City & Shore Magazine

City & Shore Magazine

People— 02 November 2013

By Jonathon King

michael israel city and shore magazine

michael israel city and shore magazine

Music — chosen as inspiration, and turned up perhaps a few decibels too loud, meant to envelop you, raise your pulse a few beats, focus your attention.

Paint — vivid in color, and flinging through the air in strings and fat beads from the artist’s brushes before being applied more creatively and circumspectly than the audience might ever realize, to a huge canvas.

Dance — the deft steps and lunges of a trained athlete, the frozen poses of contemplation, and then the attack of a sometimes spinning canvas, seemingly stopped at a random point, but always at a moment of planned choreography.

And Showmanship – oh yes, always the showmanship, of the handsome, tuxedo-clad entertainer, his long dark hair and formal attire soon spattered in the paint that creates the image and only adding to the image of instant creativity he weaves like some live magician before your very eyes.

A performance by artist Michael Israel is, in his words, a few minutes of “controlled chaos.”

The results of that chaos may be a stunning portrait of John Lennon or Mahatma Gandhi, a heroic scene of a firefighter’s rescue of a child or a soldier’s salute, a heart-felt likeness of a 5-year-old girl who succumbed to pediatric brain cancer or the rendering of an endangered loggerhead turtle.

“My work is like an instant recognition,” Israel has said. “You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to analyze it. It goes in through your eyes, it grabs hold of your heart and makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

“You know what it’s all about instantly because it’s about what’s inside you, I just bring it out,” he says. “It’s like a mirror.”

Internationally known and with individual paintings that have sold to private collections for as much as $250,000 Israel is better known as a performance artist who actually creates art during his performance.

“He really puts it all together, the music and the lights on stage and it really energizes the audience. When he starts flinging the paint around you go, ‘Whoa, this is different,”’ says Lisa Parks, a contracting executive who saw Israel perform for a benefit for HomeSafe, an organization that protects victims of child abuse and domestic violence. “You’re not really sure what he’s up to with the spinning canvas and all, but then boom, this wonderful painting is suddenly there.”

The music that fills whatever venue Israel performs in is selected by him to add to the overall effect; Ronan, a ballad created by Taylor Swift about a child with cancer, provides the backdrop for his paintings at cancer center appearances. The voice of Enrique Iglesias fills the room when he does his signature Hero performance.

“I’m really trying to create an atmosphere, something that touches the audience,” Israel says. “When everything comes together I’m even getting an adrenaline rush.”

When asked how much rehearsal time he spends before each performance, Israel, who was raised in Hollywood and is now living in Boca Raton, says, “Actually, I’ve been rehearsing for about thirty-five years.”

“I still recall those days when I was six or seven and for whatever reason, I’d be drawing something on the walls of my childhood home. Of course, back then my mother would critique my work … by spanking me.”

Living in a houseboat on the Intracoastal Waterway behind The Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood at the time, Israel says his energy and penchant for constantly creating didn’t make him much of a conventional student.

“I was always in trouble in grade school for not paying attention and for doodling on any blank surface I could find, making my own brand of artwork and designs.”

By his teens, the young, and yes, sometimes starving artist, took an unusual path to hone what would become his signature talent.

“I was working the art shows and weekend sidewalk art fairs making small paintings of anything people brought me whether it was their own live portrait, a photograph of a family member, their pet, a photograph of their home. Pretty much anything,” Israel says.

“You know, you’ve been there with dozens of tents set up on the sidewalks and artists selling all kinds of styles and forms of their artwork. Well, when you’re doing work like that, you can’t make any money unless you do a lot of it. Pretty soon I was doing a sort of speed painting, working on four or five small pieces at a time, jumping from canvas to canvas on my street setup.

“I’d do some five hundred paintings in a weekend. I remember times when I had bandages on my fingers and had a bucket of ice water nearby to soak the pain out of my hands.”

But he also noticed that when he was in the throes of creating multiple pieces of art at the same time, crowds would gather around to watch, not just to see the finished product, but to witness the performance itself.

“I thought, ‘Hey, if I made a buck for all the people who were watching and never sat down to have a painting done, maybe I wouldn’t have to do five hundred. Maybe I could cut it down to two or three hundred.’”

“I also realized I was feeding off the crowd, their energy, their ooohs and ahhs, and their delight in seeing what I was creating in five-minute chunks of time. It was infectious.”

And it was the beginning of an artistic act he has now taken to Presidential Inaugural balls in Washington, D.C., onto the deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego, at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo, the Olympic Medals stage in Salt Lake City, and to museums and concert stages in dozens of U.S. states, Africa and Canada.

“Where and when it happened, I can’t tell you,” Israel says of the gift and vision and affinity for the creative insight he carries with him.

