How much can one learn by looking at his work? A review of painter Michael Joseph Provenza’s latest body of work reveals a great deal about the enthusiastic artist’s life and passions.
Animated trees, foliage and paths leading up and down rolling hills through the mist – from land to ocean – as far as the eye can see. Each scene conveys a sense of joy and serenity, while Provenza’s bold use of color and strong compositional elements convey the intense beauty he sees in the world around him. These oil paintings take the viewer on a journey to explore a world that lies far from the stresses of everyday life.
Michael Provenza is a world-renowned artist who has developed a distinctive pointillistic style and blending technique in his oil paintings that exudes a realistic and dimensional quality, yet is surreal and magical. His totally original work is being characterized as Realistic Surrealism.
Provenza’s personal journey as an artist began in his childhood. Born in 1964 in Los Gatos, California and raised in the heart of Silicon Valley, Provenza showed aptitude for art at an early age. “I’ve always had a strong imagination as a kid and I loved to depict my ideas on paper by copying my favorite cartoons and environments (free-hand) when I was in elementary school,” Provenza recalls.
“My grandfather lived in Chicago and was an artist working in the advertising field,” Provenza recollects. “He was a phenomenal oil painter and cartoonist as well. When I was nine he started reviewing my artwork and providing feedback and encouragement which became my original source of inspiration to be a professional artist.” Provenza’s interest flourished under his grandfather’s tutelage and by the time he was in his early teens, Provenza was taking art classes. He exhibited his work through grade school and high school and won many local art contests.
In high school, Provenza worked as a sign painter and created hand-painted window illustrations on vans and trucks for local businesses. He continued to study art and his artistic talent developed throughout high school.
In 1983, Provenza’s favorite art teacher introduced him to oils and he never looked back. Provenza went on to study fine arts at West Valley College earning an Associates of Arts degree. He continued pursuing his art career through teaching oil painting for three years, studying and painting with well-known artists, traveling, and exhibiting his work in regional art and wine festivals in Northern California. During this time, Provenza gained additional awards and recognition including Best of Show, Silicon Art Convention; Most Popular, “The Art Spirit” Art Show, San Jose; and, 1st Place, “Fairgoers Choice Award,” Santa Clara County Art Fair.
Through the late eighties and early nineties Provenza focused on his painting technique using oils. He was also passionate about developing a unique style different from any other artist. “It’s important to me to have my own style so I first began to develop it through relentless practice and study of traditional styles, mainly influenced by the old masters, as a foundation,” Provenza explains. “I studied Seraut for his pointillistic approach and Michelangelo for his use of color, light and depth.” During this period, Provenza produced several traditional oil paintings – landscapes, seascapes and skyscapes – which exhibited in art galleries and shows around the country. “I was accepted into The Art Show Gallery in Carmel, California by loading paintings into my car and going door-to-door to as many galleries as possible in one day.” Provenza recalls.
Provenza’s career has encompassed many different fields in the art industry. In addition to oil painting, the artist has also designed a number of 3D environments for video games, illustrated book covers, painted murals and sculptures for museums as well as residential and commercial murals, and adapted his creative cityscapes to greeting cards.
In the late 1980’s, Provenza was recruited by a computer gaming company in Silicon Valley. By applying his artistic talent in the 2D/3D revolutionary computer games industry, he was compelled to explore and diversify his creativity. He worked as an art director on video game projects where he was free to imagine and create virtual worlds. Provenza worked directly with Disney and Sony, as well as actors such as Kirk Cameron, to produce video games for XBOX and PlayStation. The games he worked on were Dungeons & Dragons, Buck Rogers, Jurassic Park, The Horde, Walt Disney World Magical Racing Tour, Mad Dash Racing, just to name a few. The process required pixel painting, hand illustration and sketching for backgrounds which were scanned in order to produce 2D/3D environments and animations. “The animated and 3D experience combined with my traditional oil painting foundation, was a tremendous jumping off point in further developing ‘my style’ that I am truly passionate about because it flowed naturally in sequence with my imagination to create,” explains Provenza. “I could not wait to start painting full-time again with my new vision for oil paintings.”
By the mid 1990’s, Provenza sold numerous paintings, traveled to Hawaii, Japan, Italy and all across the United States. He continued to be inspired by the beauty of the lands, seas and sky. He met world-renowned artists including Robert Lyn Nelson and Eyvind Earle and collected their artwork which was inspirational. “I was inspired by Robert Lyn Nelson’s originality being that he created the concept of the two worlds – above and below the sea,” recalls Provenza. “And I was inspired by Eyvind Earle’s environment work showcased in Disney’s animated feature films.”
In 2000, Provenza began to integrate his concepts from the virtual worlds he personally created for video games into his oil paintings which was the beginning of his new series, Life’s Journey. “My recent body of work is often characterized as surrealist pointillism,” Provenza explains. Life’s Journey is a blend of Provenza’s new vision and distinct style with his original subject matter which creates these surreal environments combined with realistic and traditional painting techniques ultimately bringing his work to life through an ethereal theme.
