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Michael Van Zeyl, 1969 | Portrait / Magic Realism painter

For Michael Van Zeyl, portraiture is much more than a one-sided translation of the artist’s point of view taking form in a subject. It’s an engaging visual dialogue that renders a soul in light, shadow and pigment, continuing the conversation for future generations to appreciate.
While technical skill and accurate rendering are only part of Michael’s gift, his experience has honed his craft to the highest standard.

His talents were apparent by age seven and he spent subsequent decades mastering a wide range of painting techniques. In particular, 17th century Dutch and 19th century impressionist styles have resonated with him and surfaced in his own works.
His formal training began at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, continuing on at Chicago’s Historic Palette and Chisel Academy and the Art Students League in New York, where he studied with the most accomplished artists who also paint directly from life under natural light. Michael is currently a faculty and board member at the Palette and Chisel and has been the club’s most popular instructor for several years.
Michael’s work is already appreciated in many public and private collections, such as the United States District Court, University of Chicago, DePaul University School of Law, Chicago Theological Seminary and American Hotel Register.
Michael Van Zeyl has received awards* from the Portrait Society of America, The Artists Guild, the Oil Painters of America and the 2014 recipient of the Dorothy Driehaus Mellin Fellowship for Midwestern Artists.

"I am fascinated and challenged by the process of transforming a flat, blank canvas into the illusion of dimensional form, atmosphere and mood.
That process is usually well thought out, but sometimes I paint direct and use intuition to complete my idea.
Both of these methods present challenges but each way fills the void of the other and opens up the possibility of new visual ideas to meet my objective.
The first spring I spent in my current home I was struck by the beauty of our magnolia tree as it bloomed for a brief but magical week.
The following year, the magnolia was blooming again at the same time I was painting a live model in profile in my home studio.
Attempting to hold onto their temporal magnificence, I brought some of the delicate white-and-pink blooms into my studio and began to paint studies of them before they inevitably withered.
Since then, I have developed an entire series of figures combined with the botanicals that grow in my yard.
The resulting ethereal imagery and compositions are a metaphor for my new connection to nature as well as symbols of new life, mortality and the soul".

Awards*, Honors and publications

  • 2017 Palette and Chisel Academy - Annual Gold Medal Show - Gold Medal and Peoples Choice;
  • 2016 PoetsArtists Magazine, Issue #79 Figurative Painters;
  • 2016 Juror for the Old Town Art Fair, Chicago, IL;
  • 2015 PoetsArtists Magazine, Issue #65 Heightened Perceptions, Cover image for collectors edition, Curated by John Seed;
  • 2015 District 230 Foundation Legacy Hall Inductee;
  • 2014 Dorothy Driehaus Mellin Fellowship for Midwestern Artists;
  • 2014 The Artists Guild Show - Legacy Gallery - Silver Medal;
  • 2013 The United States District Court - Commission to paint Judge J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin;
  • 2011 Jameson Whiskey ad campaign - Commission to paint John Jameson for Mathematics concept;
  • 2010 American Artist Studios Magazine - 6-page editorial spread;
  • 2010 Cook County Treasurer’s Office - Artistic Award of Excellence;
  • 2008 American Artist Magazine - 8-page editorial spread;
  • 2006 Palette and Chisel Academy - Annual Gold Medal Show - 1st Place Gold Medal and People’s Choice;
  • 2006 Portrait Society of American - Self Portrait Competition - Honorable Mention;
  • 2005 Palette and Chisel Academy - Annual Gold Medal Show - Peoples Choice;
  • 2005 American Artist Magazine - Annual Competition Still Life Finalist;
  • 2004 Palette and Chisel Academy - Annual Gold Medal Show - 1st Place Gold Medal and People’s Choice;
  • 2004 Portrait Society of Atlanta - Spring Juried Exhibition - 1st Place Artists’ Choice and 2nd Place Juried Competition.