By Debbie Burke
Around the time he turned the big 5-0, Michael Glenn – an IT specialist for a local Pocono school district – realized it was time to listen to his inner artist and get back to drawing, a passion from his earlier years. Now 56, with a lot of catching up to do, he has already amassed a portfolio that includes extraordinarily detailed portraits of celebrities, scantily clad women (as inspired by artist Olivia De Berardinis) and a pair of elegant, colorful wine labels. Quite a topical variety.
“Art takes a lot of dedication,” he commented. “The past few years have ignited that passion like nothing ever did throughout my whole life.”
Something will catch his eye; it could be the shadows or the contrasts in a photo. His preference is to work with black and white photos because “they draw my attention before a color photo will.” That doesn’t mean the final product will always be black and white, only how he starts the process.
How many photos he studies depends on the complexity of the subject matter. For example, he’s now working on a very exciting commission that consists of designing the front and back labels for Blue Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery wine. This project yielded over 300 photos so he could consider the subject in great depth.
The Blue Ridge Estate wine label is an “awesome opportunity” that came about when Michael asked owner Randy Detrick if he could hang some of his drawings at their Saylorsburg winery. Randy liked what he saw, and decided to display Michael’s work. “Randy was working on labels for a new wine that was coming out, and I mentioned to him I’d love the opportunity to do a drawing for one of his new wines. He said he wanted a drawing of his winery,” Michael recalled. “I’ve often said this place is magical. You can enjoy the summer night air out on the deck or even in winter inside the building, lined with windows and a view of the grape vines.” His objective has been to somehow transfer this magic on two labels (front and back), the larger one no more than 4” x 6”.
“I worked my brain for months before pencil ever touched paper. I focused on the grape vines and the grapes, the leaves soaking up the sun, and the building in the background slightly out of focus.”
Michael uses watercolors, and pen and ink; lately he’s also been working with professional-grade colored pencils. “As much as I love the shading process with graphite pencils, color is always an exciting thing for me. I used to work with an airbrush when I was younger. That was very expensive to dabble with. Graphite was a way for me to get back into art at a level that wasn’t so hard on my finances.”
Capturing an accurate likeness in portraiture is no easy task. Michael studies details like the texture of the skin, scars, dimples, the eyes, the lips and the nose. “One of the first Frank Sinatra portraits I did was of a close-up photo of him,” the artist recalled. “His skin was so detailed. The years and experience of this man were all on his face. It took me over 50 hours, but the end result was worth it.”
Michael’s Facebook page has a quote from Walt Disney that says “Start doing.” It’s a meaningful mantra that reminds him he needs to continue with his art.
“I just want to draw. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and what I’ll be drawing,” he said.
For more information, visit GeeWiz Fine Art on Facebook and geewizartndesign.com.