State of the Artist: Indianapolis painter wins national art contest


INDIANAPOLIS — The image of the artist details a tortured soul, pouring their pain onto canvas in a way that the world resonates. Look at Vincent Van Gogh — perhaps the most iconic example of the trope — with each painting a reflection of the deep sadness that echoed in his mind throughout his daily life.

For Indianapolis Artist Michael Schulbaum, his vision of art is one that brings joy.

“I do believe that art should lift us up, even if it’s an image that is not pretty to look at, it should inspire new thoughts in the viewers’ minds,” Schulbaum said. “I think that maybe they hadn’t seen it from that point of view. That perspective before and it opens up their mind in a way that causes growth of some kind.”

Schulbaum had a love for art for as long as he could remember. From painting since he was 3 years old, going to art school after graduating, to even teaching art in schools — he always found a way to keep a paintbrush in his hand.

When the pandemic hit, Schulbaum came to the realization it was never too late to pursue his lifelong dream of being a full-time artist. He left his teaching job and promptly brought his brush to canvas.

His work has since been recognized by Fine Art America in their Billboard Contest, where he was named as one of 20 winners across the nation to now have their art displayed in a major city in America. This year’s location has not yet been announced.

His award-winning painting, “Love and Service,” was a commission he had painted for a high school friend he had worked on for three months. Some of his other non-commissioned paintings have taken upwards of 23 years, and it’s still in progress, as Schulbaum only paints when he’s inspired to, and often makes changes to his work.

“I think maybe a lot of people have this image of the artist you know in their studio, tormented and like slashing at the canvas and in a very emotional thing. For me, it’s a dance,” Schulbaum said. “You’re working with the painting. This is how I feel about it and I’m not in control. I’m working with the muse. I’m trying to dance with the muse. I’m asking the muse to come through me and to produce whatever I’m working on in the way that it wants.”

Because of this, Schulbaum often expressed that his creativity and inspiration “is not from me, it’s through me.”

Schulbaum said a lot of his inspiration comes from his love for the human face and the human figure, as well as his interest in spirituality. However, he also uses art as an avenue of education.

“Every painting is like a platform to experiment with something new that I’m learning,” Schulbaum said. “‘Love and Service’ was an experiment in new things that I was learning about warm and cool colors.”

Schulbaum lamented that being an artist is “humbling,” especially after the results of the contest. He claimed how happy he was that people wanted his art, especially when they talked about what they enjoyed about the paintings he made.

“So many times it’s happened where I do a painting, and then somebody else says what it means to them, what they see in it, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I had no idea, that was never anything in me, but I see,'” Schulbaum said. “It proves it’s beyond me.”

He gestured to his tattoo, the only one he has, and read it very simply: Love is art, and art is love. He explained that as long as someone pours love into their work, it does not matter who they are: they are an artist, too.

“It’s kind of a philosophy that I have that it doesn’t matter what you do; you can be a banker, you could be a grocery bagger, it doesn’t matter, you can be a custodian, if you put your love into whatever you’re doing, I really believe that that turns it into art,” Schulbaum said. “Whatever put me here made me an artist. … Life is too short to not do what you were born to do.”

Schulbaum’s paintings, prints and commission information are available on his website. He said he is currently open for commissions.

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