After a devastating illness, Michael Maness decided to paint his black and white world with the brushstrokes of a rainbow. That one decision changed his life—and the lives of many others. Now, his brightly-colored artwork graces the walls of art lovers around the world. And his charity work has positively affected countless more. He is also making an impact on the music business with his “cool-aborations” and painted guitars.
If you like colorful canvases—and colorful personalities—you will love Michael Maness.
When did you begin drawing and/or painting? What medium(s) do you prefer?
I sold my first drawing when I was eight years old. I stuttered, and I was a flirt. My teacher was a lovely lass, and at the end of class I would give her a cartoon with a caption. She turned around and sold them to PTA and Jack and Jill magazines.
For commercial art or to entertain people whereever I sit, I prefer a Sharpie. For fine art, I like acrylic paints, for I paint too fast to use oils. Oils take four-six weeks to dry.
How did your painting and music business connection come about?
My connection actually dates back to the 1980’s. I was a jingle writer and an illustrator. I was lucky enough to have drawn a few album covers for Capitol, BNA, and Warner Brothers.
But my latest project began with a charity event for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Cropper. Steve wanted a painting that would raise some serious donations for the T.J. Martell Foundation during the Steve Cropper Classic at the Ryman in 2007. We agreed on a Gibson guitar, with the concept being to paint his songs, Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay on the front and In The Midnight Hour on the back. Steve added the lyrics, penned around the edge on the front and the back of the Gibson-donated Les Paul. To our surprise the guitar sold for $22,500. Thus began a successful concept. To paint a song, from my point of view, then have the songwriter pen their lyrics, and finally have the singer or band add their autograph to the art. It’s a “cool-aboration” between artists.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Yes, cancer. I know you aren’t thinking of cancer as positive, but cancer has been good for me. This new art style happened because of the side effects from my chemotherapy. The chemo made me paranoid, angry, and a bit violent. I discovered, quite by accident, that painting in bright colors calmed me down and, in fact, made me happy.
Cancer, and its side effects, gave me a new calling, and a new career.
How does your faith play into your work?
My talent is God given.
My marketing concept is karma, pay it forward. I donate to a few charities worldwide.
Let’s talk about your NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) designs. Tell us a little bit about that project and other music projects.
As I stated earlier, the SONG series has been a few years in the making. Recently, I met and hit it off with the songwriter of the George Strait hit, Check Yes or No, Danny Wells. Danny and I “cool-aborated” on a painting, where the proceeds went to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, and Danny is the one who introduced me to the NSAI. Since that introduction, I have painted another Check Yes or No, a Still with Joe Leathers, a Praying For Daylight, and another Steve Cropper Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.
The painted guitars began when Pat Tigrett, the founder of the Memphis, Tennessee, Blues Ball, asked me to paint one for her event in 2002. Since then I have painted guitars for Steve Cropper events, The Tennessee Museum, and six of The Blues Balls.
Congratulations on receiving the 2010 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Art and Photography from the Blues Foundation. How did that come about?
The Blues Foundation is one of the charities to which I donate. Over the last many years, the art has done well. At the induction, Jay Seilman, the President of the International Blues Foundation, said that having my prints of Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King in their silent auction was like printing money.
This year, Dusty, a world-renown blues photographer, nominated me. And with a push from Jay and the chairwoman, Dr. Pat Morgan, I won the award. I was lucky.
Besides an obvious aesthetic value, what do you hope people will take away from your work as an artist?
A mood. The goal is to garner a smile, an OOoo, maybe even an Ahhh. And, if I’m really lucky, in that moment, that instant when the art is viewed…a WOW!
You do a lot of charity work. What charities do you work with and why?
Last year, 2009, I donated to 108 different charities worldwide. Naming them would fill a page…lets just say from Alzheimer’s to many of America’s Zoos.
Why…? The real reason is it FEELS GOOD. It’s amazing when I realize that my original art, giclees, or lithographs have helped someone I’ve never met.
If you could only pick one piece of art to represent you or your work, what would it be?
Recently I’ve been painting lots of hearts. I’m the official artist for the International Children’s Heart Foundation. The foundation performs open heart surgery for free in third world countries. Last year they did 22 mission trips.
I began painting abstract hearts with scenes from different cities within the hearts. They are inspirational, out of the box, and they raise LOTS of money for the foundation.
This website is about both writing and music. I understand you are also a writer and a songwriter. Please tell us a little bit about that.
My college degrees are about writing, not art. I have published a few children’s books, a book on preparing for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant I wrote while in the midst of a stem cell transplant in 1999, which I kinda survived, and a book on my poetry.
I’ve written greeting cards, ads, commercials, industrial movies, jingles, and in 2006, Doug Johnson, a hit maker from Curb Records who wrote the songs Three Wooden Crosses and Skin, offered to add that I published a song to my resume. He, with a little contribution by me, wrote the song, If He Hadn’t Died, a song about me, my art, and my charities.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Biographies, historical novels, and any book that will add to my education or enlightenment.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re relaxing?
Currently I’m listening to the greats, the Rat Pack and Tony Bennett and Doris Day. I love the lyrics, the phrasing, and I’m in awe of their voices; the crisp vocal styling, how I can understand every syllable.
When I was a child, besides fantasying about drawing for a national magazine, I wanted to be a Broadway lyricist. One out of two isn’t bad.
You can’t beat country, the blues, or rock. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get rap or hip-hop. The only rap I’ve ever really liked was the song Trouble from The Music Man.
A few fun questions:
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
A Jimmy Buffet, or Barefoot Man, Caribbean ditty.
Are you a major or a minor chord?
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
I’m Peter Pan, constantly searching for his shadow, and I always have a happy thought. I’m full of Pixie Dust, and I love to fly.
I love the painting of a dog and cat you did (Down on the Farm), which was used by the Humane Society of Memphis. Do you have a pet?
Not any more. When I was a child in Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska, we raised champion Boston Terriers, American Eskimo’s, and Siberian Huskies. Unfortunately, I discovered when I was in the musical, “The King and I,” that I was allergic to cats.
Now, I travel too much to keep a pet. It wouldn’t be fair to the pet.
By the way, the painting you love was inspired by Abbott and Costello.
Thanks, Michael! It’s a pleasure to feature you at DivineDetour!
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For more information about Michael and his art, visit his website at http://www.artbympm.com/
Tags: cool-aboration, Doug Johnson, Dusty, International Blues Foundation, Jay Seilman, Memphis Blues Ball, Michael Maness, Nashville Songwriters Association International, NSAI, painting songs, Pat Tigrett, Steve Cropper
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