For Hal Lasko, a computer is a tool for painting. Not for email. Not for surfing the web. Not for Facebook or YouTube. Just painting.
What's amazing about Lasko, 97, is that he can paint at all. He's legally blind after a condition called wet macular degeneration slowly eroded his vision. Yet he spends about 10 hours a day in front of his computer working on six or so paintings at a time. It takes him two days to a month to complete one. A magnifying device helps him review the finished prints.
Lasko, who will celebrate his 98 th birthday on July 28, has been quietly creating colorful artwork with the Microsoft Paint program for about 15 years. But this week, the World War II veteran was thrust into a media whirlwind after his grandson, Ryan, posted a short video called The Pixel Painter online. (You can watch it above.)
"I'm absolutely amazed," says Lasko, of Rocky River, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. "I've sat in my studio room all these years and now all of a sudden people are interested."
Lasko knew nothing about computers until his family gave him one when he was 85. "It took me awhile to get on to the fact that I was dealing with the pixel," he says. "I just wanted to paint." He received a few tips from his grandchildren about how to use the Microsoft program, but he pretty much taught himself.
Lasko has long been interested in painting. He was a graphic artist before joining the Air Force where he used his talents to draft directional and weather maps. He favors oils and watercolors and counts Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper among his favorite artists.
Lasko's son, Ron, says his dad can talk for hours about painting. But he'll take a break on Sunday to enjoy a barbecue with family and friends at home to mark his birthday. To extend the celebration, he'll donate 10 percent of the sales of his artwork to Veterans of Foreign Wars programs.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Lasko