Tuesday, September 14, 2010

of Jon Gnagy, Elizabeth MacCrellish and Squam...

I am aging myself by even mentioning Jon Gnagy.  If you remember him, we are most likely around the same age.  Jon Gnagy was America's first television artist with his initial broadcast airing in 1946. I watched him in the late 50s to early 60s.  Whenever he appeared on that small black and white TV screen I was transported to another world.  Completely mesmerized as he explained his step by step approach to drawing. I especially loved the way he added shadows and the ease with which he used the chalk to fill in the sky or other structure. When my father brought home the Jon Gnagy 'Learn to Draw' kit I was thrilled.  The first time I held those chalks  in my hand, 1 black, 2 shades of grey and 1 white, I knew I too could learn to draw. The kit included  sandpaper to grind the chalk and a 'stomp' to rub into the ground chalk for shading.  A few carbon pencils, a booklet and several sheets of paper rounded out the kit. My father was a tool designer and already a talented artist, but he would sit with me and talk as I drew and shaded the 'cube, ball, cone and cylinder' that are staples of the Gnagy lessons.



These are a few of the pages I did as a child of about 8 or 9. My father passed when I was 10, so for me, these examples of our collaboration are priceless.

BTW, the paper is beautifully naturally aged.
So by now you may be wondering just what it is that Jon and Elizabeth have in common? Maybe the following quotes will help.
In 'A note from Elizabeth' the introduction to 'the journal volume one'  the beautiful book about the Squam Art Workshops retreat, Elizabeth writes:
Something magical happens when creativity gets to come first, when it is encouraged and celebrated, when it is honored as one of the  best ways we can spend our time. I can't explain why this is, but I know it is to be an immutable truth.
And as thrilling as it is that people travel from such distances to experience a retreat here, I am also keenly aware of those who would love to join in, but simply cannot make the trip at this time. It matters to me that everyone gets to share in the magic.
So this journal has been specifically designed to share the beauty and spirit of Squam Art Workshops with everyone, whether you have attended or not. Our hope for this small volume is that it will accompany you on the subway, in the cab, on the train, in the airport, on holiday etc.
May it remind you of what you love and what captures your imagination, as well as introduce you to new people and ideas, but most of all, may it prove to be a good companion on your journay.


 In the introduction to Jon Gnagy's 'Learn to Draw' instruction book he wrote:
I BELIEVE that you have an unexplored talent. My conviction growns stronger every year as I find thousands of people just like you searching to express something. If you have not made a prefessional career of art I'd like to talk to you all the more.
I BELIEVE in the life of everyone there comes a time when the Art Spirit is dominant. You may have passed it when you were 5 or 7 or 11 years of age. But it will come again several times in your life when you are looking for something outside your practical everyday routine.
I BELIEVE that you have moments when you drop your cares and wish that little spark of immortality that needs nourishment from the beauty of the world around you. This universe is full of wonders that few of us see until some part of our brain and soul is reawakened, when we again become aware of 'the long reaches of peaks of our song, the rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose,' as poet Edwin Markham has so aptly put it.
THIS NEW BOOK is my contribution to you the beginner to help you awaken that hidden talent so you may fnd happiness and genuine fun in the world around you through the hobby of drawing and painting.

Both Elizabeth and Jon, each in their own way and 60 plus years apart, work to provide the tools we need to embrace the creative impulses within us. As I pack to leave for Squam I am grateful to Elizabeth for creating a environment where my days will be filled with creativity.  I also cannot help but remember the first person that provided so many simple but effective drawing lessons and for sparking my creative beginnings.

4 comments:

stacie said...

What a wonderful gift your father gave you.

yogiknitgirl said...

Your post was inspiring...thank you for sharing in such a special way! I am one of your fellow creative coconuts and I am glad to have found you! I am attending the Squam by the Sea in October and looking forward to the experience!!

Jon Gnagy's Portfolio said...

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 updating 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 decided 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. It is also posted at www.jongnagyart.com.

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

Lois0607 said...

Thank you so much leaving this comment. I was so honored and excited to hear from you. I love how art brings everyone together. I will definitely visit the portfolio.