A Jon Gnagy Christmas

At some point during the Christmas season each year I think about the man pictured above. His name is Jon Gnagy and he was my childhood hero. Jon had a huge impact on me when I was growing up. Jon Gnagy hosted a weekly television show in which he taught drawing lessons using the basic shapes of the ball, cube, cylinder, and cone.

I discovered his program while I was in second grade and watched it each Saturday morning when our television reception was good. I seem to recall Gnagy’s program being telecast on Channel 4, WTAE, out of Pittsburgh, and the signal did not always reach our home clearly in Toronto, Ohio. And, if someone in our neighborhood was running an electric saw or other power equipment, forget it! Pure fuzz! However, when the signal was clear I was riveted to Jon’s every word and every stroke of his drawing tool.  I would lay on the floor with my pencils and paper in front of me, however I would be glued to the television and unable to draw until the program was over. I was amazed at Jon’s ability to create the illusion of space through his use of light and shadow.

Just before entering third grade I asked my mother if I could switch from the Catholic school I was attending and attend public school. I was a shy, somewhat backward student and the nuns attempted to correct my flaws with a ruler on numerous occasions. I did make the change to public school. However, a few weeks into the fall semester my mother told me that since I was no longer going to Catholic school, I would now have to take Cathecism classes on Saturday morning. These classes were held at the same time as Jon Gnagy’s television program. This was before the invention of the VCR, resulting in a total bummer!

Each Christmas I hoped for a Jon Gnagy “Learn to Draw” set. I was thirteen years old before my wish was finally answered. Under the tree that Christmas was my Jon Gnagy Studio Set with pencils, watercolors, and I believe, pastels. I was pumped! Even the smell of the art supplies in that box was invigorating! To this day, I still love that smell. The smell of a kneaded eraser can take me back to my childhood in an instant! And I still enjoy getting new art materials, be it a brush, paints, some sharpies, or even some tin or found objects. It’s great!

I had a solo exhibition at Ohio University Eastern in February 2009. The title of that exhibition was “Jon Gnagy was My Homeboy”.

My copy of Learn to Draw by Jon Gnagy.

Jon Gnagy’s grand daughter has a website honoring the television artist and it includes a few of Jon’s televised drawing lessons. Check it out!


3 Responses to “A Jon Gnagy Christmas”

  1. 1 John Anzel
    March 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Boy! can I relate to the above statement. I was also mesmirized by Jon Gnagy’s ability to create from nothing. It gave me the freedom, no it intitled me to create my own world. Jon Nagny I will always be in your debt. You were my childhood hero then and I’m still impressed with the mental tools you gave me. THANX

  2. March 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

    My dad and I would watch his show every week from our little company house in the coal mining region of southern W.Va.. I grew up about 15 miles from the “rocket boys” in the movie October Skies….I believe that is the name. I have never seen it ,but everybody I know from that area has seen it. I was born at the same hospital and took classes at the same college John Nash did. He is the guy in the movie about “A Beautiful Mind”. I always hoped these guys were great because of something in the water or the air around those areas,but it hasn’t turned out that way so far. I did keep my John Nagy books until they just fell apart from moving several dozen times while I was in the Air Force and following the economy in the oil business,coal business, and even the sand mining business.
    I remeber one book he had that used 3 triangles to set the pic up and it was then easy to draw a fantastic looking cocker spaniel. If I couldn’t do much as far as art…I could draw a great dog picture..People at parties would say HEY THAT’S Great …can you draw a poodle…NO…german sheppard…NO…. Yorkie…No…just a spaniel. I lost the books and now my wife has bought a couple of hundred bucks worth of art supplies and wants me to draw some stuff after she found one of my DOG pics I had hidden away. I guess it could be worse. She could have found pics of a woman …I am now semi reired and have determined I will learn how to draw something again. Your post brought back happy memories. Thanks…Dave

    • August 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      My wife Polly is Jon Gnagy’s daughter, and we have maintained the webpage on his life and work since 1996. We very much appreciated your tribute to him on your webpage/blog, and I hope you don’t mind if I posted a link to it.

      I have been updated the Jon Gnagy page. The original site was done in early HTML, and it is pretty basic. I guess it was when someone wrote, “stupidest and ugliest webpage ever,” that I decidsed it was time to start over.

      Using iWeb and some things I’ve learned over the years, we now have a new site but with the same address.

      One of the pages lists a number of blogs, including yours.

      I assume that it’s okay to post your link. Thanks for your good words about Jon.

      Thaddeus Seymour
      Winter Park, FL

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