Topeka KS — Brushes fly from the paint buckets to the smooth canvas surface. Before long, both his hands are submerged into the paint cans dripping with bright and sassy colors that he smears, splashes and wipes together on the once sterile surface.
The canvas is no longer clean and simple. Instead, it is covered with blotches of paint thrown together with no rhyme or reason. Suddenly, he begins to spin the canvas as he adds more paint to the creation.
Spectators at this year’s Country Stampede [frequently adjusted] their necks from side to side trying to figure out what Michael Israel was doing. What was displayed before the crowd of thousands of country music fans was an image of “modern art.” No one could tell what it was or was supposed to be.
In a matter of minutes (the time for two songs to play while Israel painted), he gave the canvas a final spin and WAH-LAH! a portrait of Toby Keith distinctly graced the canvas.
Israel, a 41-year-old Miami, Fla., native since age three, has the unusual talent of creating portraits or images that he wildly throws together while listening to music. The more energetic the crowd while he is painting for, the faster and wilder he paints.
“It’s not just me doing the painting,” Israel said with a smile. “It’s the audience. I feel every splash. Sometimes, I get lost in the painting. It’s a feel of texture and color, and sometimes it’s impossible to see. It’s like a blind man trying to move around. And, sometimes, I’m amazed at how my paintings turn out.”
Israel is constantly on the go painting and performing for internationally recognized companies and agencies — having recently performed at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and recently at the Republican National Convention in front of President George Bush and distinguished guests. And occasionally donating his works of art to varying charities through “silent” auctions.
Israel said that his art talent comes naturally. He said that his mother loved to paint but wasn’t considered a professional.
“When I was 4 years old,” Israel said, “my mother was painting a mural in our house on one of the walls. She tells me that I decided to paint my own mural on another wall in the house with my crayons. My mom swatted my bottom for drawing on the wall. I guess that is when I became critically acclaimed.”
Israel said that he started painting professionally at the age of 14. He said that he was fascinated with an airbrush artist that he knew — especially the speed at which he painted.
“I learned that the faster you go, the more money you can make,” he said. “Artwork should move you,” Israel said, “and I like powerful music to paint by. For this reason, I usually bring my own music for my performances.”
With more than 100 performances scheduled from now to September, Israel said that he is thinking ahead to Sept. 11.
“I plan to do something for Sept. 11,” he said. “Artwork has a healing quality. When people lose someone, they want to moralize them. The exciting thing of what I do, is that people apply THEIR spirituality to it. Artwork can touch so many people. It’s a great opportunity. I’m in a situation to make a difference to the nation. Artwork heals.”
Israel stated that he is considering the image of an American Eagle, the Statue of Liberty or possibly a series of paintings for his tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks.
As for other interests, Israel holds a black belt in karate. “This is my first love. I have to train to stay in shape to do this stuff,” he said motioning to his Toby Keith mural.
According to records, his artwork sells for a few thousand dollars up to $20,000 a piece — with fans purchasing even his (post performance) clothes, covered in paint. He said that he usually only wears a set of clothing one time but once in awhile he can get two wears out of them. Pointing to his black pants, he said that he had worn them while painting a mural that was the album cover of Brooks and Dunn.
As for the future, Israel said: “My goal is to paint for a HUGE crowd on a pristine canvas. I will walk out, dab it with paint and turn around and walk off. Actually, the next challenge is what I like the best.”