'Create the Feeling': The TV Artistry of Nancy Kominsky
PBS painter Bob Ross—he of the “fluffy trees” and even fluffier hair—is probably more famous now than he was even during his original on-air heyday which lasted from 1983 to 1994. Somewhat unbelievably, Ross, who passed away at age 53, has been gone for over 25 years now and yet you seem to still see him everywhere. Such is the power of the rerun and of his gentle teaching style and soothing landscapes.
But as important, influential and enduring as Ross is, he wasn’t public TV’s first prolific painter and instructor. And though she might not have been the very first (a title that is hard to determine), Ross was certainly predated by another kindly (and equally big-haired) artist, namely Nancy Kominsky. Her TV series was “Paint Along with Nancy Kominksy” and it consisted of 26 half-hour programs aired over public television beginning in 1977.
Though she first obtained her fame in England, Kominsky was born in Philadelphia in 1915 and given the name Emanuella Agneta Circelli. According to a 1974 UK newspaper article, Kominsky’s childhood was not an easy one. Her father lost everything at the start of the Great Depression and then abandoned the family. It plunged Kominsky’s large family (she was the eldest of five) into poverty. What few extra cents she could gather up from time to time, she recalled spending to buy blank paper to draw on.
“Nancy” Circelli became Nancy Kominsky after she married her first husband. She and her husband had two children, a boy and a girl, and went to reside in Burbank, CA. But her first married was plagued by the ill-health of her husband. Money was tight here, too. Kominsky’s only training was in art so, on the suggestion of some friends, Kominsky began giving painting lessons to small groups of students in order to make ends meet. Once she began giving classes, she found that her students were eager to see their own progress, so Kominsky began devising easy-to-follow techniques that allowed her pupils to quickly improve and advance.
Sadly, Kominsky would be widowed by the time she was 50. After the loss of her husband, she was ready for something brand new. Though she had only once before traveled outside the US, and spoke not a word of Italian, intrigued by their great art, in 1966, Kominsky decided to move to Rome. She said about her major life change, “Everyone thought I was mad. My students were heartbroken. My children were hysterical.”
Once in Rome, and nowing what had worked for her in the past, she began teaching art classes again. Her first student was the wife of a diplomat. Later, the popularity of her classes caught on. She leased a large room in the local YMCA and, despite various doubters, soon had over 50 students regularly attending. She labeled her group the “Sunday Painters of Rome.”
Not long after this was the start of Kominsky’s extraordinary second act. Though happily teaching and living in Rome, Kominsky, by chance, attended, with a couple of friends, an International TV Festival in Cannes and had a random meeting with British TV exec Peter Orton. Soon, Kominsky had a new job—on the “telly.”
“Paint Along with Nancy Kominsky” debuted in Britain in 1974. Originally assisted by the grey-suited Alan Taylor, Kominsky would go on to tape 52 episodes of her show which originally aired oversees between 1974 and 1978. Her quick painting style and equally quick wit soon earned the colorful Kominsky a large fanbase throughout the British Isles. The press nicknamed her the “Galloping Gaugin” and she was said to be a favorite of everyone from school kids to second-shift dock workers!
Though some more high-minded art snobs criticized Kominsky and her methods, the artist/TV presenter herself was under no illusions. She said, “I don’t profess to turn out professional painters, though, incidentally, I have. But I have hundreds of people painting all over the world. I’m not interested in turning out Rembrandts and Degases. The whole idea is that we should enjoy life and become constructive at the same time.”
After her European success, America came calling via PBS. America’s “Paint Along with Nancy” debuted in 1977; 26 episodes were produced and would often be repeated by public TV stations well into the 1980s.
I remember watching Kominsky when I was a kid…and being completely enthralled! At the time, enjoying a childhood consisting of a lot of colored paper and glue sticks, it was exciting to see a painting come to fruition in just half an hour!
Her approach was interesting, too. Kominsky didn’t use a brush in her paintings; she used a palette knife, believing that being brush-less was easier for the new, novice painter. Recently—Thank you, YouTube!—I got to re-watch an episode. And, re-watching a Kominsky again, I was charmed once more.