He says it may have started to come together in grade school when he also started studying martial arts, a dedication for which he has continued for the past 40 years. He would eventually earn a black belt in karate and went to the USKA Grand National Championships at age 17. The athleticism is obvious during his performances both in his graceful movements around the huge and often spinning canvas but also in the concentration he’s able to hold while the music swells and audiences begin to react.

“The karate training really taught me how to focus,” he says. “And it also gave me the ability to meditate and see things with a clear mind.

“While I’m doing the painting and spinning the canvas, I see the image as if I’m seeing it from up above like I’m floating and seeing it from all angles. There are times when I’m nearly finished but I can tell from their reaction that the audience still hasn’t gotten it and I’m thinking, ‘Come on, you gotta be seeing this, and then come the oohs and the ahhs when I finally spin it.”

Though the once doodling child would eventually become an advanced-placement student and graduate of Cooper City High School, even Israel can’t say where the art inspiration came from.

Israel’s father owned and ran amusement rides and was no more of an influence on his son’s love of things artistic than his boat captain mother who cuffed him for drawing on the walls. As a teenager, when Israel had become deeply ensconced in the world of weekend art fairs and street-side presentations to make a living, “my father pretty much told me to get a real job.”

The rift lasted for several years until 2002 when Israel invited his father to an undisclosed event in Washington, D.C. Israel put his father up in a downtown hotel and met him at the venue where he would be performing. As his father stood somewhat perplexed at the black-tie affair, he pointed out to Michael that several dark-suited men in the crowd appeared to be wearing electronic earpieces and seemed highly alert.

“That’s the Secret Service, Dad. I’m the opening act,” he said, handing his father his tickets to G.W. Bush’s 2002 Presidential dinner. “Art just baffled him and sometimes it still baffles me,” Israel says today. “But I guess I’d gotten a real job.”

Obviously, Israel is not the stereotypical artist who spends hours in a grotto, sitting before a canvas painstakingly creating in the conventional mode. And neither is the final painting the sole motivation behind his work.

“The gift of being a human being is art, whether it’s cooking, painting, or music. It’s a combination of knowledge, intellect, and emotion,” Israel says. “I think the greatest masterpieces, whether it’s food or art or science, are the ones that move humanity forward, that empower people. If it’s something that enriches a life, if it feeds the hungry, gives someone a home, then that’s great art whether it’s architecture, or dance or painting.”

Holding that definition in his heart, Israel’s art, and his participation in fundraising for a multitude of causes, has become a mainstay of his career. His aircraft carrier performance raised money for Habitat for Humanity and the Special Ops Warrior Foundation, a benefit in New Orleans was a fundraiser for the Friends of the Fisherman after the Gulf oil-spill disaster, and he created a painting of Payton Wright during his performance to benefit the foundation in Payton’s name that funds research for pediatric brain cancer.

Israel can list more than a hundred charities and foundations — from the Make-a-Wish Foundation to The Shriner’s Hospital, the United Way to Habitat for Humanity, Child Abuse Prevention Center to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation — and myriad other causes that he has been asked to perform for with the hope that his message will inspire others.

He has created his painting of a fireman rescuing a child — his Hero performance — to raise funds for a multitude of charitable agencies across the country.

“What moves me is probably the same thing that moves everybody else. You get that stirring in your stomach; I want to do something. I can’t run out and clean the ocean up, I wish I could, but I don’t have that power. But I can certainly use my talent to bring attention to it, to communicate a message, to empower people, to motivate them, or to give them some hope and that’s a great thing.”

Sarasota Visual Art

Charity Programs

Sarasota Visual Art

Sarasota Visual Art

 

The acclaimed flamboyant rock-star artist that combines his love of painting, music, and martial arts discusses art and his upcoming event.

For more information about Michael’s upcoming event, please watch the video below. You can also call 941-893-7007 or visit www.paytonwright.org

Michael Israel, the acclaimed flamboyant rock-star artist that combines his love of painting, music, and martial arts in his high-energy performance is scheduled to appear at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota on Saturday, October 29, 2011. The performance is to raise funds for The Payton Wright Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric brain cancer. Sarasota Visual Art is fortunate enough to speak with Michael about this upcoming event and the real value that lies beyond the magic and mystique of Michael Israel.

© Michael Israel Art

SVA: Are your paintings relics of your performances and do you think all paintings have this quality?

MI: Well, when I hear the word relic, I think of a shipwreck or something that is left long afterward and I think it is more of a synergy between the performance and the artwork so I don’t think one really exists without the other.

SVA: What is the meaning of contemporary art to you?

