Archive for February, 2010

“My Tale of Two Cities” is a charming and engaging feel good film which was produced and directed by Carl Kurlander. Carl Kurlander is an American television writer, producer and screenwriter from Pittsburgh. He is known for his extensive work and served as a producer with Peter Engel. Some of the productions with which he was a part of included (Saved By the Bell, Hang Time, USA High and Malibu, CA). As a screenwriter he co-wrote the autobiographical smash-hit, “St. Elmo’s Fire”.  Carl was featured in Po Bronson’s bestselling book titled “What Should I do With My Life?” which landed him on the Oprah Winfrey Show in February, 2003. He explained to Oprah how happy he was for moving back to his hometown of Pittsburgh. The journey home inspired Carl to produce and direct “My Tale of Two Cities”. The film is about a city which built America with its steel, cured polio and invented many of the things we utilize in our daily lives. It shows how Pittsburgh is now reinventing itself for a new age. The film is a cinematic homecoming and re-energizes the belief that you can still go home and that Pittsburgh really is someplace special. The film features a collection of noticeable Pittsburghers along with some amazing fly-by shots of the city.

Mr. Kurlander is the co-founder of the Steeltown Entertainment Project and a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh. For those of you who may not have seen or heard about the film, I think that all Pittsburghers will truly appreciate this film and I have included the trailer to the movie below. About a month before the film debuted in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theatre I was contacted by Jim DiSpirito. Jim was a former percussionist with both Rusted Root & The Gathering Field and scored the sound-track for the film. He mentioned that Mr. Kurlander was interested in using my illustration of the City of Pittsburgh which was chosen as the cover graphic for the film’s CD/DVD release.

Click the link below to watch the trailer of “My Tale of Two Cities” wonderfully directed by Pittsburgh movie director, Carl Kurlander.

“My Tale of Two Cities”

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Smithfield Street Bridge

Smithfield Street Bridge

Pen & Ink Illustration

The Smithfield Street Bridge is a lenticular truss bridge which spans the width of the Monongahela River in the city of Pittsburgh. Along with the picturesque city of Venice, Italy with its many intertwining canals, Pittsburgh is known not only as the “City of Steel” but also the “City of Bridges”. The city has several hundred bridges in a range of styles and colors which cross our many rivers and valleys. When it comes to history, architectural style and picture postcard quality the Smithfield Street Bridge is the city’s crown jewel. The bridge serves as both a commuter and pedestrian bridge which connects downtown to the Shoppes of Station Square and the Southside of Pittsburgh. Station Square was once home to a railroad terminal but later renovated into classy upscale restaurants and unique shoppes, along with the outside pavilion, Bessemer Court.

The Smithfield Street Bridge has seen three models throughout its existence but the current bridge has stood since 1883.  The first bridge was designed by Louis Wernwag in 1818 and constructed of wood. The bridge was destroyed by fire during the Great Fire of Pittsburgh in 1845. The second model, a wire-rope suspension bridge was designed and built most famously by John A. Roebling. Roebling is known worldwide by engineers as the designer of one of the most famous bridges in the world, Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, New York. The final bridge and the one which we see today was designed by Gustav Lindenthal between 1881-83. Lindenthal also designed the Hells Gate Bridge. The Smithfield Street Bridge served as a trolley streetcar system until 1985 when service was diverted to the nearby Panhandle Bridge. In 1995, the bridge was affixed and rehabilitated with a new deck, colorful paint schemes and the addition of architectural lighting. The Smithfield Street Bridge has been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Click the link below to the Pittsburgh Drawings section of my fine art website to purchase this print of the Smithfield Street Bridge located in the “City of Bridges”.

Steel City Artist Illustrations – Pittsburgh Drawings

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Recently, I came upon the incredible watercolor representations of Pittsburgh’s once thriving steel industries which lined the railways and riverbanks of the towns we call home. More than likely, many of our family, friends and neighbors throughout the Pittsburgh region worked in these very mills which are proudly displayed. I personally felt that this artist who may not be as well known in Pittsburgh, deserved to be recognized for his artistic creations and contributions to our region’s history.

