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Drop an Old Habit for the New Year


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

As we welcome in 2018, it’s a good time to examine positive ways to care for our health.  One of the most popular resolutions is the quest to stop smoking. Local artist Albert Ortiz has made it his goal for the last 38 years to point out through his paintings even the most famous and most successful among us did not escape the smoking habit with their life. 

Albert grew up in New York City before World War II. In 1943, he graduated from the Music and Art High School in the city, and promptly enlisted in the U.S. Army for the next 3.5 years. After being discharged in 1947, Albert headed home to New York. Using the help of the newly adopted GI Bill, Albert enrolled at Pratt College of Design and Illustration. While attending Pratt, he honed his natural talent for detailed drawing and expanded his knowledge of composition for use in print media. Albert completed his degree at Pratt, but he wanted to continue expanding his painting skills, so he continued to take advanced classes in oil painting at the Art Students League and the Semf School of Art, both in NYC. 

It wasn’t long before the job opportunities in advertising came rolling in for the gifted young illustrator. Albert took work with a number of art studios and advertising agencies in NYC designing and illustrating ads for newspapers and magazines. To supplement his income and to support his growing family, Albert often did freelance work, which proved to be an excellent way to make further contacts in the advertising industry. It wasn’t long before he landed his dream position as Art Director for a large corporation, where he stayed until his retirement in 1990. During his career, oil painting was never completely set aside. It served him as a hobby for producing work as gifts he presented to family and friends. But the purpose of his painting would change when Albert encountered an advertising campaign that was quickly grabbing a lot of attention, the Anti-Smoking movement.

One of the elements used by the campaign was a newspaper article written about President of the United States and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. The article mentioned the forensic museum, in Washington D.C., held a collection of glass jars that contained human body parts preserved in formaldehyde; President Grant’s larynx was one of the specimens. It was removed after his death from cancer of the throat. Albert learned that he was a cigar chain smoker his entire adult life, no doubt the result of his cancer. Now Albert was curious, how many other elected officials and celebrities in American History had died as the result of the smoking habit. To his astonishment “classic film heroes” John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, and a series of “Marlboro Men” all turned up in his research as dying from their smoking habit. A series of paintings and a lifelong mission to warn young people against the dangers of smoking was his next big “project.” 

To date, Albert has produced a series of 25 No-Smoking paintings that span dozens of years. Many of Albert’s works made their way to magazine covers and a number of periodicals during the height of the anti-smoking campaign. Today, Albert Ortiz, at age 95, is still going strong. Albert is active in Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, He exhibits his work, upon request, free of charge, on behalf of not-for-profit groups, civic organizations, and in local middle/high schools and Junior College campuses where he remains highly active in encouraging young people to “never pick up the smoking habit.”  

Albert’s paintings are scheduled to be on display during the ACAS 10th Annual Health Leadership Award Ceremony on Feb. 24, 2018, in Tempe, Arizona. For more information on this year’s ACAS Leadership Awards and viewing Albert’s exhibit, visit

If you are interested in a ‘No Smoking Art’ Exhibit, for your organization or school, reservations can be made by contacting Arizonans Concerned About Smoking at (480) 733-5864 and leaving a voice message for Philip Carpenter, Executive Director of ACAS, who coordinates the exhibits on Albert’s behalf.

Several of Albert’s ‘No Smoking Art’ paintings and an ABC15 Video which aired on 10.19.15 can be viewed online at Albert’s entire ‘No Smoking Art’ paintings can be viewed online at

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at