By TOM LAVIS
While most artists who use acrylic paints prefer a canvas, Joe Voytko is finding concrete blocks to his liking.
The 1966 graduate of Richland High School has been commissioned to paint some of Hollywood’s greatest characters on the walls of the Silver Drive-In’s concession stand.
Voytko, a retired security guard from the Altoona Center in Blair County, is a freelance artist who lives in Hollidaysburg four months of the year and in Ocklawaha, Fla., the rest of the year.
His work is as epic as the characters he paints. The likeness of Indiana Jones — revolver in his right hand and his trusty bullwhip in his left — leaps from a jungle hideaway on a wall above the condiment counter.
Other imposing figures include Spider-Man, “Star Wars” nemesis Darth Vader and Batman.
“I work freehand and start with a charcoal sketch on the wall,” said Voytko, who graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh following high school. “My degree is in commercial art, but I went into the Army and was shipped to Fort Hood, Texas, where I became chief artist in Special Services.”
The Richland Township theater’s owners, Rick Rosko and his wife, Karen Statler, along with partners Cora Pastovic and Ted Roberts, are revamping the historic drive-in to make it a family-oriented venue.
“That’s one of the reasons I tracked down Joe,” Rosko said. “I remembered his talent from way back in high school and it just took a couple of phone calls to locate him in Florida.”
Voytko agreed to do the project and has produced an entire fleet of classic cars on the walls throughout the concession area.
“If you can take a picture of something, I can paint it,” Voytko said.
Car buffs will immediately identify such vintage rides as a 1958 Ford Edsel, ’57 Chevy, various Chryslers, a Packard and a Mercury, too name a few.
Voytko, who also is a loyal Harley-Davidson rider, painted the image of his own brilliant white motorcycle on the outside wall.
“The customers just love it,” Rosko said.
“They have become conversation pieces.”
Looking at the Batman portrait, Rosko points to a black Louisville Slugger baseball bat the crime fighter holds in his right hand.
“The bat was my idea,” Rosko said. “Any crime fighter named Batman should have such a weapon.”
Voytko said the nooks and crannies of the concrete blocks can be incorporated into the artwork.
“A large chunk of mortar protruding from the wall was the perfect spot for me to paint the spider on Spider-Man’s chest,” he said. “It gives it a 3-D effect.”
Voytko is duplicating characters from many of the first-run films shown at the drive-in.
His latest works include Johnny Depp’s character, Capt. Jack Sparrow, from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” and each member of the “Fantastic Four.”
Animated characters also play a significant role in the concession stand.
Who better to tout the lusciousness of food than Homer Simpson? The renowned snacker is shown holding an armful of hot dogs while enjoying one of the bunned beauties.
Betty Boop is helpful to point the way to the women’s room and Goofy directs gents to the men’s room.
“I plan of filling the wall with other characters to help direct customers to the restrooms,” Voytko said. “Girl personalities on the left and boys on the right.”
Each character takes Voytko about two days to complete. He does the main figure one day and fills in the background the next.
By TOM LAVIS
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