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Once an Artist, Always an Artist

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by Jeremy Rowland, Editor

“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” was artist Bob Dinoski’s response when I made the mistake of referring to him as an ex-Marine—a sentiment that seems to extend to his work as an artist as well—once an artist, always an artist.

Bob grew up in a cramped New York City tenement. Life was far from glamorous, and those who grew up in poverty also lived and died in it. It was a trap—an infinite cycle of hardship that Bob wanted nothing to do with. 

As a child he would lie on the living room floor listening to the evening broadcasts and drawing on whatever scraps of paper he could find. Art was his passion; he knew that from the beginning, but what he didn’t know was how to make it more than just a hobby. During his high schools years, he resolved to find a way to make a career out of art.

Bob’s search was put on hold when the Korean War broke out. At age 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. and went overseas to serve his country. Despite an active war and the duties that come with it, Bob’s passion for art and creativity persisted. Whenever the opportunity arose, he would pass his free time sketching the men and machinery around his base. It wasn’t fine art, but it gave him the chance to express himself creatively and keep his dream alive.

When Bob’s stint in the Marines ended, he returned home and drifted in search of work. He took numerous menial, uncreative jobs, soul-sucking jobs that made watching the clock a painful experience. Eventually, he landed a job working on trucks for Coca-Cola. The work was far from ideal, but it was steady and the pay was good.

Art was still a nagging ambition, however. Bob couldn’t shake it, so he decided to go to art school under the G.I. Bill. Between that money and his paycheck he was able to pay his way through school. He got married and worked his way up the ranks at Coca-Cola and was eventually earning the comfortable salary (at the time) of $125 a week.

Bob had done it. Poverty was a distant memory; he had a wife, an art degree—life was comfortable. But in all of this he wasn’t happy with his work situation; his dreams were only half realized. Money meant nothing if he wasn’t doing what he loved. 

Much to the chagrin of his wife, he quit his job at Coca-Cola and took a $40-a-week art job. It seemed Bob had taken a step backward. He had drastically narrowed the divide between himself and poverty that he had worked so hard to create. However, for the first time in years, he was satisfied with his work. Bob no longer trudged to the office each day. In fact, he would work 60-100 hours a week without even realizing it. His passion had aligned with his work, and for the first time ever, it ceased to feel like work.

Bob’s talent and passion for art paved the way for bigger and better jobs. Before long, he was making a good living. He was able to move his family out of New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey—far from the tenements of his childhood. Here his kids were able to enjoy the quality of life he had fought so hard to provide for them. 

Bob worked as a professional illustrator and commercial artist, illustrating and designing packaging for more than 40 years. He made a good living doing it and only retired several years back because he had to. The business he was working for was sold, and instead of starting over, he decided to give retirement a try. 

But an artist’s work is never done; Bob soon set his sights on portrait drawing, something he hadn’t done in the 40 years since he started his career. Graphite drawing has proven to be a whole new challenge for Bob, but he tackles his portraits with the same zeal he applied to his career. 

Bob’s goals for his artwork have changed since retirement. The creative process is now less about making a living and more about sharing his gift with the ones he cares about most. After all the pleasure and satisfaction art has given him over the years, he enjoys nothing more than seeing the delight on the faces of his loved ones when he surprises them with a portrait.

From art school to the school of hard knocks, Bob’s journey as an artist has been ever-evolving. His childhood dream became a lifelong love and gave him the means to escape poverty and provide for his family. More than that, it gave him what many people only dream of: a job that didn’t feel like a job.

Bob says he just wants to be around long enough to finish the six or seven  portraits he has already lined up to draw. But it’s my firm belief that Bob’s love for art will keep him going long after that seventh portrait is complete. He likes what he does too much to just give it up. I think it’s safe to say that Bob was once an artist, is now an artist, and will always be an artist.

Image by Bob Dinoski, “Judy and Me.” You can view more of Bob’s work at www.5pmc.com

Jeremy Rowland is editor for Senior Artist magazine and Director of Media Development at Happy Brain, Inc. He is a connoisseur of edible foods, an avid daydreamer, and has a hard time passing up an art museum.

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