I am proud to feature this article from my friend, Emmy award winning journalist and East Bay native, Lisa Chan Carnazzo. Lisa’s beautiful words showcase the work and giving nature of local artist, Mike Welch. Mike is a talented artist whose work is on display at Westminster Cathedral in London, is a devoted stay-at-home dad, and he recently donated a painting to Piedmont PAINTS, which raises money for the arts in Piedmont schools and the surrounding community. Please read on to learn more about this amazing person whose giving spirit is inspirational.
By Lisa Chan Carnazzo
Just like his paintings Mike Welch is an artist full of layers. When you walk into his studio located in his Piedmont home you will see about a hundred warm, colorful, energetic paintings, all uniquely different. He has bright city landscapes, portraits of musical icons, baseball players and his portrayal of concert and vintage travel posters. After a few minutes to take it all in you start to notice the complexity and layers emerging beneath the surface of each masterpiece.
Mike works mostly with oil paints, newsprint, masonite boards and wooden grape trays. “The grape trays were used by wineries in Napa to collect grapes, they can withstand more punishment than canvas and have a nice vintage feel,” said Mike. He uses spray paint, sanding and collage techniques. “I’m always evolving my style and experimenting with different mediums.” If he is not satisfied with his painting he will white the painting out and start over, creating more rich layers and depth. This means each of his paintings usually has multiple images underneath. “I have a habit of overworking pieces. Usually it takes me 2-3 weeks to finish a painting.”
Mike was born in Kentucky and spent much of his childhood in Oklahoma. As a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Welch took art classes because it came naturally to him. “My parents really supported my desire to express myself artistically and encouraged me to start at a young age, around 4 or 5.” But Mike also has a gift with numbers, which led him to a career as a merchandise planner for retail stores like Mervyns, Pottery Barn and K2.
Today Mike’s days are no longer filled with numbers but caring for his two young children. He and his wife Vanessa have a 4-year old daughter named Gracie and a 6-year old son named Cooper, who is on the Autism Spectrum. “Some days it can be an emotional roller coaster but I am so proud of my kids.”
He brings art into his kids’ lives by encouraging them to paint and wants to make sure it’s available to all children. This is why he donated a painting to the Birdhouse Gala and Auction, PAINTS’ annual fundraising event. PAINTS is a non-profit organization which promotes the arts and art education in Piedmont schools and the surrounding community. “I really believe in and support this organization. Bringing art to our community and schools is very important. I really think everyone is an artist.”
The painting Mike donated to the gala is an image of a hawk in Lake Tahoe. He used oil, acrylic and a vintage New York Times newspaper. “My daughter loves birds, she was the real inspiration.”
Mike has a long list of accomplishments. He created a t-shirt as part of Planet Earth’s artist series and it was sold in a dozen countries. Also, he has a sketch on display at Westminster Cathedral in London. “I’m proud of the broad audience that enjoys my work.” Just like his paintings with multiple layers and dimensions, Mike has many layers from his life, past and present that are submerged into each piece of his art. However, the layer on top, the one you see today is the accomplishment he is most proud of, a stay at home Dad, devoted husband and professional artist.
To learn more about Mike Welch, go here.
For more information on the Piedmont PAINTS fundraiser, go here.
Photos by Lauren Edith Andersen
About the Writer: Lisa Chan (Carnazzo) is an Emmy award winning reporter and Bay Area native. She joined KPIX5 in 2004 and spent five years anchoring the weekend morning show. Chan was anchoring when a tanker truck crashed on the MacArthur Maze causing part of it to collapse in 2007. She received an Emmy for her reporting during the Olympic torch run through San Francisco in 2008. Prior to joining KPIX5, Chan was an anchor and a reporter at FOX 6 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 3 and a half years. Before that, she was the morning and noon anchor and producer at NTV, an ABC station in Kearney, NE. There, she produced and hosted a debate on a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same sex marriage. Chan’s first news job was anchoring, reporting and producing in Lawrence, Kansas. She covered the state school board’s decision to de-emphasize teaching the theory of evolution. Chan graduated from UCLA and when she isn’t working, you can find her with her husband and 3 little boys.