Friday, June 7, 2019

Beginner's Drawing Kits



Toy Collector Mel Birnkrant shares his copy of the Donald Duck Paint and Crayon Set (Skip to 2:45). It came with a paint brush, mixing cups, 8 wax crayons, a blackboard, chalk, die-cut figures that could stand up, an elaborate "parade of characters" and a set of premixed colors that included "sky blue," "sea blue" and "blazing red."  (Link to video on YouTube).


I didn't have access to anything like that as a kid, but my mom let me try out her oil painting kit, which always sat in a closet as a reminder that she once had painted. The idea that both my parents had at one time tried painting impressed me greatly, even though they didn't do it any more.

My mom's wooden box had some stiff brushes and little tubes of colors, some of which were dried up, and the labels were soaked in oil. Her kit didn't have bottles of oils and solvents, so I couldn't really use it, but the lingering smell of the linseed oil symbolized to me the life of an artist.

I also had a set of Crayola crayons. They had evocative names like "grass green" and "peach." I still think of those names when I think of those colors. I never liked crayons very much, even as a young kid because they seemed too crude and hard to control.



Jeanette says she had a Jon Gnagy "Learn to Draw" set, which came with everything you needed to draw like he did on TV.



Did you have a beginner's art kit when you were a kid? If so, share your memories in the comments.
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Watch the video about Mel on YouTube by Eric Millen
Mel Birnkrant's website

20 comments:

Kevin Mizner said...

I bought my first oil painting kit at K-Mart over 40 years ago. It had a small cardboard palette, 8 tiny tubes of paint, two brushes (one of which I still have. I mean why get rid of a brush?) a bottle of turpentine and a bottle of linseed oil. Unfortunately, it didn't come with instructions. What was I supposed to do with this stuff?! I'm still trying to figure that out...

Dave H said...

I recall my parents getting me a John Gnagy drawing kit probably about 50 years ago. I don't remember actually using it. It's likely I looked through the book once, picked a pencil I liked and went back to copying comics.

Sconklin56 said...

I had a Gnagy set in the 60’s. That clip brought back memories!

Steve said...

I had a Jon Gnagy kit in the 50’s — and, one of my brothers gave me a a replacement kit from eBay several years ago. For a while in the 50s, I also had a bonus; a sheet of clear plastic that stuck to the TV screen by static cling, allowing you to draw right over Jon’s lines with a “special” grease pencil. He emphasized breaking everything down into variants of a sphere, a cube, and a cone. I suspect that without Jon Gnagy we might not have had Bob Ross.

Unknown said...

We had a full set of Lee J Ames books in our school library, and I made full use of them. They were similar to the video above, breaking down the complex into simple shapes. He even came to visit our school, I still have a 'Draw 50 buildings' book signed by him, a real treasure.

Greg said...

Sweet. Legend has it Frazetta painted out of a set of "Mickey Mouse" watercolors. I suspect he squeezed high quality paint into the pans & used the tin as a joke. I would.

Anita said...

I had the Jon Gnagy drawing set, too, and watched him on TV. Also, my sister and I had a Winky Dink magic screen & crayons to copy a drawing from the TV set. Later, in high school, I copied Chinese brush painting from the TV.
Anita

rock995 said...

Rock here.
Yes, I had the Gnagy kit and the Winky Dink plastic overlay (for secret codes) and in my mid-20's I got the Famous Artist's course which was still wonderful. Not everyone had Lyman Anderson and other big names (even Al Parker did a crit for me) to give advice and man, they gave great advice. Surprised that they didn't say "you need to find something else to pass the time" but they were encouraging despite my really poor efforts. I guess I was too dumb to quit so just kept inching along until it made me the world-famous guy (in all the major museums and private collections) that I am today. Excuse me, gotta go, my Gulfstream is waiting to take me to my yacht in Monaco. Thank you Jon Gnagy and Famous Artist Course.

doforanimals said...

I had that same Jon Gnagy set but I think I was too young to feel inspired by it. The lessons looked dry and boring (like playing scales on the piano,), there were no colors to have fun with and I wasn't sure what to do with that stick that had sandpaper stuck to it LOL. Wow, memories...

rock995 said...

