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Illustrious Illustrator Entertains Perkins’ Students

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Ralph Masiello – well-known illustrator – entertains Perkins’ students.

When Ralph Masiello was five years old, his Kindergarten teacher told him that he would one day be a great artist. Ralph didn’t believe it. He didn’t know that his talent was real. Today, nearly 50 years later, Ralph has illustrated for magazines, newspapers and books, created posters and prints, and shown his fine art paintings in galleries throughout the world. He is best known for his Icky Bug Book series that he completed with Jerry Pallotta. He has been both an author and an illustrator of high acclaim for several years.

“I never believed I was a good artist,” Masiello said. “I wanted to go to school to be a doctor until I was 16. At 16, I decided I wanted to be a scuba diver so I went to school to become a marine biologist.” Masiello attended the University of Tampa as a marine biology major, but continued to draw in his spare time. One day, while sketching dissections for one of his classes, a teacher saw the drawings and contacted the art department. The art department staff saw Ralph’s drawings and convinced him that art school was the way to go.

“Then, a miracle happened,” Masiello said. “I was accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design.” It was through his time at RISD that Masiello began to believe in himself and his talent. In 1986, he met Jerry Pallotta who was working on what was to become the Icky Bug Book. “Finally, my background in marine biology and in illustrating were going to be combined together into a project,” Masiello said.

Since 1986, Masiello has illustrated several books and visited over 2600 schools entertaining students with his anecdotal stories about the creatures he draws and pointing out hidden secrets that exist in most all of his books. His favorite book was the “Flag We Love” which he wrote in honor of his father who had lied about his age in order to be accepted to fight in World War II. “My dad was very patriotic, so this book meant a lot to me.”

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One of Ralph’s many books.

Masiello also explained to the students that many of his drawings have things hidden in them – like he had an artist hidden in him.  “In the Extinct Alphabet Book,” Ralph used Jerry’s head to form a rock. Unless you’re looking for it, it’s not easy to spot.  One of his books has Presidents hidden in it; some of his drawings contain hidden sayings like “find Jerry” in the illustrations. Masiello is now working on a how- to – draw book series that teaches how to draw everything from fairies to Halloween characters.

“My daughter had wanted me to do a fairy book ever since she was three years old, but I kept saying no because I turn myself into a character in every one of my books, and I didn’t want to be a fairy,” Masiello said. “I should have listened to her, because as of today it is my highest selling book of all times. Now, because of the fairy book success, I have to do a how to draw a mermaid book. I don’t want to be a mermaid,” Masiello wailed to a giggling audience full of happy students – who now understand a little better the twists and turns of life often bring you back to exactly where you belong.