MI: Another good question, contemporary just means art that is done now so I don’t think that there is anything that is all that new in art. A lot of contemporary art is an attempt to shock people into thinking about things. I guess some of my stuff is that way, as well with the idea of doing the splashy-spinny kind of thing to get you to pay attention to the artwork. If you look through history like Da Vinci and Michelangelo’s time, there were no digital cameras or cameras at all as a way reproduce life, so these guys were like gods and people paid attention to whatever they put to canvas because it had that realism to it. At a certain point that became commonplace for someone to paint something somewhat realistic. Then comes along a guy that doodles like a child or abstract or what have you, and it gets attention once again for art. I think contemporary art strives for that audience’s attention or whatever that message might be for the artwork.

© Michael Israel Art

 

 

 

 

SVA: How should the general public view your paintings? What should they look for — how do they learn to appreciate your art?

MI: That’s the neat thing about my work, you don’t have to come in with any preconceived notions whatsoever and you don’t need an art critic to tell you anything at all about it. All you have to do is be present and your own body will literally take over with your heart pounding and goosebumps and tears running down your face. It’s a very, very powerful experience, and describing it is kind of like trying to describe religion to someone that is not religious, or love to someone that has never been in love. It’s a very powerful emotion to experience art in this manner and it’s much more than a fun show. Most people won’t get that from looking at the website or watching the videos. You really have to be present to understand it. You feel connected to everybody else that is there, it is almost like electricity that goes through the air.

SVA: Classical artists had a world to express which they did by representing the objects in that world. Do you express your world by representation, or by your performance, or both?

MI: Well, again it’s a synergy and my work is really not about the expression, it is more of actuation in that I try to reach the viewer’s emotions. The viewer will act on it and something will come from it. It’s just an enriched feeling for them, education or actually empowerment to do something, to have some purpose with life or help another. You ask who influenced me and I would say Da Vinci is probably one of the great influences for me. He did a handful of paintings, and certainly a lot of drawings on the technical side. Art to me is just not painting, painting is just a form of art. When most people talk about art they think of sculpture, painting, and drawing. Pretty much anything you do as a human being that is not a reflex is art. Art is a combination of a knowledge-base combined with intellect and emotion…it cannot exist without those combined things.

Kevin Bacon © Michael Israel Art

SVA: Can you tell us how you developed your method of painting, and why you paint as you do?

MI: I’m a pretty emotional guy. When I go to a concert or when something really emotional happens, my stomach kind of flip-flops, and I can’t sing or dance, or play an instrument so it comes out in my paintings. As for the passion in my art, and everybody has held passion at one point or another, whether it’s anger or its love or its sorrow. You have these emotions that fire through your body so hard, and so powerfully; I’m able to translate that into my art. On a technical level, as a kid, I painted at art festivals. I would sell out of whatever I brought so I started painting at the festivals and I would do hundreds every day. I would crank the music real loud, and do some martial arts. Rather than sitting and painting, I would be in somewhat of a stance so I could move faster and harder. I would have multiple colors and brushes sometimes painting four paintings at a time in various ways. That’s how the show was born, as I look over my shoulder, as far back as I could, see there would be people watching and enjoying how the synergy of the art comes to life.

sVA: Were there any artists that you followed or inspired you when you evolved from festivals?

MI: Not really, there was a fellow, Denny Dent who passed away. I met his manager thirty years ago at a festival. He liked my girlfriend. From what I read, he started his stuff in 1984. I’ve been performing my art since 1974 since I was a kid. I have to credit him actually for bringing it to the public. He was older and had a concert manager and really got out there. As far as painting on stage or painting large canvases to music: I don’t really think that’s all that I am or even the focus of my work. It just happens to be the best medium at the moment. I’ve worked in pretty much any medium I can get my hands on. Pencil sketch, watercolor, airbrush, digital to building a computer to machine carve metal. That thing was the size of a small garage.

SVA: There is a physical demand to make these large paintings, how does Martial Arts relate to your work?

MI: I train five to six days a week in the gym to stay in shape to paint. You can almost call it, “UFC with Paint” the way I go after these canvases. It’s pretty strenuous, the karate background allows me to maintain my balance and my focus so that I can put the paint where I want to. It’s like, in Karate they say, you’re not really thinking about the technical motions of what you’re doing, you’re just doing it.

Michael Jordan © Michael Israel Art

SVA: What inspires you every day, and/or what nourishes your imagination?

MI: World events certainly feed and nourish my imagination. Whether it’s a tsunami, or hurricane, or 9/11, or right now, I’m very much interested in doing Steve Jobs’ portrait. He’s a hero of mine. A lot of the works I do I think of as very motivational icons that you have in your home or office or you look at and it inspires you to a bigger and better purpose.