Why does it excited us so to see something again from our childhood? Maybe it activates some sort of comfort center deep in the recesses of our brain. For me, it was strangely calming, reassuring, to see again various aspects of her half-hour I only vaguely recalled: the thin umber wash that she prepped her canvas with, the quickly painted brown-line grid that she painted first to set up her composition (and which would later be painted over), and then the distinct sound of her palette knife scrapping against canvas.
As a kid, though, I’m not sure I truly appreciated the good advice she gave via her program—reminding her students not to hurry or try to “keep up” with her; she’d been doing this for 40 years, they were just starting. I’m not sure I appreciated her humor either. In one episode, as she completed a picture of some red apples hanging on a branch, she said, “When you are done, if someone compliments you on your painting of Christmas ornaments, just thank them.” And I know her brief mentions of art history were lost on me; in various episodes, she references the Impressionists and name checks Rembrandt and, in another, Picasso.
Like Bob Ross, Kominsky stirred clear of difficult pictures of portraiture, preferring landscapes, though she would, from time to time, she’d take on a still life—pictures of flowers or fruit or food. During her show’s original air, various books, companions to the programs, were published and even art kits that included a starter set of oils and the necessary other artist’s tools were produced and marketed.
Kominsky’s US incarnation did not last beyond those 26 episodes; her UK series concluded in 1978. After that, the lady took a rest.
She remarried in 1983. She and her new husband, Patrick Wodehouse, settled in Wimbledon, England. Kominsky published a memoir in 2010. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 95.
Long before her passing, Kominsky had already decided on her legacy. In a 1974 interview she said, “I have a nice talent, but that’s all. I don’t think that when I go to my reward I will make any tremendous ripple in the art world. But I’ve taken the little talent I had and made it work…. I believe that my function as an artist is that I will give the ordinary man not only the joy of creating but also of an appreciation of his environment and of all the art in the world.
And when they take it from me, it doesn’t come out of me. It comes out of them.”
Local Kid Shows / Movie Stars on TV / Saturday Morning Shows / Video Vault / TV Goodbyes / Fabulous Fifties / Unseen Scenes / Game Shows / Requested Forgotten TV Shows / The Super Sixties / More Modern TV Shows / The New * * Shows / 1980's Wrestling / TV Blog
|TV's Embarrassing Moments / Action Shows of the Sixties / TVparty Mysteries and Scandals / Variety Shows of the 1970s / The Eighties / The Laugh Track / 1970's Hit Shows / Response to TVparty / Search the Site / Add Your Comments|
Hit Shows of the Seventies: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Gene Roddenberry in the 1970s / 1977-1978 Superhero & Science Fiction TV Shows / Funniest SNL Skit Ever! / Prisoner: Cell Block H / Why John Amos Left Good Times / Reviving Match Game / How Betty White's 'Happy Hommaker' Came About / Remembering Cindy-Williams / Creating The Rockford Files / TV Dads Talk Sex & Fatherhood / TV Shows We Watched 50 Years Ago / How Maude Came About / Rare Audio of Bette Davis' Broadway Bound Flop 'Miss Moffat' / Orson Welles' Last Interview / Remembering Ed Asner / Bruce Vilanch on Writing for Donny & Marie / Writing For Fernwood 2 Night / Kris Kristofferson vs Barbra Streisand