The Universe of Color. Interview with Michael Bell

The Universe of Color. Interview with Michael Bell

Once again, we are here to interview Michael Bell, celebrated artist and a very well-known person among Yareah readers. Interview by Martin Cid.

M.C.- Hello, Michael. Today we would like to talk a little bit about colors. Do you use any special gamma for your paintings? How do you choose your colors? Do they depend on the subject of the painting or the series?

M.B.- Hello, Martin. No, no special gamma. For me it really depends on the subject matter and the painting series. In my Cioccolato series the colors needed to vibrate with the passion and intensity of the moments I was pouring back into the world through each painting, so there’s lots of warm reds, golds, luminous glows. In Ticket to Ride the colors needed to first reflect the greenish underbelly of the lighting underground in the subways, then emerge more colorful as the audience emerges out of the subway, out of the dark hotel room and into bright lights of New York City halfway through the painting series and then digress once again into a more muted palette as we return back to the hotel room all cleaned up and back into the bowels of the subway station to ponder what’s next…

If you’re asking specifics, there are some colors I definitely love, like Cadmium Reds, Viridian Greens, Pthalo Blues, Yellow Ochres.

I want the viewer to experience aesthetic emotion through color and light in my paintings that give them a heightened awareness and a place to enter the piece and explore it, participate in its “re-enactment, if you will.” That’s what I want the viewer to experience and color definitely helps with that. It’s like when I’m painting…as hours go by my field of vision funnels into the immediate and suddenly I’m not just painting it, I’m part of it, and all the choices I make for certain colors here and there are completely unconscious to a degree – not calculated. I relate it to a professional athlete making an instinctive move on the basketball court during a game. After doing this for so long, some choices just come naturally.


M.C.- Some weeks ago, we talked about Caravaggio, one of the best painters of the history. His colors were fantastic, deep… Maybe, colors are the most important thing when we talk about painting. In fact, other attributes as composition, topic or expressions are not exclusive of painting but of sculpture, cinema… What do you think?

M.B.- Colors convey emotion and tap into our soul in very powerful ways. It’s the lure into the soul of a painting. Color can either enhance or detract from an image. Expression and body language, if we’re talking about figurative paintings, can also breathe life into a work and make us connect with a work of art in powerful ways. Caravaggio’s power lies in simplicity and in his perfectionist attention to detail. He directly influenced the way directors use natural lighting and chiaroscuro in modern cinema today.

The source of my art is my primal need to give form and expression to internal experiences brought on by what life throws your way, or what you throw your way – depending on how you look at life. For me, color enhances the vibrancy of those stories when it needs to, and also stays in the background when STORY needs to take the stage and drive the piece, like in many of the “strange perspectives, personal acid colors and unreal light games” (as Isabel del Rio put it) in my Seven Scars and Carnevale Italiano paintings.

M.C.- In your opinion, who is the Master of Color?

M.B.- I’m not certain who I’d say is the ultimate “Master of Color” because there are so many artists over the span of history who have used color in exciting ways. Artists I continue to “go to” again and again for inspiration in the realm of color over the span of time are Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Edvard Munch, Edgar Degas, Wayne Theibault, Richard Diebenkorn, Wolf Kahn, and my contemporaries…dear friends worth checking out their palettes: Michael Sprouse and Eric Fischl.

Enjoy your week, Michael!

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is renowned American painter and muralist, famous for his larger-than-life sized narrative series paintings and for his infamous portrait clientele, which includes the late Mob Boss John Gotti, best friend Dominic Capone III (Al Capone’s great nephew) and numerous actors from The Sopranos, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and more. Yes, his works are the mirror of a tragic world, but they deepen our human psychology with strong brush strokes and vivid colors, from personal memories and silent echoes, with courage and creativity. Bell was naturally gifted in art and won 1st Place in his first juried art exhibition at age 5. As an emerging artist he spent a lot of his time in and around New York City, studying art with his maternal grandmother, Violet Vallery, a self-taught artist from Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Then, after the still-born death of his sister Amanda and the sudden passing of his Grandfather, a former professional boxer, Bell began to explore life's personal and psychological issues through his paintings. In addition, Bell has written his first screenplay based on the real-life events surrounding his famous "TICKET TO RIDE™" painting series and has won three national awards in 2013. Bell exhibits his large, narrative series paintings in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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