A weekly series about the ordinary people who make Philadelphia extraordinary.
Nearly every day for 17 years, oil painter Mark Campana has hauled his easel from his home in South Philadelphia to Rittenhouse Square to paint scenes in and around the park.
As a result, he's faced a bit of typecasting.
"People try to pigeonhole me as the Rittenhouse painter, but I do paint other places," he said. "I just paint here a lot."
Campana, 62, was born and raised in South Philly. He worked various retail and office jobs, but gave that all up 17 years ago to become a full-time artist.
"It was a fun leap, because I hated every job I ever had in the past," he said. "I've never looked back."
A self-taught painter, Campana said he recalls asking a man he saw painting in the square nearly two decades ago how to get started.
"He got a little tired of me questioning him and he said, 'Man, just get an easel and come out,'" Campana said. "And that's what I did."
In the beginning, passersby were not so kind.
"When you first start, the paintings can be a little off, and people would see that and I'd get some weird comments," he said. "You have to have a tough skin to paint outdoors."
But as time went on, the criticisms were slowly replaced by compliments.
"I think the paintings reached a certain level now where there aren't too many mistakes people would spot," Campana said. "Now people say 'It's wonderful,' or, 'You're so talented.' It's part of what keeps me going."
Aside from landscapes, Campana said, he enjoys painting portraits and figures. His first commission was a pastel drawing a woman wanted of her daughter. The job paid only $50, but the note of gratitude the mother included with her payment was priceless, Campana said.
"I always say the note was better than the check," he said. "I'll always treasure it."
"I was born and raised here."
"Getting into the Rittenhouse Art Show was a milestone for me. That was something I really looked forward to accomplishing. It was like a big goal."
"Just for everybody to get along better."