The Best of the Very Best...
The Irish American artist, Joseph C. Fitzpatrick was born in Williamstown, Pennsylvania, but no name is more synonymous with Pittsburgh art than the name Fitzpatrick. Thousands of children throughout Western Pennsylvania attended special art classes at the Carnegie Institute every Saturday morning under the skillful guidance of Mr. Fitzpatrick and his staff.
Each and every Saturday morning, this gentle giant of a man would strut out on to the stage of Carnegie Music Hall and with a great sweeping gesture, he would bellow "RRRed... Orange, Yellow, Green Blue Purple Brown & Black!" Hundreds of bright young faces would light up with anticipation. Before we entered the hall, we had been given pencils, paper and crayons to record our lesson. Each paper had to include a color chart, a perspective chart and a description of what we observed from life the past week. On the back would be our drawing for the week.
For most of us, Mr. Fitzpatrick was the the first real artist we had ever met. He was a tall man with white hair. His very presence demanded respect. It was like you were in the presence of royalty, Irish Royalty. He was always impeccably dressed and to say he was eccentric would be an understatement. He would step up to his easel at center stage and in a few strokes of thick black chalk, he would have a work of art. Around him on the stage would be 10 students, "The Best of the Very Best" and they would be rendering a larger version of the drawings that they had done at the previous weeks class. The drawings had been chosen out of the hundreds that had been turned in the week before.
"Look to see to remember to Enjoy!" his favorite saying was always in the back of our minds.
After your work was completed at your easel, you would then be asked to come up to the microphone at center stage and give a brief description of your drawing. Then Mr. Fitzpatrick would pin a small white pin on your lapel to signify that you had been "up to the easel".
To be chosen was both an honor and a terror for the students at the easel. It was the first time many of us had been in front of a large crowd. To sit out in the crowd and draw a picture was one thing, but to draw that same picture in front of hundreds of your classmates was intimidating.

More about Fitzpatrick, page 2: On a personal note...

Special thanks to Bruce S. Cridlebaugh

Don Henderson

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