Throughout middle school, I absorbed every art class. The exercises were beneficial and taught me new ways to express myself through art. My artwork significantly improved after attending those classes. I started developing a reputation in school for my drawing ability.
Art Projects Turned Reality
I took my love of model building and decided to build a real tree fort. When it was completed the structure spanned 3 trees, and it had three stories in the middle section. It had a prison, a draw-bridge, 6 rooms, and a lookout platform 20 feet up. We built a pulley-system to transport supplies from one section to another section. All the materials were scavenged from the local dump and scoured the area for plywood, lumber, rope, and even nails. It was quite a project.
It took the neighborhood gang a few years to complete. There was probably about a dozen kids from the neighborhood who helped build this monster. No adults were involved – This was 100% kid made! In the end, my mother’s home-owners insurance company said that the tree fort must come down or they would cancel her policy. That was a sad day for all the kids who helped build it. These are the only surviving pictures of the tree fort of all tree forts, and it was only about half made in these pictures.
More Art Project Turned Reality
A constant theme during my middle school years was that my drawings reflected my other interests. Around this time I had an interest in BMX bikes and freestyle riding which you can see reflected in these next drawings.
High School Art Classes
In high school, my love of drawing was rekindled. I benefited greatly from the more advanced instruction given in the high school art program, and this can be seen in these next examples.
Art during the summer before middle school took a major change in direction. Therefore, it was a time when my art started being expressed physically and not just on paper or canvas. I loved building models, but they felt very limiting and pre-planned to me. So I started building my models out of wood, plastic, cardboard and even toothpicks.
Summer Before Middle School – USS Intrepid and Model Ships
My grandparents were always taking my brother and I to exciting and interesting places in and around New York City during our summer vacations. After one such trip to the Aircraft Carrier USS Intrepid I made this cardboard model while sitting at their kitchen table. That was during the summer of 1980 when I was 10 years old.
Summer before Middle School – Fascination with Sailing Ships
Art during the summer before middle school also focused on wooden sailing ships. I wasted no time after my summer vacation with my grandparents before I started drawing old sailing ships. Back home in Connecticut during my last week before middle school started, my mother took me to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. What I remember most about the museum was the exhibit of model ship. The models were incredible, and the detail on them was so subtle and tiny, and they looked real. They reminded me of the model ships my Uncle Joe used to build. I decided I wanted to build model ships like that. After going to the local public library and checking out every book on model shipbuilding, I made blueprints and building plans that I intended to use to make my own models. Here are some of those drawings and models.
Drawing the blueprints
From Paper to Reality… Custom Model Building
At first I did not have access to real modeling supplies, so I used materials that I found lying around the house. One excellent building material that I found were toothpicks. I used them to build my first ship models. I had no idea how to construct a hull using toothpicks, so I started by making only the decks of the ships. Here is my first toothpick model of a small ship deck. I was about 11 when I built this model.
This is a more complex model, also created using toothpicks. The model is somewhat damaged which you can see in the pictures, I’m surprised it has not been completely demolished in all this time. I must thank my mother for keeping these early art projects tucked away and safe. I was about 11 when I built this model.
Building with Balsa Wood
My mother took me to a hobby shop to purchase some balsa wood for my ship models. Balsa wood was very easy to work with and was used to create my next model. Jumping from one model to the next without completing them was common for me, especially when I realized that the materials did not produce the results that I was after.
Advanced prefabricated wood ship model
I talked with my parents and convinced my father to buy me a wooden model ship kit. Here is the wooden model ship kit that my father bought me. I am still working on it today when I get the rare free time. I pull it out every couple of years and work on it. It will get finished one day. I’m not going to buy another wooden ship model …this one is it.
Preschool and elementary school art pieces that exist are in small numbers these days. The oldest is a painting of our parakeet Henry. My mother purchased him when I was 4 years old. Henry was a good bird, and he lived with us for many years. I’m sure it was because of Henry that my art initially centered around birds. I loved to draw birds.
I can still remember drawing this cardinal. It was winter, and I saw this little fellow while looking through our dining room window. He was walking on the roof of a birdhouse that was hanging in the backyard and then he flew away. I went and got my colored pencils and paper and drew this picture.
Visiting Museums in New York City
Memorable were the summer vacations to our grandparents home in Astoria in Queens, New York. My mother would send us there for about 4 to 6 weeks during our school summer vacations, and they continued until my brother, and I became teenagers. Looking back, those summers in New York City were a beautiful and peaceful time in my life. Today, when the stress of life starts creeping up on me, I sit back and remember those visits.
It was during those visits that my grandparents or my Aunt Annie would take my brother and me into Manhattan to visit the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These next drawings are from one of the trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Aunt Annie. I remember on this occasion how we took our time going through the bird exhibits so that I would have time to draw these pictures.
Elementary School Art – Drawing People
Although I loved to draw birds, I created other things too. Below are some portraits. The first portrait is of my grandfather, the second is a family friend named Teddy, and the third is a picture of Vincent Price that I copied from the cover of a TV Guide.
I can remember my dad’s reaction when he saw this portrait of Vincent Price. He could not believe that I drew it. He made copies so that he could show them to his friends. It felt good inside seeing how proud he was of me.
Elementary School Art – My Love of Drawing Birds Continues
Here are some more birds from my preschool and elementary school art years. I was getting better at drawing in the details, which can be seen in the feathers of these next images.