In 1956, Pennsylvania and Lake Erie (P & LE) president John Barriger III commissioned his friend and renowned artist, Howard Fogg to create a series of watercolor paintings. The paintings depicted very detailed scenes of the once giant thriving and breathing steel mills and plants along P & LE railroad line and its subsidiary routes. The paintings were reproduced onto postcards, calendars, appointment books and prints of various sizes. Fogg’s collection of paintings were compiled into a high quality book titled, ‘Along the Right of Way’. Not too much is known about the artist, Howard Fogg. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1917 and settled to Boulder, Colorado where he lived for the remainder of his life until his death in 1996. His work is treasured by collectors, museums and fans of the railways and trains.

Jones & Laughlin Pittsburgh Works, Pittsburgh, PA

US Steel Homestead Works, Homestead, PA

Jones & Laughlin Aliquippa Works, Aliquippa, PA

Pittsburgh Steel Co., Monessen, PA

Locomotive Shop, McKees Rocks, PA

Babcock & Wilcox, Koppel, PA

Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical Co., Neville Island

Clairton Coke Works

Bethlehem Steel, Rankin, PA

Edgar Thompson Works, Braddock, PA

National Tube Division, McKeesport, PA

Steel City Artist Illustrations

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monongahela-inclineThe Monongahela Incline is located near the Smithfield Street Bridge behind the Shoppes at Station Square in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the oldest continuous operating furnicular in the United States along with the Duquesne Incline located short distance away. The Duquesne Incline is known for its signature red and yellow colored cabs which are often featured in photographs and postcards with the city skyline. The surviving inclines are two of seventeen original passenger-carrying inclines in the city.

During the Industrial Revolution and shortly after the American Civil War, Pittsburgh became known worldwide as the center of the steel industry. Immigrants from all throughout Europe left their homelands in search of the opportunities and freedoms that America offered. Hundreds of ships crossed the Atlantic and sailed through New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island. The demand for laborers and steelworkers was beginning to blossom in Pittsburgh. Many immigrants, most of whom were of German descent came to Pittsburgh and established their roots here. Many of the newly constructed steel mills and factories were built in the flat lands and flood plains nearest to the city and its rivers. This left the steep hillsides of Mt. Washington, known as “Coal Hill” as the only place for adequate construction of homes. Travel at that time was hindered by the lack of well built roads and public transportation. Many of the Germans who settled here fondly remembered the seilbahns (cable cars) from their homeland. The German steelworkers proposed construction of the inclines and the Monongahela Incline opened on May 28, 1870.

The inclines are operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County and are used by both commuters and visitors on a daily basis. The Monongahela Incline was first constructed with a wooden frame, however was renovated with steel in 1882. The incline is 635 feet long and is built on a 35 degree grade. The cable cars can each seat up to 23 passengers and travels at a speed of 6 mph. The Monongahela Incline was originally steam-operated but converted to electricity in 1935. The view from Mt. Washington is a magnificent view regardless if it is night or day. The impressive skyline of the “Golden Triangle” along with the rivers and valleys all complement one another that leave breath-taking views. The inclines are admired and loved both by Pittsburghers and those who visit our beautiful city.

Click the link below to the Pittsburgh Drawings section of my fine art website to purchase this print of the Monongahela Incline and one of Pittsburgh’s treasured landmarks.

