Sunday, January 22, 2012

Larry's Vault: Learn to Draw with Jon Gnagy

Molly got her BFA at the San Francisco Art institute.
Me—I got my art education with Jon Gnagy.
Learn to Draw with Jon Gnagy was a televised art instruction course that ran in the 1950’s and ‘60’s.

You could tell Gnagy was a real artist because he had a goatee.

You could order the entire Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw kit—drawing board, art materials and instruction book—from Gnagy and then follow along from week to week as Gnagy walked you through each lesson.
My aunt got the course for me and I faithfully followed Mr. Gnagy’s weekly tutorials.

What Gnagy did was a sort of extension of the early 20th century correspondence course.
I think there’s a lot to be said for the old tradition of the Landon Correspondence Course, Art Instruction, Inc.  (“Draw Me!”),  Famous Artists School (“We’re Looking for People Who Like to Draw”), Walter T. Foster art education books and other forms of simple, affordable art instruction for kids and adults who don’t have access to art academies.
The Foster books on Perspective Drawing by Ernest Norling, Cartooning Jobs for Beginning Cartoonists by Howard Boughner, How To Do Linoleum Block Printing by Mary Hicks and Animation by Preston Blair were excellent.
The deal is you could actually learn perspective or animation by committing yourself to a serious study the book (for a price of a buck ninety-nine!).
The same held true with Gnagy’s courses.

Here’s a typical Gnagy lesson.

And some handy hints


  1. 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

    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

    1. Thanks for your comments.

      I have fond memories of the Jon Gnagy TV courses(I still have bits and pieces of my art Learn to Draw art kit.

      I do believe popular, user friendly, courses such a Jon Gnagy’s provided a lot of people access to basic art skills (not otherwise availbale to many).

      Molly is a graduate of an art school that didn’t dwell much on the fundamentals. She’s borrowed my Gnagy book to pick up some pointers on perspective and such that weren’t a major part of her BFA program.

      Thanks again,

      Larry and Molly

      We've also added a link to your site.