Chapter 2

Getting to know me…have you read Chapter 1

Bends in the Road

When you are tall it’s hard to hide, When you’re tall you sit in the back of the class, when you’re tall your good at basketball, when you’re tall you usually have to grow into yourself, and when you’re tall you see things from a different angle. By the time I was 13 I was six feet tall. I was still sitting in the back of the class and never had to look back at anyone. I saw everything the entire class was doing no one watched me. I learned how to watch, listen, observe and when the timing was right respond; I learned very young how to listen, formulate, and then speak. By the time I was entering Junior High School (7th and 8th grades) I was cashing in on my artistic ability. Most teachers noticed my artistic skills; all my reports were artfully crafted and if the written message was ok, my art made it better. I usually wound up doing bulletin boards for my teachers at their request. My art skills changed F’s to D’s and A’s to A+’s my bulletin board work rewarded me with praise and accolades. By the time I got to High School my reputation was for being an ok underperforming student with lots of artistic talent.

Family influences started to play in my life. My father had a tremendous work ethic and commitment to family. No matter what the circumstances he was honest to a fault. He believed in; using as few words as possible to get his point across, giving good value and expecting good payment in return, the job was not done until it was tested, to respect others property, and to be well groomed no matter your profession. My dad was a craftsman first, a licensed master plumber second. His hands were strong when needed, gentle by nature and manicured often. In my teens through my early twenties I spent many summers and weekends, working with and for him. I worked in ditches on open sewer lines, college chemistry labs, housing development water mains, Shopping centers, medical offices, estates all over long island, private homes of the wealthy, not at all wealthy and, even a New York World’s Fair. Every job involved a methodical plan of attack, a step by step process, a review of the tools and supplies needed. Every job included observing working conditions and no job was complete without acknowledging a proper thank you. My mom ran the house and she was was terrific money manager and handled everything having to do with our household. Instead of engaging in professional work she focused on her clubs Hadassah and Sisterhood of our Jewish center. She was committed to our family and was most concerned about appearances and manners. As children we lived in a very controlled environment that put neatness and order in front of just having fun. Things that even brought the thought of dirt or disarray were intolerable to her. I guess that is why, my pencil, paper and imagination evolved into a perfect hobby; It was neat clean and portable. I also learned at an early age how to work neatly and contain messes while doing projects that may upset my Mother. Half the fun of doing intricate model building was doing it without any dirt. By my 18th birthday I was actually able to work on my 1963 Barracuda in our large two car garage. It was amazing how I could install camshafts, change rear ends, modify suspension, build a crazy reverb stereo and never make a mess. Our garage was as clean as my Moms living room (which I never went into) unless there was company coming over on a rare occasion. The garage was heated, tiled, and wainscoted with two-tone paint, fluorescent lighting and an adjoining bath and shower. After working on my cars I could take a shower and cleanup before entering the other parts of the house. I guess I made a point about being neat because several years later when I wanted to start my art studio my mom volunteered the garage. On my mother’s side my grandfather was a; hardware merchant in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, before that a macaroni manufacturer, Italian American Grocer, Bootlegger, Ladies Man and a bit of a chauvinist; it was all about the boys. On my father’s side my grandmother was a shopkeeper. I had Aunts and uncles in the Olive Oil, Appliance, Plumbing, Hardware, Painting, construction, vacation rental, stocks, and bond, businesses. When we visited there was always some sort of business conversation between the men that I was privy to. As I got older sometimes I even got into the conversation but what I did mostly was listen.

Early SVA artwork
Early SVA artwork

In my last year of high school I was recommended to compete in a national competition for a full scholarship to the School of Visual Arts. I accepted the challenge to possibly represent my high school in this competition. I realized I needed to address some of my art techniques and so at 17 years old I refused that my school submits any of the artwork that had won me recognition among my teachers; instead I set off to develop a portfolio of work to be submitted for the first review. I believe that several thousand entries were submitted and were narrowed to 500, then 200 then 25, and then one in two categories, Fine art and Graphic arts.

Early SVA artwork
Early SVA artwork

The following September I would start at “school of Visual Arts” my love for art as a hobby would end and instead of using wrenches and pipe cutters to earn a living in the future my tool box would become, pencil, paper, art supplies, and my imagination. The year I decided to go to art school was the year that I decided to pursue a career in graphic arts and not get into the plumbing and heating business. For my SVA years I lived in New York City and came home to Long island on most weekends. On weekends I hung out and did car stuff and during the week after school I hung out at Polk’s Hobby shop on 34th street and raced scratch built slot cars. My 1/34 scale 356 Porsche did quite well I always leaned towards true scale cars rather than store bought ready to run cars. Most afternoons Chuck McCann would stop by and Race his cars…thinking back he probably was the first person of notoriety I meet…he was just a regular guy at the hobby shop, he just wanted to run his cars and enjoy…that’s all!!

 To be continued…

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