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Biography of a Commercial Illustrator
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By
Ken Soltesz
2008
Frank Soltesz in his Greenwich studio;  ca. 1947
Some people are born with a natural talent that, when nurtured and developed through hard work and determination, not only provides them with a comfortable means of living but elevates them to a position of prominence and respect in their community and among their peers. Frank Soltesz was such a person; a small-town boy who loved to draw pictures and grew up to become one of the finest commercial illustrators of his time.
Frank Joseph Soltesz was born on June 14, 1912 in Derry, Pennsylvania, where his father, a Slovakian immigrant, had a saddle and harness-making shop. He was the sixth of eight children; five girls and three boys.
When he was five years old, his family relocated to Blairsville, PA, a small mining town on the Conemaugh River. They moved into a house on the riverbank, and his father opened a new leather shop in town.
Frank’s artistic talents became evident very early in his youth. Every holiday, the school teachers would clear the blackboards and let Frank draw holiday pictures all over them in colored chalk. The Pittsburgh newspapers had frequent art competitions for children, and Frank won 13 of them. He drew all of the illustrations for his high school yearbook. Color photography hadn’t been invented yet but friends and neighbors would bring their black & white photos to Frank to have them hand-colored.
His mother, Susana, recognized his talent and saw a brighter future for Frank than the jobs that Blairsville had to offer. She encouraged and supported him in every way possible. She saved every scrap of paper she could, including meat wrappers from the butcher, for Frank to draw on. She also saved what money she could and, in 1929, while he was a sophomore in high school, paid for his enrollment in a correspondence course in illustration with the International Correspondence School in Scranton, PA.
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Jacob and Susana Soltesz and family;  ca, 1920
Frank is the tallest of the three boys
During the summers while still in high school, Frank worked as a printer at the town newspaper, the Blairsville Dispatch. When he graduated from high school in 1930, he worked full time at the newspaper, learning all aspects of the printing trade and becoming a skilled typesetter.
In 1933, he finished the correspondence course, resigned from his job at the paper, and moved to Pittsburgh where he enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. This was a risky move at