Monday, July 11, 2011

Jon Gnagy Was America's Original TV Art Teacher!

I was telling my sister, Denise, that I got a real nice letter in the mail from the Willingboro Art Alliance thanking me for my demo last Wednesday night. They wrote; "Your enthusiasm for drawing was inspiring for us. We appreciated you encouraging us to participate. It was fun!" Denise said I taught drawing sort of like Jon Gnagy. For those of you too young to know, he was "America's Original TV Art Teacher". That got me thinking about him, so I looked him up online. I am glad to see there is a good selection of his demos from the 50's and 60's on YouTube. I guess you could say he was really my first serious art teacher. Starting at a very young age and over those early formative years growing up, I owned several of his various art sets and even drew along with him on TV. It's true that his approach might be criticized because it was not always truly 'fine art'.  His methods are repetitive, but the reason he did it that way was to teach drawing in a very simple way to those who had never tried it before. He made it fun, fast, and uncomplicated. He was easy to follow and made you feel like you could do it. One can immediately experience a sense of accomplishment following one of his 10 minute demos, often just what's needed to get beginners interested. Whether you like his style of drawing or not, you have to give him credit for being a pioneer in educational TV and for turning so many people on to art, many of which I'm sure, eventually moved on to more 'finer' styles.

I plan on highlighting him and his career and doing some of his demos this week. It should be FUN! I hope some of you will give it a try. 

In the demos, he is using a hard square charcoal stick. (Looks like a conte crayon.) I still have his "Pastel Painting Set" and it has a black and a grey stick in it which I will give a try at some point. You could also use a charcoal pencil or a soft (3B - 5B) pencil for the drawings. Notice the way he is holding it like a wand - using his whole arm! (Holding it between his thumb and forefinger.) Although I don't know if he ever really mentioned it, I watched and imitated his approach. He is the first one to teach me how to hold my pencil that way and I have been drawing like that ever since!

This morning I did Jon's "Snow Scene Lesson"  approximately 4.5 x 6.5", with a soft 4B pencil in my sketchbook. Although I'm not crazy about the composition, it was a fun exercise. He moves along quite fast, so watch it through a couple of times before attempting to follow along. I had to play it through two times to get down all of the details. Don't be afraid to pause the video or back up a bit if you get behind. If you click on the four arrows at bottom right, you can watch it in full screen.

This week's sketching challenge is to try your hand at sketching along with Jon Gnagy!


  1. Sandy, thanks for coming over, I follow your summer school drawing lessons but have no time to actually do them while looking after my fading away Prof.

    I had to chuckle at you calling my parrots budgies although budgies are endemic to the area, these parrots are at least three times their size.

  2. I found my dads sketch book...........this is it.......


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