Howard Michaels once told Common Threads art show founder C.A. Shofed that he would one day like to participate in one of the shows if his artwork complemented the theme. This year’s theme, “Uncommon and Indescribable,” worked for Michaels.
The sixth annual Common Threads show at Hopewell Valley Vineyards will take place on Saturday, Feb. 3 from noon to 5 p.m., and feature the work of Michaels, a teacher at Lawrence Intermediate School and a Hamilton resident. On display will be art with a “modernist feel,” according to the Common Threads website.
Michaels said that he uses drawings and photographer as the basis of his art and then from them creates stencils or collages. He showcases his art on a Facebook page, Howard Michaels Visual Artist, where his cover photo is an original photograph of the icy Delaware with walruses superimposed on the ice.
Michaels is originally from Paterson, and attended William Paterson University, majoring in art and minoring in education. After finishing his degree, he spent two years teaching in Australia before returning to New Jersey to continue his respective teaching and art careers.
Michaels has been an art teacher for 25 years, and has been a teacher at Lawrence Intermediate School for the past 17 years. Michaels said he will be retiring from the district in March.
“I am so pleased and proud to have created a legacy for myself from being a public school teaching for all these years,” he said. “I loved teaching art to the students of Lawrence.”
Michaels said he doesn’t think he’d ever considered art as a career growing, up, but he’s “always been an artist.”
“I recently found and edited a drawing of John F. Kennedy that I did in 8th grade back in ‘64,” he said. “I’ve been drawing and creating art for quite a long time.”
Michaels said that artistic creativity came naturally to him from the time he was a young child in elementary school. He always knew that he wanted to frame a career around his artistic abilities. He enjoyed teaching art, and teaching provided him with a livelihood so that he could express his creativity freely. Had he been commissioned to do artwork, he would have had to create what someone else wanted.
“I didn’t feel that I wanted to pursue freelance, or be a struggling artist in the field. I wanted to have the freedom to be able to do my own art,” Michaels said.
In preparation for retirement, Michaels has focused more on his artwork as he prepares to become a full-time artist.
“In the last five years or so, I’ve taken my art to a new level and put a lot of effort into putting my art together,” Michaels said.
According to Michaels, he has followed the work of Jonathan Conner, also known as Lank, for a long time. Conner will exhibit at Common Threads this year, and Michaels said he and is honored to now have his work showcased with an artist he admires. Michaels said that Conner founded the SAGE coalition, which brings together the art community to work to beautify urban spaces in Trenton.
Michaels said that he is excited about the many good artists in the show. According to the Common Threads website, artists featured this year are photographer Asia Popinska, artist and designer Jonathan Conner, photographer and multimedia artists, Lauren Otis, painter Kata Mejia, perception artist Andrew Wilkinson, and glitch artist Phillip McConnell.
“The winery has a pleasant atmosphere to show space,” Michaels said. “It’s not a traditional gallery, but the art is displayed in a way that presents a really great show.”
During his career, Michaels hand-tinted black and white beach scenes from the Jersey shore that appeared in The Marshall’s Hand Coloring Guide and Gallery Book. According to his biography, he self-published two books with co-author Marsha Cudworth in the 1980s, a respective travel guide and architecture book about Cape May.
Michaels has expressed his artistic creativity through various mediums throughout the years including photography, stencil, traditional painting and sketches, and collages. Currently, Michaels produces hand cut stencils spray-painted on fiberboard or wood panels.
“I get enthusiastic about different mediums at different times, depending on what is going on in my life,” he said. “I’ve found something that I really enjoy, so I’ll be sticking with what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.”
Michaels said that the focus of many of his art pieces is classic rock icons, and he plans to continue working on this theme for now, too. Michaels said that while he enjoys classic rock, that he has an ecliptic taste in music, and listens to many other genres as well.
“I lived through that era of music, and I’m immortalizing it in my own artistic way and putting it out there,” Michaels said.
Michaels has vibrant works that depict musical artists including John Lennon, Tina Turner, Bob Marley, Janice Joplin, David Bowie and Prince. Also showcased are a variety of other works including a portrait of the mythical Krampus, Americana, animals, landscapes with superimposed images and still life.
Michaels will also be selling prints of his work at the the Punk Rock Flea Market 2018 Spring Fling located in Trenton on April 7 and 8 at the former Roebling Wire Works.
“Trenton has a great art scene,” he said. “Trenton is experiencing a renaissance artists and artisans.”
The Common Threads art show will include live music, and light fare, desserts, and wine will be available for purchase. For more information, visit commonthreadsgallery.com.