Steel City Artist Illustrations – Pittsburgh Drawings

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I have great memories growing up as a young kid during the 70’s in my hometown located north of Pittsburgh. I recall playing football and hockey out on the street with my brother, Ryan. I can still vision my neighbor sitting out on his front porch tuning into the Pirates game on KDKA or the latest tune of a Jim Croce song. Across the mighty Ohio River from my hometown of Baden, Pennsylvania was the sprawling behemoth giant Jones and Laughlin steel mill. The mill was something that had always been there well before I was born and it was etched into the landscape and rolling hillside. The mill spanned a length of seven miles from the Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge up to the small town of West Aliquippa. J&L’s steel mill was so gigantic that it cast a shadow over the small community of West Aliquippa where many of the steelworkers and their families resided as the sun made its way to the west.

This pen and ink illustration titled “West Aliquippa” was the second illustration I created in 1997. Like the “Steelworker Lunchtime” illustration, this drawing just came to me. In reality, this drawing can easily represent any mill town in western Pennsylvania. Homes of steelworkers were usually located within walking distance of the steel mill and everyone knew one another. In the days of my parents and grandparents there definitely was a sense of community among the communities and patchwork of neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. I included things into the illustration to give it the feel of a classic American town. There is the American flag which symbolizes the town’s patriotism and remembrance of its veterans. Cobblestone-lined streets were common in Pittsburgh neighborhoods and can still be found in a few. Family businesses, such as the neighborhood barbershop or the Isaly’s deli gave a town its identity. Not too sure where the antique car came into play, but it gives the illustration an added unique touch. The Jones & Laughlin steel mill no longer casts a shadow on the town as like many mills were dismantled during the decline of the steel industry. Like the steel mills, many of the neighbors who were a part of my childhood have gone too and reminds me of the Jim Croce song which played on my neighbor’s radio,  “Photographs and Memories”.

Click the link below to the Pittsburgh Drawings section of my fine art website to purchase this print and the memories of growing up in Pittsburgh’s steel towns.

Steel City Artist Illustrations

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“Steelworker Lunchtime” was the first pen and ink illustration which I created in the early winter months of 1997. That year I was preparing a series of drawings for Nationality Days which takes place in the town of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. It is a 3-day event which celebrates the multi-national heritages and traditions of its town’s residents. I decided to title the illustration series, “A Run of the Mills” and focused on creating many of the steel mills from the Beaver Valley. During its heyday and booming days of the steel industry, Jones and Laughlin (J&L) and American Bridge Co. were the premier steel centers where I grew up. In addition to that there were several other mills and factories lining the railways and riverbanks of the Ohio River.

“Steelworker Lunchtime” came to me envisioning all the generations of Pittsburgh’s steelworkers, iron-workers and laborers in mind. My grandfather, John Filip, a first generation American and steelworker of Polish immigrants worked 45 years as a blast furnace steelworker and foreman at J&L’s Pittsburgh Southside Works. The steelworkers labored intensely through blood, sweat and back-breaking work in thick dust and smoke in all kinds of deplorable weather and working conditions. They understood the true definition of work-ethic and so the mentality of the blue-collar worker was born. The steel, iron and glass that was forged and manufactured in the mills and factories of Pittsburgh built many of our nation’s buildings, bridges, memorials and monuments. The steel industry also vastly contributed to the superiority and dominance of America’s military and this was apparent especially during World War II. Pittsburgh’s steel mills churned, pulsated and pounded day and night to get the steel needed for airplanes, ships, tanks and all that the military needed to achieve success in the European and Pacific Theaters.

Lunchtime was a welcoming moment for the steelworkers and men who labored in  the factories. This was a moment they could look forward to with friends and co-workers whether at the neighborhood deli or diner, along the riverbanks or perched on an I-beam high above the cityscape. The man pictured in this illustration is a steelworker enjoying his 30-minute lunch-break. He is looking across the river at another steel mill and feeling proud of his role as a steelworker. This illustration has more of a free-hand quality and lacks the precision detail of the other illustrations that would follow. However, it has meaning to me being that it was the first one which started it all. A woman who ordered one of my illustrations gave me a unique idea.  Remember the steelworker in your family by having your family name featured on the side of the lunch-pail.

Steel City Artist Illustrations

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