Elementary School Art – Private Art Lessons with Kathy Singer
My parents soon realized that I had a natural artistic ability. They signed me up for private art lessons with a local artist named Kathy Singer. Kathy introduced me to landscapes, watercolors, and hand-made crafts using paper-mache. We usually met at her home for the lessons, but she also took us on field trips. I remember one such trip to a farm that had an old barn. I have several drawings from that trip but they are badly faded, and I could not produce quality scans for this webpage. Kathy Singer was a good art teacher, and I enjoyed her lessons. (See Kathy Singers watercolors and acrylics)
Elementary School Art – Painting Lessons in Queens, New York
My Aunt Annie loved to watch me draw. Here is a painting that I did at her apartment in Queens, New York. This was my first landscape painting using acrylics. It was around this time in my life that I also began to take an interest in sailing ships.
My Aunt Annie and her husband (Uncle Joe) used to paint together, and they painted maritime and landscape scenes. Uncle Joe, who died when I was very young, loved to paint and build model ships. I remember sitting in their living room and staring at a model ship of the ‘Cutty Sark’ that Uncle Joe made. It was awesome! I eventually inherited that model, but it was severely damaged during the journey from New York to to my home in Connecticut. I could not fix it and sadly it one day went into the garbage. However, my mother and I have all of the original paintings they created together. Aunt Annie and Uncle Joe were definitely an inspiration to me. (See Aunt Annie’s paintings)
Elementary School Art – Art Classes at Paier College of Art
One day a week I was allowed to leave school early and attend special art classes at the Paier College of Art in New Haven, Connecticut. This was great because none of the other kids got to do that! I don’t have any of those art projects, but they were all hands on. There was a lot of sculpting and building using different materials and mediums. The skills I learned opened up new ways for me to express myself through art. Creating images on paper was no longer my limit. Below is a castle that I starting building out of cardboard shortly after my experiences at Paier.
I received private art lessons from Connecticut artist, and art teacher Kathy Singer during the late 1970s. Kathy taught me to work in several different mediums, that included watercolor, graphite, and papier-mache. We primarily worked at her home, but we also went on field trips to scenic locations around Connecticut. I remember one such trip to a farm in Cheshire where we drew one of the barns multiple times from various vantage points. It was a fun outing that took the better part of a day.
Papier-mache projects were also fun. We would make funny characters using strips of rolled and crumpled cardboard fastened together using masking tape. After the figures were shaped to our satisfaction, we coated the creation with papier-mache. Once dried, we painted our characters to bring them to life. They were fun crafty projects, and I learned a lot from Kathy.
Kathy also taught me basic watercolor techniques that I continued to develop and refine long after our art lessons had stopped. I feel that her instructions on shadow, and lighting were informative, and beneficial in my development as a young artist.
Watercolor Portraits by Connecticut Artist Kathy Singer
Pastel Artworks by Connecticut Artist Kathy Singer
In 2009 I received a call from Kathy Singer after she found my website. We talked about the things we have done since we last spoke over 30 years ago and she was thrilled that I was still creating art. I asked about her watercolors, and she mentioned that her new love is pastel and landscapes. She sent some images of her recent works, and I have posted them below. Please enjoy these artworks by Connecticut artist, and art teacher Kathy Singer.
Ann Fucich, who is my Aunt Ann, and who we affectionately call Teta (Slovenian) Annie, was my earliest artistic influence and instructor. I would spend my entire summer vacation at my grandparents home in Astoria in Queens, New York, and this enabled Teta Annie and I, who lived nearby, to spend a lot of time together. For example, art projects were always a large part of our time spent with each other. Also, she was always encouraging me to create art even when I was home in Connecticut and we talked on the phone. These experiences with her helped to shape my artistic interests as a young child. Because of this, I have only warm, loving memories of my earliest, and most beloved art teacher and mentor, Ann Fucich.
Beloved Art Teacher Ann Fucich History
Teta Annie’s history (and mine) reaches back to Kuzelj, Austria. Ann was born on October 28th, 1917 as Ann Saganich and died on May 3rd, 2014 at the age of 97. Teta Annie had five siblings, and her sister Elizabeth was my grandmother. Later, her first true love, Joe Fucich, married Ann. I would describe Ann’s painting style as very similar to Grandma Moses.
Joe Fucich loved the ocean, and I was told that he served as a mariner when he was a young man. Therefore, inspired by his love of the ocean, Joe created maritime scenes alongside Ann, and a few of those early works continue to exist in the family collection.
Teta Annie often took my brother and me into Manhattan to visit art museums or sit in parks with a case full of drawing supplies. As a result, we had many outings to the Museum of Natural History where we would spend hours at the bird exhibit drawing and sketching. Afterwards, we would go back to Teta Annie’s apartment in Queens and draw or paint. Teta Annie would paint alongside my brother and me, giving us guidance as needed until we became comfortable expressing ourselves in our own paintings.
Teta Annie created many detailed paintings in acrylic and oil during her lifetime. Also, she created a large picture of my childhood home in Wallingford, Connecticut, and my mother has this painting hanging in the house to this day. Other works that have remained in the family are paintings of Annie’s ancestral town in Kuzelj, Austria and Joe’s home in Trieste, Italy.
Outstanding Paintings by Ann Fucich
I feel that I owe much to Teta Annie. Below are pictures of her with my family shortly before she passed away. Therefore, this post is in memory of my beloved art teacher and mentor Ann Fucich.