on A Star Is Born? Kinda... / Remembering Gavin MacLeod / Cher Reviews Her Iconic Outfits Since 1965 / Best Columbo Episodes / Star Maidens Sci-Fi Series / Interview with Cindy Williams (Lavern & Shirley) / One of the Most Controversial Episodes of All In The Family / Outside Chance / The Night Johnny Carson Broke Down / Gavin MacLeod on His MTM Castmates / Norman Mailer & Muhammad Ali / Charles Nelson Reilly Flops on Broadway / Chuck Norris vs Eva Gabor / Dear Detective / Dirty Sally / The Protectors / Chevy Chase Talks Hollywood Cocaine Parties / 1977 Season Show Openings / Love Boat's Oscar Winning Guest Stars / Henry Fonda's 4 Favorite Films / Tom Snyder Interviews Star Trek Cast & Harlan Ellison / The Corner Bar / Tim Conway's 'The Dentist' Sketch / Henry Winkler on His Happy Days Audition / Patrick Duffy of Dallas Interview / Time Express / Wonder Woman Leaves Paradise Island / 1972-73 TV Season / George Burns on the Carson Tonight Show in 1989 / Best Season of Dallas Ever? / Cloris Leachman Remembered / Ken Berry Interview / Why Barney Miller Ended / Vivian Vance Almost Joined the Cast of Rhoda / Marilu Henner Talks About Andy Kaufman / Cher on Mike Douglas 1979 / TV Show Book Tie-Ins / 1972 Jackie Robinson Interview / Dr. Strange 1978 TV Movie / Kathy Garver Interview / Space: 1999 / Paint Along with Nancy Kominsky / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / The Supremes - Mary Wilson vs Diana Ross / When Bruce Dern Killed John Wayne / 1974 Tom Snyder Our Gang Special / Remembering Ken Berry / Bruce / Caitllyn Jenner? / Billy Crash Craddock Interview / Melissa McCarthy Almost Quit Acting Days Before Landing Gilmore Girls / Bar Rescue's Wildest Customers! / Alex Baldwin On His TV and Film Roles / Ray Charles' BIG Problem With TV / Top Ten Sitcoms of the 1970s / James Cameron Made No Money for Titanic / Ed McMahon Drunk on the Air! / Lucy Interviewed by Barbara Walters / Valerie Harper Cancer / Jeff Bridges Breaks Down His Iconic Roles / Dallas vs Eight is Enough / 1974 MAD Magazine TV Special - Never Aired! / Iconic M*A*S*H Restaurant Coming To Kroger? / When Lucy Got Fired / Partridge Family and Brady Bunch at Kings Island theme park 1972-73 / Awkward Talk Show Moments / Allan Blye Interview / Jack Benny's Last Tonight Show 1974 / Patricia Heaton's Audition for Everybody Loves Raymond / Ed Asner Interview / Norm Macdonald vs OJ Simpson / Tony Kornheiser Interview / Freddy's Nightmares TV Series / Emmy Award Multiple Winners / Nathaniel Taylor aka Rollo Lawson / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / That Girl & TV's Single Working Women / Can You Identify These Stars? / Betty White vs Joan Rivers / Paul Lynde's Greatest Hollywood Squares Zingers / Sonny Comedy Revue / Star Trek Animated / Dark Shadows / Hal Linden Interview / Dark Shadows Movies / Dark Shadows Novels / The Night Stalker / One of the Funniest Carol Burnett Show Skits Ever / Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson / Johnny Carson interviews Lucille Ball / Dawn Wells / Betty White : An Appreciation / Bette Davis' 2 Best Interviews 1971 / Barbara Eden Interview / Gavin McLeod / Spider-Man 77 / The Next Step Beyond / The Music Dark Shadows / 1970 TV Shows / Mike Connors Remembered / Mike Wallace, Virginia Graham & Jim Longworth / Dick Clark / Woody Allen Hosts Tonight Show 1971 / Carson Tonight Show / Alan Alda Interview / Jackie Gleason Show / 1973 TV Shows / Thriller / Post Modern Sitcoms / Elvis in Greensboro / Remembering Dick Van Patten / TV Dating Shows / The Jacksons TV Show / Fall Previews of the 70s / Lance Link, Secret Chimp / Star Wars