Michael Spano has been creating custom artwork and design for over 30 years. Over the years he has worked in various techniques, styles and mediums. Specializing in airbrush and oil paint in the 80’s, then in digital art starting in the 90’s.
This combination of art and technology enables him to create a unique style of hand drawn digital artwork.
Michael Spano Life / Career / Art -The Long Version
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1960’s, Michael grew up in a close-knit community that celebrated family, friends, and the simple pleasures of life. The streets were lined with cars the size of ocean liners and filled with kids playing get-up games of stick ball. The war in Vietnam was changing the World, Rock music was the voice of the people, and the personal computer was thirty years away. Michael was influenced by it all. As a young boy, Michael was putting his pencil to any scrap of paper he could find. His imagination was teeming with ideas that he needed to express. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion to create beautiful artwork that would capture his vision and allow him to share it with the world. Influenced by the world around him, his first drawings were of long-haired Rock stars, beautiful women, muscle cars, and motorcycles. His paintings depicted mythical monsters and larger than life heroes in epic battles waged across his canvass. It was clear to Michael, and his family, that his passion was art, and no matter what profession he entered, in his heart he was an “Artist”. In high school Michael was exposed to different techniques and mediums that artists traditionally worked in. But, it was when he picked up a Paasche airbrush for the first time that Michael had found a new love. This new tool would become an extension of his hand and he would paint anything that he could hold down – denim jackets, motorcycle gas tanks and helmets – even commissioned art work on cars. He expanded the boundaries and breadth of his work. After graduating high school, Michael attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in the heart of New York City. There he would meet Radu Vero, who became a teacher, mentor and ultimately a friend for life. At the time, Vero was one of the most influential airbrush artists in the country, known for his illustrations for medical textbooks, and for being a pioneer in the publishing of books that taught the technique of airbrush art. Vero saw the potential in Michael, and taught him privately outside of the classroom. Michael was a gifted student that learned quickly. Vero took Michael as an assistant in his studio, and used his contacts with art directors to get Michael much deserved recognition. It was with Vero’s help that Michael eventually became an airbrush instructor at FIT, like his mentor. Michael became an adjunct instructor teaching airbrush illustration. After graduating FIT with a degree in illustration, Michael set out as a freelance illustrator and studio artist. In the early 1980’s he worked as an airbrush illustrator and comp artist for many “art houses” including pharmaceutical advertising agencies. Using his love of the airbrush and his desire to succeed, Michael held esteemed positions as a studio manager and as an art director. The 1990’s brought the personal computer to the American Public, and the digital age was born. New sophisticated software gave artists new tools to create amazing artwork that was not previously possible. Michael immediately embraced the new medium and began to create new profound works. Michael was a successful freelance artist whose work was being recognized in the industry and also by his colleagues at FIT. Michael served on the Illustration Department Advisory Committee and was responsible for redesigning the airbrush facility and course structure. Michael had immersed himself in the world of digital art was working in the medium with the same fervor and passion that he had for the airbrush. He was not satisfied to just use the new tool; he wanted to push the limits and make it his own. It took some time to convince the older, more traditional-minded members of the staff to realize the potential of the new digital art, but they soon agreed that it was going to be the way of the future. In 1996, FIT, with Michael at the helm, added a new Introduction to Digital Art to the curriculum. Michael taught the first Digital Painting courses and later added a second course to the curriculum – Digital Sketching and Composition. In the 90’s digital media was in its infancy, and before the Internet and AOL were household words, there was Compuserve and Prodigy. Michael began by creating Digital Vector Graphics for Prodigy, which led him to do freelance work for the budding multimedia firms in NYC. One of his first major interactive animation projects was for the Microsoft Corporation. The project demonstrated the untapped potential for interactive mediums. The technology was basic and limited, but for the time it was the indicator of what was to come. Embracing this new opportunity, Michael created the Interactive Computer Entertainment company, or ICE. The company set out to create one of the first interactive graphic novels that allowed the user to make decisions during the story that would alter the eventual outcome. For the first time, the reader could have choice of how a story would be told. Michael wrote the story – and its multiple outcomes, and directed the production. Using his experience as a studio manager and art director, Michael hired talented comic book artists, and together they created the detailed illustrations. The product was sold through the mail as shareware on the now extinct floppy discs. In 1993 it was the only product of its kind at the ComicCon convention in NYC. The Digital Age was the beginning of the multimedia revolution. Consumers were now being lured in with new dazzling computer graphics that made them a part of the experience instead of just a voyeur. The eventual outcome of this new computer age was the birth of the Internet. The world would never be the same. Information and imagery was now being made available to the masses. With each passing day more and more people were being exposed to and would become reliant upon this Miracle of the Modern Age. Michael was a visionary and knew that the only way to push the envelope and take his art to the next level was to immerse himself in this new and uncharted medium. There were no rules, boundaries or text books. The artists, programmers, and developers were like pioneers heading into the new frontier. Michael became a founding partner of Sixth Gear Inc – Interactive Media, located in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Michael was the Senior Designer and Creative Director which gave him the freedom to experiment and create a new world of graphic design. Michael called upon former colleagues and students from FIT to work at Sixth Gear and tame this new frontier. Sixth Gear was at the forefront of the industry creating interactive multimedia and website systems for Fortune 500 companies like Gateway, Toshiba, Prudential, and Visa, to name a few. Sixth Gear moved from Chelsea to Downtown Manhattan in the NY Information Technology Center – the East Coast version of Silicon Valley. Michael also headed a project that designed one of the first on-line sales and procurement systems for B2B distributors. The systems were used by Chase for their dealings with Motorola and Grainger. Michael had great success on the business end of the new digital era, but there was not much room for his creativity. He was making the transition from artists to corporate manager. The bills were being paid, but his creative side yearned for a release. The Dot-Com crash of 2000 was a blessing in disguise for Michael. Although financially difficult, it afforded him the opportunity to reevaluate what goals he was working towards, and how he was going to achieve them. In 2001 Michael launched CyberArt Studios – a company that focused on Digital Art and Design as a service. He would use his business savvy to sell the Art that he loved to create. The company evolved over the years to the primary focus on the artwork of Michael Spano. Michael was now creating artwork that ranged from the typical to the extreme for both commercial customers and private collectors alike. In order to stay current and relevant in the market Michael ventured into other businesses that allowed him to be both the seller and creator of his art. 2003 saw the launch of NuEtch, Inc. Art for Glass, which provides customers with faux glass etching for commercial and residential use. NuEtch was a revolutionary product that allowed Michael to create unique pieces of art and apply them to glass as an alternative to traditional glass etching. His artwork was now being used to decorate the homes of his clients, and commercial establishments all over the New York area. Michael was able to blend his art with technology to provide clients with custom pieces of art that were not only beautiful decoration but served a purpose as well. Today Michael is still creating artwork for a wide variety of clients. His designs have graced the walls of his clients’ homes, businesses and even their pleasure boats. His unique drawings of wicked skulls have been used for patches and logos by motorcycle clubs around the world, as tattoo art, and as apparel. With the advancement of technology Michael has the ability to use a tablet and stylus to create digital paintings that look as though they were painted on the canvass with paint. He can now create life-like portraits of people and their pets from a photograph without ever opening a tube of paint.