APARTMENT SIZE: Three rooms plus garden. Rent: $0
LOCATION: West Town
APARTMENT'S CONDITION WHEN HE MOVED IN: Wall-to-wall carpet was "glazed over with cat shit." He pulled up the carpet and discovered more carpet underneath, also covered with cat shit.
NOT PICTURED I: The basement, where he welded a ball hitch to the refrigerator ("It's ready to go when I leave"). It's also the place where he added heavy wheels to the feet of all the furniture ("When I sweep or clean I just roll them out of the way") and otherwise designed and built practically everything in the apartment.
NOT PICTURED II: Twenty-four bowling lockers, many of which contained bowling balls and shoes when he bought them at an auction. Most of the shoes were given to friends, most of the balls are in the basement.
NOT PICTURED III: Four other buildings purchased since he bought this one in 1996.
IN HIS OWN WORDS: "I've sold one painting a month since I got out of school, except last month, when I sold 12. One of the paintings funded the down payment for this place.
"I've learned at least one thing from buying real estate--if it doesn't look bad and it doesn't smell bad I can't afford it.
"I wanted to make enough money where all I'd have to do is paint, but taking care of buildings is a lot of work. Now I'm a painter with a real estate problem.
"I'm 40, and I'm getting closer to knowing how I want to live."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Lloyd DeGrane.