Holiday Special / Alias Smith and Jones / 1977 Year in Review / Top Ten 1970-76 / The Rockford Files / All in the Family / Sam Hall (Dark Shadows) Interview / Actor Ed Nelson / Death of Archie / Battlestar Galactica / Wonder Woman / Network Jingles / Class of '74 / Happy Days / Good Times / Mr. Bill / Dinah! / Maude / Doris Day Show / Pamelyn Ferdin Interview / The Bicentennial Minute / Jingles & Catch Phrases of the 1970s / Early Cable TV 1970s / TV commercials for Women / TV Moms / Red Skelton / George Lindsay / Country Music TV Shows of the 1960s & 1970s / Betty White Show / Shirley Jones Interview /Shirley Jones Interview / Rodney Dangerfield / How Sanford & Son Ended / Sanford & Son Spin-Off Grady / Great Memoirs / Virginia Graham Show / The "N" Word on TV / 10 Classic Comedy Routines You Have To Laugh At Before You Die / Hollywood Squares / 1970's Teen Idols & The Hudson Brothers / TV Stars with 3 Hit Shows / The Rookies / Unsold Pilots / Jackie Cooper / The Good Guys / Match Game / Make Room For Granddaddy / Mannix & Gail Fisher / Bette Midler in the 1970s / Bonus 1970's Stuff: Silent Star Marion Mack / Biff Burger / 1970s Fast Food Chains / Latin Casino / Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire / 1970's Daytime Talk Shows / The Fess Parker Show / Brady Bunch Sex Dungeon? / Love, Loss & What I Watched
|Classic TV Commercials / 1950's TV / 1960's TV / 1970's TV / Groucho vs William F Buckley / / TV Games / Honey Boo Boo / Lucy Shows / Classic Cars / John Wayne / Gene Roddenberry / Rockford Files / Sea Hunt / 1970s Commercial Jingles / Superman on DVD / Toy Gun Ads / Flip Wilson Show / Big Blue Marble / Monty Hall / Carrascolendas / Mr. Dressup / Major Mudd / Chief Halftown / What's In Oprah's Purse? / Baby Daphne / Sheriff John / Winchell & Mahoney / Fireball X-L5 / Mr. Wizard / Captain Noah / Thanksgiving Day Specials / Disney's First Christmas Special / Saturday Morning Cartoons / The Magic Garden / Amahl & the Night Visitors / Holiday Toy Commercials / Lucy & Desi's Last Christmas Show / Joey Heatherton / Fat Albert / The Virginian / Bewitched / Death of John Wayne / 1974 Saturday Mornings / Chuck McCann / Rudolph Collectables / Shrimpenstein / Local Popeye Shows / New Treasure Hunt / 1966 ABC TV Shows / 1967 TV Shows / 1968 TV Shows / Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes & Baby Doll / Fridays / TV Moms / Red Skelton / Star Wars / KISS / Lancelot Link / Saturday Morning Cartoons / The Magic Garden / Wonder Woman / Classic Comic Books / Andy Griffith / Cher / TV Shows on DVD / Outtakes & Bloopers / 1967 TV Shows / Romper Room / ABC Movie of the Week / The Goldbergs / Daws Butler Commercials / Saturday Morning Commercials / Captain Kangaroo / Chicago Local Kiddie Shows / Boston Local TV / Philly Local TV / NYC Local Kid Shows / Amos 'n' Andy / Electric Company / Bette Davis / Judy Garland / Christmas Specials / Redd Foxx / Good Times / Sitcom Houses / What's Happening! / Winky Dink & You / Sonny & Cher / Smothers Brothers / Commercial Icons of the 1960s / Soupy Sales / TV Terrorists / Irwin Allen / The Untouchables / Carol Burnett Show / Batman TV Show / Green Hornet / Today Show History / Our Gang / Doris Day Show / 1970's Commercials For Women / Bill Cosby in the 1970s / The Golddiggers / Lola Falana / 1970s TV Shows / David Bowie on TV / Hudson Brothers / Jackie Gleason / Hollywood Squares / Match Game / Bob Keeshan / Gumby / The Flip Wilson Show / Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour / The Bobby Darin Show / The Richard Pryor Show / George Burns / Celebrity Commercials / Rudolph / Movie Posters & More!|