw."Ball....cube.....cylinder....cone," Jon would say at the beginning of his 15-minute program, Learn to Draw. "By using these four shapes, I can draw any picture I want. And so can you!"Sincerity and quiet confidence flowed from Jon, reflecting a humble Mennonite upbringing in Pretty Prairie, Kansas. His trim Vandyke beard, smile and plaid shirt were his trademarks.I produced Jon's TV show from 1950 to '55. Later, through syndication, it was viewed by millions of folks across the U.S. and Canada well into the 1960s. While many remember this selftaught artist's Saturday-morning TV show, they may not recall that he was a television star before Lucille Ball, Milton Berle or Arthur Godfrey. In fact, Jon was the first act on the first commercial television show ever, broadcast May 14,1946. On that day, NBC's Studio H in New York City was filled with excited anticipation. The tiny studio, up until then used for radio, was ablaze with whitehot lights and jammed with technicians. (SOURCE: Allan M. McCollum)
And from an article called Each and Everyone of You by Susan Morgan:
On the first episode, Jon Gnagy, sporting a goatee, wore an artist's smock and beret. He led the viewing audience through his step-by-step method to make a drawing of an old oak tree. His crayon melted under the studio lights, his chalk squeaked, but in seven minutes the lesson and the picture were completed. "You were great! Your show is pure television!" exclaimed the production manager.
Jon Gnagy introduced to American families the idea of being an artist, an idea that was not couched in terms of privilege or preciousness. All of his references were incorporated subtly, informing his teaching method rather than exalting the past. He was sharing some first hand knowledge at a time when television viewing still had a sense of intimacy and concentration. To go along with his television show, Jon Gnagy produced a kit of art supplies and a book of drawing lessons. The writing style is direct, outlining his plan. The chapter titles are terrible puns, the sort of jokes one forgives a favorite uncle for making (While There is Still Life There is Hope, How To Get A Head By Going in Circles). At the end of the book, he wrote "The plan I have outlined in this book will be invaluable to you. It will release the creative drive in you and set you free. . ." That was Jon Gnagy's plan. A lot of people growing up in the fifties watching television got the idea. (SOURCE: Real Life Magazine)
Gnagy took some of the mystery out of art. Yes, it was sort of a draw-by-the-numbers, but it opened a world to people who believed art was something only "artists" did. My mother enjoyed his show and I think it was part of what made me become an artist. Art was something real, not something that hung in museums. And for a quiet shy child it was a world I could visit on my own, create on my own.
I think of Jon Gnagy's show as a bit like Basic Studies the first year in art college. First you learn the basics and then you use that to take flight.
Now, from the book, you can learn to draw a train. Don't give me the old "I can't even draw a straight line" business. That's a crock. Nobody can draw a straight line without a ruler. Oh, someone might be able to do a few inches, but eventually the line will waver.
Click on any image to see it larger.
Published by Arthur Brown & Bro., Inc. ©1960 by Jon Gnagy
Gnagy shows you the possibilities and opens your eyes to seeing the world in shapes which is the first step towards drawing; seeing things differently.
Hello homeschoolers. I know you're out there.