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Campus Beat LogoArtist Paul Pratchenko kneels beside his large heart sculpture which has a white background and a series of red Celtic knots

A Work of Heart

When painting a Celtic knot on a heart sculpture for the Hearts in San Francisco project, a benefit for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation, Professor Paul Pratchenko used skills he developed as a teenager in Virginia "souping up" cars with his friends.

"I had my [design] all laid out on graph paper," Pratchenko says, "but it was difficult to paint it on a three-dimensional object, so I went back to my roots as a pinstriper of hot rods and just free-handed it."

His heart was one of 130 that lined the streets of San Francisco in 2004. In November, the sculptures were put on auction to raise money to improve patient care at the San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center.

"I owe a lot to San Francisco, so I wanted to give something back," Pratchenko says. "I feel very privileged to have been a working artist here for this long."

After traveling around the world for three years as a ground radio technician in the U.S. Marine Corps, Pratchenko moved to San Francisco in 1965 and earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in art at San Jose State. The solitary life of an artist influenced his decision to teach.

"I would get up in the morning, go down to the studio, come out for lunch and dinner, and work until I couldn't stand it anymore, and I was getting … funny. I decided I needed to get out around people," he explains.

Pratchenko has been teaching at SFSU for 26 years. "I am just amazed at the kids I teach. I see these jewels in the rough, and their work just takes off," he says. "It's very rewarding."

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