Even though Provenza discovered his unique style later in his fine arts career, the subject of Provenza’s work has not changed (nature) which continues to be his constant source of inspiration. “I love to be able to create scenery that I can walk into and explore after it is completed – not unlike the favorite Road Runner cartoons that I grew up with,” Provenza explains. “I am continually amazed by what God has created for us and I intend to use the imagination and talent He has given me to convey a world that resembles what was originally intended with my developed style and technique that I call the twist.”
In 2001, an important family decision to be geographically close to his eldest son drew him to the charming, historical town of Perrysburg, Ohio at the base of the Great Lakes where he currently resides. Provenza immediately established a working relationship with The Toledo Museum of Art, The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo and The Toledo Zoological Gardens to become involved in the local area arts community.
After about 18 years of creating animated art, Provenza returned to painting full time in 2002. Provenza and his wife started an art studio in Ohio, now called ThreeTrees Studio, LLC, to focus on expanding his Life’s Journey collection and exhibiting in art galleries. Since moving to Perrysburg, he has exhibited his oil paintings at The Toledo Museum of Art in The Museum Store Collectors Corner as well as art galleries in Ohio, Michigan and Hawaii. He also produced exclusive oil paintings commissioned by corporations such as Walgreens and Owens Corning.
At the same time, Provenza painted murals in his unique style for companies such as Lifeformations, The Toledo Zoological Gardens, Harms Flooring Center, Villa Interiors, West Wind Homes, Cedar Creek Church and more. Provenza was hired by Villa Interiors and West Wind Homes to paint murals in a new home on tour for the Parade of Homes, where he also exhibited his oil paintings, winning the People’s Choice Award for best decorated home. Provenza was featured in Toledo Magazine by The Toledo Blade in the article Once Upon a Wall in 2003.
In 2004, Provenza adapted his landscapes to large scale murals for Lifeformations, Inc. He also painted murals for a theme park and sculptures for museums. He traveled to Israel for nearly a month to paint 150 feet x 20 feet murals at King’s City theme park in Eilat, Israel near the Red Sea. “The size, scope and depth of composition in the murals made me feel as if I could walk right into the scenery which further developed my dimensional painting abilities,” the artist says.
In 2006, Provenza was accepted into his first art gallery in Hawaii, on the island of Maui, where he sold original oil paintings and began producing limited edition giclee prints of his work. He exhibited his traditional work as well as introduced his Life’s Journey collection. The excitement and feedback that he received from his followers, viewers and art collectors encouraged him to continue.
Provenza’s work was also seen on television. He was honored to participate in painting a mural for the 2009 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in Toledo, Ohio in the little boy’s train room. “It was great to be able to help people in need with the abilities I was given, especially in my local community,” explains Provenza.
In 2013, Provenza’s art was chosen for one of the Hawaii 5-0 set designs. His art was also showcased in American Art Collector Magazine, September 2013.
In 2016, Provenza became licensed to create Disney characters in his paintings at the Acme Gallery at Disney Town Shanghai through 2017. Michael is a celebrated international artist known for his unique style of interpreting licensed characters.
In 2018, Provenza became licensed to create Disney characters in his paintings in the United States through Disney Fine Art by Collectors Editions.
In 2020, Provenza won an honorable mention award from the Circle Foundation for the Arts – the “CFA Artist of the Year Award 2019” international contest – for his original painting “Bright Morning Star” 12×48 (oil on panel).
Currently, Provenza’s originals and limited editions are exhibited in California, Hawaii, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, collected nationally and internationally. Provenza is represented by world-class art galleries and participates in solo and group shows.
Provenza’s passion is to create oil paintings to share his creations and the feeling of joy. “My motivation and inspiration today is that I am wired to paint and have been given the talent to do so. What better way to glorify God by painting through the very gift He has given me,” explains Provenza. “I have been told by clients and collectors that my work is beautiful and vibrant and feels as if they can walk right into my paintings – they want to be there. This is a statement that is repeated by many viewers of my work.”
Michael Provenza has a totally original perception of landscape. He successfully merges a realistic and dimensional quality with a surreal and magical environment in a distinctive style: a style which is at once different, primitive, disciplined, joyful and ethereal. He captures the brilliance of simplicity of the countryside. His scenery is remarkable for its suggestion of distances and aliveness. “My passion has always been to paint scenery that will bring viewers into my paintings and become engaged with the diverse qualities of nature – with a twist,” the artist says.
Provenza's artist statement.
Michael Provenza is a contemporary landscape oil painter who has developed a distinctive pointillistic style and blending technique that exudes a realistic and dimensional quality, yet is surreal and magical. His work reflects many years of experimentation with various approaches to his subject, nature. Michael’s recent original work captures Life’s Journey with the use of paths and stripes surrounded by earth’s ethereal beauty and glory…