was a creative partnership between Michael Joseph Jackson and Brett-Livingstone Strong. Their aim was to establish the world's most dynamic arts enterprise, promoting the power of imagination, not just for creativity sake, but for the sake of important world causes. Michael and Brett focused their creative expression in support of the arts, children everywhere and our planet. Wherein is a brief history of the Jackson-Strong Alliance as well as Michael Jackson's little known private life as a fine artist..
Michael Jackson´s personal artist David Nordahl
An Interview With David Nordahl with The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies
Q1 – In just a single sentence, what does Michael Jackson mean to you?
In the beginning, Michael was a client, but he became my friend.
Q2 – Can you tell us a little bit aboutyourselfand your art?
Like Michael, I grew up in the Midwest. In 1964, my friend Bart de Malignon and I founded a poster company called Pandora Productions. My family and I moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado when I began painting the nineteenth century Apache Indians in 1977. We moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1979 and shortly after I did a commission for Steven Spielburg. Michael had seen the painting in Steven’s office and shortly after contacted me. This contact began a twenty year collaboration with Michael on many different projects.
Q3 – You worked closely with Michael Jackson since 1988. What excited you most in working together with Michael Jackson?
When Michael first approached me to do some paintings I was reticent because I was used to doing my own ideas. I was afraid he would make all the decisions on what and how the paintings would be done. But all my fears vanished when we began working together. All our projects were truly collaborative efforts. Michael’s premier interest was to make sure all of our projects were the best we could do – I concurred.
Q4 – Michael Jackson himself was a talented visual artist. Did you ever teach him to draw/painting techniques?
When I first met Michael in Denver (he was appearing there on tour) I brought all my equipment and art materials so we could draw together. It was fun but I noticed that he would get frustrated if he couldn’t do the exercise correctly. We worked together for a few afternoons and I was surprised at how quickly he would catch on. Michael was a very busy person with his music so it didn’t leave him a lot of time to practice his drawing skills. If he had chosen to be a painter rather than an entertainer I’m convinced he would have been a great artist.
Q5 – In your online gallery you have this beautiful triptych The Knight. To what extend was this Michael Jackson’s idea and does it relate to his awareness of the history of High Status black people?
This triptych was entirely Michael’s idea and it was the only painting I ever did for him with a deadline. I never asked him what the painting was for. I’m quite sure Michael was aware of the history of High Status black people. He was very proud of his heritage.
Q6 – What is/was your fascination drawing, designing and painting Michael Jackson and for Michael Jackson?
When I first started working with Michael, I thought there may be a few projects then I would go back to my own work. I was so wrong. There became so many projects that they overlapped. I didn’t get back to my own work for the next 20 years. I didn’t mind – I was enjoying working on a myriad of different kinds of projects and I enjoyed working with Michael.
Q7 – You not only were Michael’s personal portraitist, you also designed features for the Neverland Park. Can you tell us what that meant to you and to what extent did Michael Jackson participate in the actual designs?
Neverland Valley was Michael’s homage to the children of the world, especially those that were ill, underprivileged or neglected. Michael wanted the children to have the time of their life and to forget their troubles, at least for the time they were at the ranch. ! Michael had a hand in everything that was done at the ranch. His attention to detail was extraordinary. He had every ride in the Midway specially modified to protect children who had physical impairments. The people who managed the rides were sent to Kansas City every six months to practice extraction techniques for children who were physically challenged. I was happy to donate whatever I could for such a noble project.
Q8 – Do you think there should be a place for Michael Jackson’s personal art and artwork you created for him?
From the time I first met Michael he always talked about an interactive museum that would feature his music and the artwork he had compiled. I’m sure his family is aware of his wishes, but at least up till now there doesn’t seem to be any interest.
Q9 – What, if any, influence did Michael Jackson have on you? Professionally? Personally? Peace, Love, Equality and the environment were Michael’s message through his music and his actions. These values reinforced my own commitment to his message.
Q10 – Do you think there is a place for Michael Jackson in schools and Universities, studying his art?