Rock here.
Yes, I had the Gnagy kit and the Winky Dink plastic overlay (for secret codes) and in my mid-20's I got the Famous Artist's course which was still wonderful. Not everyone had Lyman Anderson and other big names (even Al Parker did a crit for me) to give advice and man, they gave great advice. Surprised that they didn't say "you need to find something else to pass the time" but they were encouraging despite my really poor efforts. I guess I was too dumb to quit so just kept inching along until it made me the world-famous guy (in all the major museums and private collections) that I am today. Excuse me, gotta go, my Gulfstream is waiting to take me to my yacht in Monaco. Thank you Jon Gnagy and Famous Artist Course.

Unknown said...

I was given a Gnagy kit for my 10th birthday - I still have pieces of it that I lovingly saved, 57 years on. A student of mine gave
me the book that came with it which I had sadly lost over the years. Another student came through with booklets she had as I had mentioned Jon Gnagy as my first "art teacher" to my elementary students. I was very touched as that one birthday gift (and the surprise party that went with it) was one of the treasures of my childhood. As a child I found his drawing program fascinating - little did I know I would be teaching visual arts to children for 30 years as one of my careers as an adult. My last class will be taught on the 20th. Bittersweet that this posting should come about today. Thank you!

coryneale said...

Many of us have these memories. James, I have the same exact experience with my own grandmother's oil paints, almost as if you were writing my story! Many greens as she liked landscapes. Growing up, the big memory, for me (1970's), is the Crayola box set with crayons, chalks, and some other things, plus a textured sheet of plastic you would put under the paper to get a desired effect like a rubbing. Every year for Xmas, I would receive one of these, because I had exhausted the supply by then. To this day, I am still enamored with texture.

it'saboutsixty said...

I had the John Gnagy kit in the 1950's. It didn't matter to me that there were no colors; the TV was black and white anyway! John Gnagy was the artist who taught me how to draw a cube, a cone, a sphere and a cylinder and shade them so that they had volume. I learned about color from paint-by-numbers kits, Crayola, and coloring books, sculpture from home-made clay, collage from flour and water paste, and narrative from Archie and Veronica comic books. A less than artful art teacher in the 60's "encouraged" me to "put down my pencil". I did so for 20 years, until, In the early 1980's, a family member who knew none of this history randomly gave me a copy of Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Phil said...

My sister got a John Gnagy Learn to Draw set for Christmas. I was so envious! I used to stare at its contents in wonder. Of course we watched him on TV in slack jawed amazement. What an inspiration for a young artist!

Unknown said...

I had a Jon Gnagy kit and the Winky Dink plastic overlay. Boy, that was fun watching Winky climb the ladder i drew, etc. I can still sing the Winky Dink theme song. Later on i took the commetcial art course from Art Instruction School...that was the one with the "Draw Me" ads in magazines. It was really good training altho some of yhe skills i learned, like doing color separations, have been taken over by computers. I ended up as an editorial cartoonist on a small town newspaper, did a lot of freelance art work of all sorts, and am still cartooning for a virtual newspaper...and still painting. K. Sluterbeck

Lou said...

Gnagy for me too. I think the set was a Christmas gift. Somehow-someway I think he taught me perspective. I was (am) a wiz at perspective, must have learned it somewhere!

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CerverGirl said...

I had a Gnagy Kit too when I was young, also a Sand Art Kit that you traced an outline image onto dark sandpaper and colored in, and a large Crayola crayon Kit in long flat box with built in sharpener!!!

nmsgwatercolors said...

I had a similar experience with my mother's oil paints. I had crayons, which I never really liked, but I knew what could be done with them because my mother made beautiful illustrations playing with my crayons. I longed for a real sketchbook like hers rathet than the cheap newsprint blocks we were given. The pencils I had were equally unsatisfactory, mostly hard with dead erasers. Ditto, the coloured pencils and watercolor boxes. Sometimes my mother made us paperdolls with her own good coloured pencils and we were allowed to use them to make clothes, so I knew how awful my own pencils were. We did jave some good Dover colouring books when we were okder, and one fabulous Christmas I was given a drawing set that had a LIGHT BOX!!!! It came with tracing paper, pencils, and cartoon figures to trace. I loved it. : )

Bob said...

My sister gave me her Jon Gnagy Learn To Draw book. What I remember most was the two-page spread showing all the beginner's drawing mistakes and how to fix them -- this was my introduction to perspective and such. I didn't care or do much with art, however, until discovering Dinotopia many years later. Now it's a fun hobby which I spent too much time with!