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.