By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
A pencil is all he needs to make others go 'wow.'
Jonathan McGinnis doesn't just draw. He draws detail. The faces from his portrait art look like reflections from a mirror.
'He did a drawing once of Johnny Cash,' said Michael Donahue, chair of the Temple College art department. 'Every wrinkle and down to every pore in his nose, Jonathan got it right.'
After graduating from a Kansas high school five years ago, McGinnis attended TC on an art scholarship, earning his associate's degree in 2005. While there, Donahue said, McGinnis excelled and started to expand his creativity.
'I mainly do pencil drawings - with graphite,' McGinnis said. 'But there was an exercise where you were given a blank canvas and told to do whatever you see in your head. Most of those, I like to do in marker with bright colors.' Donahue recalls giving McGinnis that assignment.
'Jonathan just took to that idea and ran with it,' Donahue said. 'He did them and did them. That's when his creativity really started to peek through. He won a cash prize for one of the ones he did.'
At his family home in Temple, the living room and an upstairs studio is dedicated to McGinnis' work. Rows and rows of pictures and portraits, decorate the walls from ceiling to floor.
There's some framed photographs too - even more examples of McGinnis' artistic ability.
His mother, Marcia McGinnis, said nobody else in the family - immediate or extended - is considered an artist.
'The rest of us are lucky if we can get a stick figure with a bubble head,' Mrs. McGinnis said.
Her son knows it.
'Yeah, I'm the black sheep of the family,' he said, kidding.
Mrs. McGinnis said she knew her son was gifted when McGinnis was in the fifth grade.
'He did a drawing of a woman he saw in a picture,' Mrs. McGinnis said. 'It was her face. And it was exactly like the picture. Her expression. The wiry hair on her head. The eyes. It was amazing. That was when we knew Jonathan had God-given talent.'
That portrait hangs in the family room.
Weekly art lessons with a private tutor started not long after McGinnis drew the wiry-haired woman.
'I was so supported by my family. I was always encouraged,' McGinnis said. 'They wanted me to do my art.'
His mother said every class and every chance to learn excited her son. Comic book superheros were her young son's drawing subjects of choice.
'He didn't complain once,' Mrs. McGinnis said.
Now 23, McGinnis is a senior at Texas State University in San Marcos, majoring in art. He plans to graduate in December.
'Then I'll be looking for a job,' McGinnis said, leaning against his desk, his shoulders slightly slouched. 'Any job will do.'
He said finding an art job will be difficult.
But Mrs. McGinnis, Donahue and his fiancee, Jessi Aldridge of Temple, all have faith that he will.
'If anybody can make it work - being paid to be an artist - it is Jonathan McGinnis,' Donahue said. 'He's a phenomenal, really good, very talented artist.'
Teaching art isn't a profession that interests McGinnis right now. He said he'd much rather create it.
His resume, so far, includes commission work in portraiture.
'Most of the time it's people who want portraits of their children,' McGinnis said.
Some of his work has also been published in Tattoo Flash, a magazine with design examples.
'I don't have a tattoo. I don't like needles or pain. My brother (Patrick McGinnis, 18) is into tattoos. He has several of them,' McGinnis said. 'He's how I got interested in the designs.'
And, summing up his work experience, State Representative Dianne White Delisi commissioned McGinnis in 2003 to draw a picture of Christ Episcopal Church in Temple.
'The church was built in 1887. It's historically significant,' Ms. Delisi said. 'I wanted him to draw a physical representation of the church.'
She said it was McGinnis' drawing of the Temple College Downtown Center that prompted her to get in touch with him. The drawing decorated the front of a 2003 Christmas card that the college had sent to several people in the community.
Donahue said TC faculty chose McGinnis for the Christmas card project because of his astounding eye for detail.
'I knew he was the one I wanted to draw the church when I saw that card,' Ms. Delisi said.
McGinnis' pencil sketch of Christ Episcopal Church now hangs in Ms. Delisi's house.
'I showed his drawing to the vestry, and everybody ooohed and ahhhed,' Ms. Delisi said. 'We all liked it very much. I have it at home in a safe place.'
Being an artist
McGinnis holds true to the artist's stereotype.
He's quiet, not too worried about his wardrobe or hairstyle, and, as his fiancee, Ms. Aldridge, put it, 'he's often in his own world.'
Growing up, mother and son agree that he was a quiet child.
'I had a few close friends, not a whole bunch,' McGinnis said. 'I didn't do a lot of talking or socializing.'
He didn't need to. He had his pencil and paper.
'When I first met him, he was a quiet kid, introverted and shy,' Donahue said. 'He one of those guys who let his pencil do his talking for him. When others were talking, he'd be drawing.'
Being the parent of her artist son has been a constant joy, Mrs. McGinnis said.
'It's fun to be his parent,' Mrs. McGinnis said. 'You see him look at a picture and then you see what he does with it. It's amazing to watch his talent.'
When he was 6 or 7, Mrs. McGinnis said her son wanted to draw bricks on the walls in his bedroom, but he was a good boy and followed his instructions not to do so, for Mrs. McGinnis said his bedroom never came to house any such 'accidental' portrait.
'Jonathan was good about staying on his easel and paper,' Mrs. McGinnis said, grinning at her son.
Dating an artist
Ms. Aldridge and McGinnis met each other in a freshman composition class at TC.
'He was real quiet, and I'm real talkative,' Ms. Aldridge said, giggling at the memory. 'Every morning before class, he'd be standing somewhere with his sketch book, and I thought I'd go talk to him, just to say, 'Hey, how are you?''
Then they started to study together.
'He was so cute about it,' Ms. Aldridge said. 'He'd act like he needed my help even though he's like 20 times smarter than I am.'
While her prospective bridegroom was studying art, she was studying to become a nurse. She's now a Registered Nurse and Scott and White Memorial Hospital.
'It's weird, we're really opposites,' Ms. Aldridge said. 'I'm not big into art or anything like that, and he can't walk in a hospital'. He's afraid of needles. I draw stick figures, and he's funny about pain. If I say my head hurts, he's quick to come to my house to see if I'm OK.'
The opposites-attract theory, she said, definitely applies to them.
'Me - I'm matter-of-fact, and he's abstract,' Ms. Aldridge said. 'But we balance each other out. It's good.'
She said McGinnis' talent is amazing, but, at the beginning of their relationship, she sometimes felt that his art was his 'second girlfriend.'
'I wanted to go out,' she said. 'But he'd say he has to stay home to finish a drawing. It sometimes got frustrating.'
But he is hers entirely, he said. Wedding bells are set to ring March 29.
McGinnis proposed before Ms. Aldridge graduated this spring.
'There's a joke to that,' Ms. Aldridge said, outing her prospective bridegroom. 'He said he wanted to propose before I graduated and became a nurse, so that everyone would know he didn't marry me for money.'
She was poking fun at McGinnis' soon-to-be 'starving artist' status.
Her giddy voice took on a more serious tone.
'He's got an amazing, creative side - a God given talent - and he's my pride and joy,' Ms. Aldridge said. 'He gets so lost in his own world. You know he's in the place where his art comes from, and it's amazing and wonderful to see.'