Rockaway is now a place where you can find art in all corners. In one chaotically messy art studio on Beach 63rd and Almeda Avenue, with AC/DC playing on the radio in the background, local artist John Cassatto admires his handy work on a 37-foot pleasure boat, detailed with a grand underwater scene, from coral reefs, to sharks, to a tuna pursuing its meal.
Cassatto first received the project 17 years ago from the owner of an ice cream company. Initially spending six weeks painting the oceanic scape, now it is simply revisiting his studio for light touch-ups and maintenance after nearly two decades on the water off the coast of New Jersey. Cassatto considers the work his best, and was happy to see it back home.
Bringing large objects to life with his artistic touch is Cassatto’s specialty. The local artist specializes in airbrush painting, a hobby he picked up as a child after reading hot-rod magazines and noticing the unique paint jobs on the old motorcycles and cars.
“People want to be their own individuals,” he said. “They want to stand out.” As an award-winning airbrush artist, Cassatto is the king of making items stand out for customers. He regularly proves that “Anything can be airbrushed on anything” and no job can be too big or too detailed. Now 35 years after picking up his brush, Cassatto has personalized everything from boats to motorcycles and vintage cars, all the way to commercial 747 jumbo jets.
In addition to the boat he’s touching up, some of his other favorite pieces include a van he drove in the 2000 World Series Parade, decked in New York Yankees and Mets colors, and a mural for Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9, a firehouse that lost 15 members on 9/11.
Cassatto has been at his current studio on Beach 63rd for about ten years now, and is still working to replenish the tools and collections that he lost during Hurricane Sandy. At its current state, the studio is packed with tools and materials he uses for his projects, as well as the projects themselves.
His studio itself shows the scope of what Cassatto can achieve through airbrushing. On the wall to the left there is a massive black-and-white airbrush portrait of Elvis Presley, part of a series he did which includes Marlon Brando and Jay-Z. Elevated next to the large underwater-themed vessel, there is a half-finished Chevy Corvette, which Cassatto is still working on after it was totaled by Sandy’s floods. In the back, there are two smaller speed boats, one decorated with red, white, and blue and a bald eagle, a common theme for Cassatto, and another boat painted like The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.
Although airbrushing is his specialty, Cassatto has dabbled in several different forms of art including stone carving, a “Primitive art form,” as he describes it, but one he dove into nevertheless. One such piece features two sculptures of a lion, and a lioness with her cubs, which he was inspired to create because of the size of the slab he had to work with, and his astrological sign as a Leo.
Last week, it was the underwater-themed boat called, “Fish Fountain,” that was the main attraction. A couple that is friendly with Cassatto stopped by to admire the piece before it left his studio on Wednesday, December 19. “It’s unreal, unbelievable,” Michael Koullias said, adding that the fish-themes brought him back to when his father taught him how to fish back in his home country of Greece.
Although the freshly repainted boat will now make its way back to sea, Cassatto says he continues to work on paintings every day, “I just enjoy the art, whatever the art is, I just work at it until I get what I want to achieve.”
If you’d like to see more of what Cassatto can achieve or would like him to personalize a unique canvas for you, check out his website at www.ipaintfx.com.
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