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Artist draws on life's experiences

| Sunday, May 6, 2012, 7:51 p.m.

Lines, circles and colors flow when Nick Chulig takes a pen in hand. The 83-year-old Monessen resident calls his drawings and designs "abstract art."

About 30 years ago, when Chulig took a relative to Pittsburgh for a doctor's appointment, fate intervened. He happened upon the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Chulig studied the art and thought, "I could do that."

He visited the library and took out some art books and magazines.

"I'm self-taught," he confided.

Chulig began sketching and drawing with pen and poster paper, using the kitchen table for a drawing board. He draws whatever is in his mind.

"Circles just come to me," Chulig said. He once heard about an art school where the student had to make a perfect circle. "This stuck with me." He uses circles large and small, some within the design and some cascading, circles falling out of circles, or in sharp contrast to straight or curved lines.

"I look at the design and think, 'What am I going to do?'"

Chulig exercises his imagination to provide intricate shapes and forms, and combines it with his eye for blending colors. He understands why one shade of red fits so well with a deeper shade of blue. Or why lighter shades of green become so striking when brought in with vivid yellow. The result is art that is aesthetically pleasing.

Chulig draws original art for its own sake and enjoys giving it away. He never names any of his artwork because "everyone who sees it sees something different." He just signs it "Nick Chulig" neatly on the bottom right-hand corner of each piece. He admits to having "a couple hundred drawings in stacks downstairs."

His talents have been noted. Chulig has had artwork on display at the Monessen Public Library on many occasions.

Chulig also dabbles in metal. With a large cotter pin and some metal additions, he designed a piece and named it "Watusi Warrior."

"I won a blue ribbon for it a few years ago at a Westmoreland Community College art show," he said.

In Chulig's home are two copper wire figures. One is a hunter with his gun and dog. The other is a fisherman with net and a huge catch dangling on the end of the fishing rod.

In another piece, Chulig fashioned a tepee-shaped form that surrounds a chunk of glass sitting atop a wood cutout.

Talent abounds in the man who spent his working life in the mechanical department of Pittsburgh Steel at both the Monessen and Allenport sites.

"I was born on Thanksgiving Day," said Chulig, who will turn 84 this year.

Chulig and his wife, Katherine, who married later in life, had no children. Katherine passed away earlier this year, and his brother, Carl, and sisters, Mildred and Pauline, also are deceased. "I call myself the lone ranger," Chulig said.

So with two dozen ink pens and stacks of poster paper, Chulig draws when the moment strikes.

"I start moving around and soon I've got something going," he says. He often doodles just for practice, covering both sides of large envelopes with colors splashing with new designs.

In between, Chulig still cuts his lawn, plants flowers, walks at least a half-hour each day, reads and does puzzles.

"It keeps the mind active," he said.

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