When Frank Scarpa was just 5, he started sketching everything he saw, and eventually he became such a good artist that he could look at a building just once and draw it perfectly. Now, his son, Giuseppe, is following in his footsteps, selling his lifelike portraits to his fellow Franklin Square residents.
“He reminds me a lot of myself growing up,” Frank said of his 10-year-old son, who is in fifth grade at the Willow Road School.
Frank immigrated to the United States from Sicily with his family in 1980 when he was 6, and grew up in Maspeth, Queens. After graduating from the New York Institute of Technology, he painting scenes on more than 200 storefronts throughout Queens, according to a July 1996 article in a Queens community newspaper. But his biggest accomplishment at the time, the article said, was a 100-foot mural he created at the Metropolitan Oval field, which depicts people from all over the world playing together.
Since then, Frank has painted a more personal mural — of his neighborhood in Palermo — over the staircase of his Franklin Square home, and in 2003 he founded Frasca Design Group, a Mineola-based graphic design firm.
“I have been blessed by God with great skills, and I work extremely hard every day to hone these skills because I don’t believe in luck,” Frank said in the 1996 story. “It’s not luck that gave me these skills, it’s a part of God’s plan, and it isn’t going to be luck that makes me successful. It’s going to take lots and lots of hard work.”
He is now instilling that work ethic into his four children, teaching them that they have to carry their own weight in society. Eighteen-year-old Isabella teaches piano, Victoria, 16, styles hair, and Giuseppe and 12-year-old Antonella are honing their artistic abilities.
“It’s nice to see that they’re not just sitting here,” Frank said of his children, adding that art teaches patience and gives artists a sense of accomplishment — which is what Giuseppe said inspired him to take up art. His father taught him the basics, but Frank said, Giuseppe really “took off on his own.”
He started off just drawing eyes and mouths, like Frank said he did when he started drawing, until he felt comfortable enough to draw faces. When he was 7, he realized he had a knack for portraits, and his portfolio now includes lifelike drawings of Spider-Man and Ralph Macchio as “The Karate Kid.”
“Each day he gets better,” his mother, Anna Scarpa, said.
She posted samples of his work —including a photo of Giuseppe handing his grandfather a portrait he made of him for his birthday — on a Franklin Square community Facebook group on March 19, saying that her son would like to sell his portraits for a little extra cash.
More than 20 residents responded to that post with portrait requests, Anna said, and Giuseppe now spends about three hours on each of the portraits. His goal, he said, is to raise enough money to buy professional Copic markers — a medium he is learning, while his sister, Antonella, a seventh-grader at Valley Stream North High School, works to improve her landscapes.
“It’s just really fun and relaxing,” Giuseppe said, which Frank said in the 1996 article is the “most important thing.”
“You must really love it,” he is quoted as saying, “then you won’t mind all of the hard work.”
Frank said he hoped that Giuseppe and Antonella would one day take over his graphic design firm, but for now, Giuseppe is selling his portraits for $30 for one subject, and $60 for two. They can be ordered by contacting Anna on Facebook, at Anna Romeo-Scarpa.