After a devastating illness, Michael Maness decided to paint his black and white world with the brushstrokes of a rainbow. That one decision changed his life—and the lives of many others. Now, his brightly-colored artwork graces the walls of art lovers around the world. And his charity work has positively affected countless more. He is also making an impact on the music business with his “cool-aborations” and painted guitars.
If you like colorful canvases—and colorful personalities—you will love Michael Maness.
When did you begin drawing and/or painting? What medium(s) do you prefer?
I sold my first drawing when I was eight years old. I stuttered, and I was a flirt. My teacher was a lovely lass, and at the end of class I would give her a cartoon with a caption. She turned around and sold them to PTA and Jack and Jill magazines.
For commercial art or to entertain people whereever I sit, I prefer a Sharpie. For fine art, I like acrylic paints, for I paint too fast to use oils. Oils take four-six weeks to dry.
How did your painting and music business connection come about?
My connection actually dates back to the 1980’s. I was a jingle writer and an illustrator. I was lucky enough to have drawn a few album covers for Capitol, BNA, and Warner Brothers.
But my latest project began with a charity event for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Cropper. Steve wanted a painting that would raise some serious donations for the T.J. Martell Foundation during the Steve Cropper Classic at the Ryman in 2007. We agreed on a Gibson guitar, with the concept being to paint his songs, Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay on the front and In The Midnight Hour on the back. Steve added the lyrics, penned around the edge on the front and the back of the Gibson-donated Les Paul. To our surprise the guitar sold for $22,500. Thus began a successful concept. To paint a song, from my point of view, then have the songwriter pen their lyrics, and finally have the singer or band add their autograph to the art. It’s a “cool-aboration” between artists.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Yes, cancer. I know you aren’t thinking of cancer as positive, but cancer has been good for me. This new art style happened because of the side effects from my chemotherapy. The chemo made me paranoid, angry, and a bit violent. I discovered, quite by accident, that painting in bright colors calmed me down and, in fact, made me happy.
Cancer, and its side effects, gave me a new calling, and a new career.
How does your faith play into your work?
My talent is God given.
My marketing concept is karma, pay it forward. I donate to a few charities worldwide.
Let’s talk about your NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) designs. Tell us a little bit about that project and other music projects.
As I stated earlier, the SONG series has been a few years in the making. Recently, I met and hit it off with the songwriter of the George Strait hit, Check Yes or No, Danny Wells. Danny and I “cool-aborated” on a painting, where the proceeds went to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, and Danny is the one who introduced me to the NSAI. Since that introduction, I have painted another Check Yes or No, a Still with Joe Leathers, a Praying For Daylight, and another Steve Cropper Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.
The painted guitars began when Pat Tigrett, the founder of the Memphis, Tennessee, Blues Ball, asked me to paint one for her event in 2002. Since then I have painted guitars for Steve Cropper events, The Tennessee Museum, and six of The Blues Balls.