1917 - 2005  


Artists' Workshop Gallery photo

By the end of his lengthy military career in the United States Air Force, he was formally called Colonel Ralph L. Michaelis - but to his friends, family and fellow artists, he was known as the beloved "Mike".

Mike was a life-long learner. He met new ideas and challenges with incomparable enthusiasm. During his worldwide travels for the military, he developed an interest in art history and was especially fascinated by aboriginal and Indonesian art. Yet it was not until 1969 that this retired Colonel could begin his serious pursuit of oil painting - and a whole new career - while living in Ireland.

Mike was a prolific painter. He created art "for the enjoyment of producing something from nothing." After moving to Hot Springs in 1976, he seized the opportunity to show his art locally. He soon became an exhibiting member of the Southern Artists Association and the Traditional Art Guild, and his work was included in a 1980 travelling exhibition sponsored by the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs. Over the years, he won numerous awards and had several solo exhibitions in Arkansas.

When artist and author Carole Katchen was selecting artworks to include in her 1998 book 200 Great Painting Ideas, she visited the Artists' Workshop Gallery where Mike's painting entitled Seven Pears caught her eye. "The colors were brilliant and the design was very unusual," she later wrote. " I was pleased to give international recognition to an artist who wasn't noticed as much in Hot Springs as he deserved to be." Today, his artworks, many of which have been commissioned, are in both private and corporate collections in the U.S. and overseas.

Mike was the consummate diplomat. He bridged the gap between traditional and contemporary points of view with statesmanship and a sincere smile. From the Traditional Art Guild's monthly meetings to Beverly McLarty's weekly Experimental Workshops, he shared his vast knowledge of painting without pretense. "He was very good at critiquing the works of other artists", recalls fellow artist and World War II aviator Stanley Rames.

Mike was the ultimate volunteer. He was always ready to lend a helping hand to local arts organizations, whether it was setting up booths for art sales in Arlington Park or painting sets for theatre productions or monitoring hundreds of school children during Hallmark Card's Kaleidoscope event. He was an honorary lifetime member of the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs, where he had served on its Board of Directors for many years. He was also one of the original trustees of the Hanor-Westfall Memorial Fund for Artists, holding that position for 20 years. The Fund's 2005 award will be given in his name.

Mike Michaelis was an exceptional human being of gentle demeanor, who generously served the local arts community with the same intelligence, diligence and diplomacy as he did his country. Both country and community mourn his passing on June 15. He is certainly missed.

Barbara A. Sloan
June 2005

Courtesy of AKAS II - because there's more to Art than meets the Eye! (sm)
Copyright 2005-2011 Barbara A. Sloan. All rights reserved.