John Vlaj A Realistic Watercolorist

John Vlaj a Realistic Watercolorist

Born in Ljubljana, Slovenia on November 8th of 1942 right in the middle of World War II.  After the war the family fled because of the Russian persecution of my parents for siding with the Allied Armies early on before the take-over of what was Yugoslavia by the Russians.  The immediate family was smuggled out one at a time and were reunited in Trieste, Italy months later.  We immigrated through DP Camps in Italy & Germany starting from 1946 and lasting to 1950.  We arrived in Reedsburg, Wisconsin in February of 1950.  The following year my father found work at Johnston’s Cookie Company, and moved the family to Milwaukee.   I graduated from Kagel Elementary, South Division High School, and University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a BFA Degree.  I was hired by Milwaukee Public Schools as a high school art teacher and coach. 

I honestly thought I had the best job in the world as I enjoyed school every day and often felt guilty receiving pay for a job I loved so much.  Retirement came after 30 years when I couldn’t pass up the chance to do my own art.  Since 2000 I have devoted my full time to painting, officiating, travel, family, and friends.  My wife, Judy, and I are blessed as our five grandchildren are succeeding in their own way as a Nurses Practitioner, a Mechanical Engineer, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater, a High School Senior studying in Stockholm, Sweden, and a freshman at Greendale High School.

My career as an art teacher has immensely added to my dedication and discipline of what has become my art.  I am thankful to all my colleagues, teachers, WWS, TWSA, and friends who have shaped what I do today. I love to share and use transparent watercolor to capture the essence, atmosphere, and flavors found in the various places as I trace my steps on this “Blue Planet”.  You’ll find my work very realistic, but my work is really put together by abstract shapes of line, value, color, and textures.