When I was a young boy all my friends liked to play soccer, but I liked art. So I drew while they played soccer. Everyone would look at my drawings and say, “You have talent from God!” But I would always respond, “No I don’t. You play soccer and I draw.”
That’s the most important lesson – if you draw every day from when you are three years old you will be an artist one day. Artists aren't born they are made through practice. It doesn’t have to be art though – if you like musical instruments, play that instrument every day and one day you will be a musician.
When I was 32 I lost the ability to draw. It came out of nowhere. I couldn’t even draw a line on a piece of paper. I had nothing. It lasted one day. Then one week. Then one month.
At the time I was living and working in Warsaw. There is a big and beautiful gothic Church in Fara, Poland that was built in 1902. My parents were both Catholic and I also have the spirit of God inside of me. I went to the church and prayed, “God please give me back my ability to draw.” The next day I was normal. This is a true story.
I came to America from Poland thirty years ago. It was a very bad time in Poland because of communism. There was no meat or vegetables in the store, only vinegar. I witnessed very bad things and I saw a lot of people killed, someone even tried to kill me. I lost everything I had. A very old priest told me to go to a different country and wait for a time when Poland was more stable, so I came to America.
Even though I’m a self-taught artist I was an art professor in Poland – I used to teach other professors! But I couldn’t be an art teacher in America because my English is not good. I first came to Central Park to draw caricatures. I like drawing caricatures but in America they like portraits so that’s what I draw.
I’ve studied every single part of the human anatomy. Even today I look for every little part of a person’s body because it is my responsibility to transform a 3D body into a 2D portrait. I can create a portrait in 15 minutes. I also do oil and water color paintings. Oil painting is easy because you can make mistakes and correct them. But water color is more challenging because water colors are water proof so you cannot make any mistakes. Some water color paintings can take me two days to complete.
There are many artists and only 16 spots (outside the Met) so I have to get here at midnight to reserve my spot. I am here from midnight until 5:00 or 6:00 PM the following day, every day.
I work and live less than a hundred feet from apartments where people pay $60,000 a month to live. But that’s not for me – I live and sleep in my car.
Despite those circumstances practice is still important. I still draw every single day because if I take a day off my art is not perfect and it needs to be perfect.
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