Michael’s music has influenced an entire generation of music makers. Michael created a persona of a singer-dancer in the tradition of Fred Astaire. His ground breaking music and video’s earned him a fan base that included people of all age groups. Certainly, much can be learned from his life, his music and his charitable acts.
Q11 – Final thoughts: what does it mean to be/have been the personal portraitist of Michael Jackson for all those years, especially 8 years after he has passed away?
I spent extended time with Michael and then with Michael and his three children. These kids were a joy to be around. Never once did I hear them beg for anything, cry or throw a fit that is so common among most kids. I enjoyed our work together, the laughs (Michael had a great sense of humor), and our spirited conversations and our good natured arguments. I’m not the only one to miss Michael – there are millions of fans around the world and all of the children his charitable acts could have aided.
Thank you David Nordahl for taking the time to talk with us.
Born in 1941, Nordahl grew up on a farm in Minnesota. He drew and painted from an early age.
In 1978, Nordahl began painting the Apache. Of all the Native American tribes, the Apache continue to be the least known or understood.
In 1988, Nordahl began painting for Michael Jackson. Together, they created paintings and plans for amusement parks and attractions in Las Vegas. This working relationship continued till Michael’s death in 2009.
Nordahl lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and continues to paint the Apache as well as fantasy, people and animals. His paintings can be found in museum and private collections in the U.S. and many foreign countries.
All art exhibited in this interview is copyright of David Nordahl.
Learn more about the paintings of David Nordahl here
Artist to the King of Pop. In 1984, Nate Giorgio signed an exclusive contract with MIchael Jackson to be the stars personal artist and created portraits for books, calendars, and dozens of private commissions. The two remained friends for over 20 years until Jackson’s passing in 2009. nategiorgio.com/
Apocalyptic Scene with Michael Jackson Portrait in Armor - Ralph Cowan, 1991
A portrait of Michael painted by Ralph Cowan, was on the Neverland Ranch. We see this portrait in one of Michael's photos taken at his home, sitting at a piano, at the back. Michael also gave the interview to Oprah Winfrey in 1993, sitting in front.
Cowan, painter famous painted the king of pop times in the early 90's, and visited the Michael Jackson Neverland Ranch.
This oil painting of 200 x 100 cm, made in 1991, represents Michael in armor in an apocalyptic scene. It was one of Michael's favorites. He had asked Cowan to make a portrait of him with hidden messages. The singer paid $ 30,000 for the painting and had it set next to his piano at Neverland.
"He called me and said in a very soft voice," I do not really like dogs, I like monkeys, can you paint me with a monkey? "He was not demanding . He was so sweet and kind "
Cowan, now elderly, remembers Michael Jackson as someone very shy and with whom it was very pleasant to work. "He was absolutely wonderful. It was very exciting to hear his own name spoken by a famous voice. "
"Painting Michael was like working with a king. He lived in a fantasy world and if he did not like something, it's like being decapitated."
"One day I asked him how he composed his music and he took me to that tree where he wrote a lot of his songs. I got on the train and I loved all the kids. The child in me could accept that. I have twins and I also like being with children "
Cowan also returns to the hidden messages in the portrait
1. The sentence reads, "I am a multi-dimensional creature going through the experience of life on Earth to learn the consequence of idling thinking ." Cowan says: "At that time, I was learning to meditate and read books spiritual "(this sentence would come from a poem)
2. The armor : "Michael was very, very sensitive and he got angry when people said bad things about him. If he had worn armor he would have been protected.
3. The red cape : It means royalty. He was a king. The King of Pop."
4. The monkeys : "It was not supposed to be Bubbles (Michael's chimpanzee). I had two dogs in the original portrait, but Michael said he did not like dogs. He loved monkeys.
5. The silver urn: "It represents all the rewards he has obtained".
6. The parrot : "He represents the many imitators that Michael had
7. The Chinese Girl : "He saw the children as angels until they grew up. They did not want to rub the adults who had an ego
8. The Space Shuttle : "When he dances and happens it's like he's going into space.
9. Jesus : "Michael was a Jehovah's Witness, and he loved to talk about Jesus Christ and how good Christ was for him."
10. The woman in white dress : "He told me that he saw something like a woman in white and that something magical was going to happen with her.