I am a deeply superficial person. – Andy Warhol
As a lad in Pittsburgh, I studied art at the Carnegie Institute under Joseph C. Fitzpatrick, a hardy Irishman who called girls lasses, boys lads, and Guinness angel piss. (Okay, I made the Guinness part up, but the first three claims are true.) He was Andy Warhol’s former instructor, for 15 minutes. Or 15 years — whichever is longer. In spite of all the excitement, distractions, and circus atmosphere that defined the college scene of Pittsburgh’s Oakland district in the late 1960s, Mr. Fitzpatrick provided fundamental training in drawing and painting that was as solid as the cinder block wall of the Ryan Home in which I lived, and he taught me that an artist doesn’t need shock to create awe.
Everybody in Pittsburgh knew who Andy Warhol was. He was Pittsbugh’s Daniel Boone of the arts, blazing the trail from Pittsburgh to New York City. We’d read the papers and seen his work around town and at the Carnegie Intl. art exhibition, but Fitzpatrick’s message was: Yes, we may paint like a pop artist, but no, we may not paint like a pop artist. Not yet. He wanted us to learn how to run before we could walk, and walk before we could crawl. Make it until you fake it. Talk it like you walk it. Lay it as you play it. Grow it as you crow it. And don’t take no wooden pickles in the process. They’re too hard to process.
While I have your attention, let me tell you about the subjects of this painting, little Stevie. The kid with a thousand cow-licks speaking perfectly loud. And a temper — he once pistol-whipped a playmate with a toy cowboy cap-gun. (The kid still wouldn’t shut up!) But let me digress. When Stevie was about the same age as this painting’s subjects, he jumped off a shed roof, which was probably a 15-20 foot drop at the downhill side, while having to clear a large pile of yellow bricks recycled from the old Ohio River Boulevard, and he landed like he was a soldier in the 101st Stillborne Division. He’d been assured by his neighbor Eddie Haskel that he could fly like Peter Pan if he put his mind to it. He instead sprained both ankles, almost bit off his tongue, and he’s also learned, after 58 years, that he’d fractured a vertebra and it’s still broken. But, no matter — he has 32 more.