The Psalm gallery artist for December and January, Michael Bartlett, talks about his work: “I love the times when I get to paint. I really enjoy the process of mixing paints and creating something from nothing. I get so involved with my subject matter that I can sometimes smell the lingering scents of the animals, trees and wild flowers right in my studio. I can even hear the sounds of nature as my imagination drifts off to another time and place. It’s a journey that we can take together.”
Michael says he knew in grade school that he had artistic talent and dreamed of being an artist some day. After high school graduation in 1972, he attended Western Baptist College (now Corban) and worked as a photographer/artist in the graphic arts department. During that time, he started drawing and painting wildlife on his own, doing art shows, and working on commissioned projects. In 1980, he “made the break” to full time wildlife artist.
But a real break, in the form of a broken leg, brought unexpected change the week after he left Corban. Three months in a cast threatened his career while he struggled to feed his family and hold onto his faith. Through these dark times, Michael says he learned to trust God and was reminded that He had a perfect plan for his life. A contract with a large print company brought some financial stability, and two years as a gallery owner taught him valuable lessons of business and hard work. Practical working knowledge came from supplementing his art income with construction jobs and a rural mail delivery route.
In 1988, Michael took a full-time job with Church ArtWorks where he continues working today as Production Manager/Art Director. Through the years he has prepared art for businesses, camps and church ministries all over the world. On his own time, he continued to paint wildlife, putting more than 60 pieces of art into print.
Also during this time, the death of both parents and his father-in-law opened Michael’s eyes to the shortness of life and the importance of leaving a legacy. He says he threw himself into learning and took on as many projects as possible, often working over 70 hours a week. His endeavors have included building an apartment for his mother-in-law, remodeling a 120-year-old church, landscaping projects, learning computer video editing, producing commercial video work for a Christian musical festival, recording a mission trip to India with Reid Saunders, and producing Salem Riverfest video promotions and wedding videos for friends.
Looking back, Michael says, “In all this I’ve gained a true sense of happiness and accomplishment. There is a true joy that comes from giving time and talent to the work of the ministry. There’s a reward when you invest in the lives of others and begin to share from the blessing that God has given you.”
Recent trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Sun Valley, Idaho; and Yosemite and Yellowstone Parks have whetted Michael’s appetite for wildlife art again. He felt inspired enough to finish a painting started six years ago—The Bears on Snow Peak.
In the nearly twenty years since Michael’s last art show, he has heard people say, “You have so much potential. Why aren’t you painting? Are you ever going to paint again?” The questions that loom in his mind, however, are, “What are you doing with the talents that God has given you? What are you doing that will last for eternity?”
Michael gives this task to the viewers of his art: “You be the judge."Michael’s fine drawings and acrylics remain on display for the months of December and January, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Gallery of the Psalm Performing Arts Center. The campus is closed December 24-25 and December 31-January 1.