SVA: Michael, you have painted numerous portraits of celebrities and politicians, are there certain works that you keep to yourself?

MI: I have a few different paintings that are part of my collection and it’s unlikely I will sell them. If a 5-minute painting goes for $50,000 you can only imagine what I would want for something I’ve spent weeks or months on. Aside from that, I’ve done a lot of things for homecoming wounded soldiers, and I’ve done paintings that I’ve asked them to put their signatures on for me. In my home, I have paintings that are covered with signatures of the soldiers with comments and things like that.

President George W. Bush © Michael Israel Art

SVA: Can you speak about the upcoming Payton Wright Foundation event in Sarasota?

MI: That is actually a very significant work in itself in many ways. There is a piece that I’m doing that is really wonderful that will be very special and magical, that will help to heal and to help empower the entire mission of the charity. It is a different focus than my normal works. I’m looking forward to trying to stretch the boundaries. It’s not the technique rather than the way the work plays or interacts with everyone else.

 

 

SVA: What is the most amazing thing that’s happened to you on stage?

MI: You would need a week to go through all of them. I don’t know if it’s cosmic or what, but it’s so many things like, getting a phone call asking me to paint at the Olympics, to doing Presidential events, to doing something with the Special Olympics. The pieces I’ll be doing at this upcoming event, I truly, truly expect that everyone that goes to this event will never look at art or life the same. It’ll be a life-changing moment, it’ll be amazing. Whatever you write now after you’ve experienced the event, I guarantee you it’ll be different, it’ll be more heartfelt.

SVA: What advice would you give aspiring artists?

MI: Advice I would give to aspiring artists is the same advice I give when a parent tells me their child has desire and talent. The advice is that while craftsmanship can be learned, creativity comes from within. Notwithstanding both talent and craftsmanship, to be successful one must study and develop knowledge, talent, and skill in business, finance, and marketing as these are essential to every career. Some are fortunate to have others handle this for them but a good working knowledge will help an aspiring artist to navigate the finical challenges of life and career.

For more information about Michael’s upcoming event, please watch the video below. You can also call 941-893-7007 or visit www.paytonwright.org

Related Post
Michael Israel helps charities raise millions!

Michael Israel helps charities raise millions!

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Michael Israel helps charities raise millions!

$250,000! Going once…

Michael Israel

Was there ever a time when you attended a fundraiser so extraordinary that you would remember it for the rest of your life?

$250,000! Going twice!

So exhilarating that the entire room jumped from their seats, shouted, and gasped out loud? Then you found yourself emotionally charged and in a bidding war with others offering insane money for an artwork painted right in front of your eyes?

Sold for $250,000!

Charities must attract, engage, and energize the top 2% of their communities to survive. Michael Israel, America’s original live-action artist, makes it easy.

Described as ‘Cirque du Soleil meets Picasso”, Michael Israel paints larger-than-life canvasses with iconic images in rhythm to high-energy music live on-stage.

   

He has a worldwide fan base of 100 million people. His Hero video has garnered over 14 million views on YouTube. Michael has performed for Presidential and Olympic events, fortune 500 companies, and was the featured artist for a $158.2 million renovation celebration for the DIA, which is America’s sixth-largest museum. He has shared stages with such luminaries as Warren Buffett, Garth Brooks, Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, Jay Leno, Tony Robbins, Brooks and Dunn, the Temptations, Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, and more. More importantly, he has helped over 100 charities. His portrait of Warren Buffett sold for $100,000 to benefit Girls Inc of Omaha.

Companies and casinos pay large fees for Michael’s performances, but when he does a benefit show for a charity, he does not charge a performance fee. His shows and art have raised millions of dollars. His philanthropic vision spills over into a bottom-line driven focus to help charities. His team also helps charities secure sponsorships, positive media, and ticket sales in addition to proceeds from his show and art sales.

Guests of Beaux-Arts were awestruck by Michael during their signature fundraiser, Up on the Rooftop at the Museum of Art Ft. Lauderdale. Sponsorship and ticket sales for an encore the following year reached record levels.

For a gala for the United Way of Chester County, Pennsylvania, they had planned an admission fee of $250 per couple, but with Michael as the featured artist, the seats sold out at $1,000 a couple. Michael’s paintings also sold out; the first one sold for $55,000.

Executive VP Chris Saello said, “Best event ever! Michael is a game-changer for us, he’s energized our organization!” Before leaving that evening, sponsors promised large donations if they could get Michael back for a repeat performance.

Sherrye McBryde, Director, The Susan G. Komen, Arkansas – “His ability to translate the true meaning of our organization onto canvas was amazing. He made the crowd go crazy. He drove fundraising dollars higher than ever before!”

Michael has appointed a charity committee to award a limited number of benefit performances each year.

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