1982-1986/The High School Years
"High school started in September of 1982. I didn't play a sport, I didn't belong to any clubs. I pretty much drew and socialized. But I started getting really good at drawing. My dad gave me a sketchbook one day and I took to it really fast. I drew album covers and portraits. I was really interested in rendering and trying to make something look as real as possible. In the middle of 10th grade, my linoleum cut image of a duck won a Pennsylvania Scholastic Gold Key Award, which came as a complete surprise.
Also in the middle of my 10th grade, we moved to CT, which was another sad time in my life. Leaving my friends was really hard and now we were 5 hours away from them, as well as being apart from my mother and extended family. But drawing soothed me, and I kept doing it. My brother commissioned me to draw Eddie from his Iron Maiden poster. Wonderful therapy for a broken heart.
I quickly met new friends and teachers and life became joyful again. My new art teacher, George "Doc" Kukervicz took a liking to me and fed me books about Carravaggio and Rembrandt. He liked the way I carried myself and that I took art seriously. Friends were asking me to draw for them. I was getting commissions from my parent's adult friends to do caricatures and lettering. My confidence kept building and I was having fun. Below is some of the work I was doing around this period of my life."
"In the Spring of 11th grade, I joined the track team and picked up a javelin for the first time. I ended up breaking the school record that year and became the District Champion. Our team won the State Championship as well. All those early years of throwing rocks across the lake had paid off! My senior year was just as successful, until I made it to the State Open Championship as the favored champion and disqualified myself by throwing out of bounds three times! Ugh.
In November of my senior year, my Dad and Stepmother had a baby, which should have been a joyful time, but it really sent the family spinning. It was a lot to have a newborn in the house and this was the beginning of the downward spiral for our family. That January, my brother was in a bad car accident that almost took his life. He spent 6 weeks in a body cast with a broken back. My dad's drinking problem came back and he spent the entire month of May of my senior year in rehab. Needless to say, I had trouble focusing at home. My grades were at an all time low and as the final months of school rolled around, I wasn't so sure I was going to graduate.
My art saved me. The A's I received in drawing, painting and design balanced out the lesser grades and I ended up passing and graduating. Whew! That was close.
My Dad told me he didn't have enough money to send me to college, so I wasn't sure what my future held for me. A friend's Dad got me a javelin scholarship to attend the University of Central Connecticut. But I didn't pursue it because I wanted to continue doing art. My dad arranged for an Army Representative to come to the house and recruit me. I had the pen in my hand, ready to sign, and something inside of me told me to stop. It was the best thing I could have done, because a week later, my best friend, Mark Rich, asked me if I wanted to move to Florida with him. He said there was an art school nearby. His parent's condo was in Bradenton and sure enough, Ringling School of Art and Design was down the road in Sarasota. I thought about it for a week or two, then said yes.
On August 9th, 1991, I left my family in Connecticut and moved to Florida. I had $800 in my pocket and a place to live. It was the best decision I ever made."