Saturday, January 13, 2007

My First Artist

The Baby Boomers among you will surely share a common memory of sitting in front of an old black-and-white television set and watching in thrall as a goateed man in a plaid shirt -- who signed his name boldly and with great authority -- brought random lines together into coherent images on LEARN TO DRAW, the first-ever art instructional program on TV.

Before most of us knew the names of Van Gogh, Manet, Rembrandt, or Da Vinci, we knew the name of Jon Gnagy.

Checking the IMDb, I was astonished to learn that today, January 13, would have been the 100th birthday of "America's Original Television Art Teacher." Surely I'm too young to have had a teacher celebrating a centenary! Yet these are the facts... What I find almost more incredible is the revelation, according to his biography, that on the day television was first transmitted to the public at large from the antennae atop the Empire State Building -- May 13, 1946 -- Jon Gnagy was the very first performer on the very first show ever broadcast.

Happily for those of us who have long craved to see one of his lessons again, the artist's daughter, Polly Gnagy Seymour, has launched a website to perpetuate the memory of her father, who died in 1981. There you can find ten different video clips, glorious samples of his painting, three complete lessons from Gnagy's printed art instruction, and even a link to a company that continues to sell the original Jon Gnagy art kits! Maybe you had one! (Donna did.) Today of all days, if you remember the thrill of seeing his hand poised over those blank sheets of paper, ready to create something out of nothing, you should visit Polly's site and sign her guest book with your remembrances.

Why not follow the link and... learn to draw!

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