Monday, May 23, 2016

The Art of Art is Simplicity

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.
—Walt Whitman

Simplicity's cool... so cool, brand researchers now index it.

But before it was cool, two artists preached simplicity every week on popular TV shows.

The beatnik, Jon Gnagy

Beatnik Jon Gnagy premiered in 1946 on NBC's first regularly scheduled TV program, the hour-long variety show Radio City Matinee

In the opening segment of the first episode, Gnagy stood at an easel and demonstrated, in a few simple steps, how to draw a tree. 

The show's producer called those 10 minutes of airtime "pure television," and within four months gave Gnagy his own 15-minute show, You are an Artist—TV's very first spin-off.

Gnagy used his weekly show to teach viewers how to draw the barns, haystacks and water mills that symbolized bygone America. He sketched his subjects using four basic forms—the ball, cone, cube and cylinder—with shadows cast from a single light source. When he finished each drawing, he matted and framed it, so—voila—the piece was ready to hang on the wall.

During each broadcast, Gnagy also pitched his branded art kit, complete with pencils, paper and a book of drawing lessons.

While Gnagy's prime-time show lasted only two years, it continued in weekend syndication for another 12, inspiring thousands of Boomers to learn how to draw chestnut trees, horse corrals and covered bridges.

The hippie, Bob Ross

Hippie Bob Ross preached simplicity for 11 years through his half-hour PBS show, The Joy of Painting.

Remembered for his fuzzy Afro and fuzzier aphorisms—"Happy little trees" being the most famous—Ross popularized the 16th century oil painting technique known as “wet on wet."

He also marketed a branded line of paints.

Throughout the 1980s, Ross' weekly show (which his business partner called “liquid tranquilizer”) inspired thousands of pre-Internet kids, if not to pick up a paintbrush, at least to contemplate das Künstlerleben.

Ross himself finished over 30,000 paintings in his lifetime, many of which he donated to PBS fundraisers.
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