Ahwatukee artist Albert Ortiz,93, still painting with a purpose

PHOENIX - An Ahwatukee artist is taking action to keep young kids and teens from lighting up.

“I was born in Manhattan,” Albert Ortiz said.  “I made my living on 42nd Street and Broadway, that’s the center of the world there.”

Ortiz may be a long way from Manhattan but this lifelong artist’s passion for oil painting is now touching lives all over the Valley. 

He carts his 32 paintings around town, free of charge. He visits local schools, youth groups, or anyone else interested in his anti-smoking message. It is an idea inspired by the cancer diagnosis and eventual death of Ortiz’s hero, John Wayne.

GALLERY: View Ortiz's anti-smoking paintings

“He smoked six packs a day, can you imagine that?” said Ortiz.

Many of the paintings are quite the undertaking, one in particular took one month to complete and Ortiz had his own family pose for it to make it as lifelike as possible. Ortiz’s young daughter inspired him to quit smoking several decades ago.

“She says daddy, you’re going to die from smoking,” Ortiz said. “That’s it, I quit.”

Now he’s hoping to stop others before they even start.

“I look at their faces and sometimes I go by the end of it and I ask them, ‘what do you think?’” Ortiz said. “They say very interesting and very sad. Now, when I hear that I know that something has sunk in.

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