Van Pelt of the
Colorado Springs Examiner (an online news source) dropped by the studio
recently for an interview. We had a nice
conversation about how I got where I am and why I do what I do.
I thought I would post the interview as a journal entry. Here it is:
Portrait: Michael Baum
Rhonda Van Pelt
Published in the Colorado Springs edition of the
August 6, 2010
Copyright 2010 Rhonda S. Van Pelt
Somehow, Michael Baum captures air on canvas. Just don't ask him
how he does it.
His oil paintings re-create the spirit and atmosphere of Colorado and
other Southwestern locales so that when you really tune into one, you can
feel the fresh, moist air hovering over a mountain creek or the parched,
gritty air swirling up from a desert road.
The Manitou Springs resident is also adept at distilling silence in his
art, much like his favorite artist, Edward Hopper.
"I like that kind of quiet and solitude. He'd pick a moment and just
present a scene. I just love that, and I think I've done it to varying
success in my paintings. Every painting, it's a
Baum's scenes include rock formations at Red Rock Canyon, aglow with
the setting sun, and lonesome barns, churches and gas stations, found on
the road trips he takes with his wife, Patrice.
She drives while he snaps photos out the window until he sees a place
he wants to explore. "I take an establishing shot, where it's
just wide open, and then shots of parts and pieces and come up with a
painting out of that."
Of course, his paintings are not photographic, especially when he mixes
in those molecules of air.
Baum moved here in 1977, but was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Ohio.
While a student at Wright State University, he started studying computer
programming. He then flirted with psychology and anthropology before
focusing on art and earning his BFA.
"I did a lot of sculpture, abstract construction using a lot of
different materials. Back in those days, conceptual art was big. I worked
in that for a while, then I moved on. I've done
a lot of different media."
Looking at his oil paintings, it's hard to believe that he didn't
always know this was his destiny, but that kind of talk makes him squirm.
"I don't like to get real fanciful about my painting. When people do
that, they say they're on this quest or something. For me, it's just what
I do. I paint, and that's the unvarnished thing.
No airs about it."
Baum estimates he spends more than half of his work time marketing his
art. "I just try to learn as I go. I don't think I'm a natural at it. My
mind doesn't work in that direction very well. I
can do it, I do the marketing things I think of to do, and I try to do
that well. I think I have some of that left brain. I really enjoy doing
His user-friendly site includes portfolios of
paintings, animations of work in progress and a journal of
true" stories of artistic adventures. But he'd really rather spend his
time scouting new subjects or working in his basement studio, which
overlooks Red Rock Canyon. When he's not painting, he admits he gets
He's taking a break from the whimsical paintings that often depicted
cartoonish pickups passing bright, cheerful gas stations, which were very
popular with art lovers.
"Some subject matter is not necessarily going to be that commercial,
but a lot of times I'll do things just because I
want to. I have to make a living, but on the other hand I have to enjoy
what I do."
Upcoming events include the Palmer Land Trust's annual
"Art for Land's
Sake" show on Sept. 17 and 18. He's excited about having two paintings
accepted for the "Paint the Parks 100" touring exhibit.
Baum's work also can be seen at Commonwheel Artists Co-op and Garden of
the Gods Trading Post or at his and Patrice's home.
"I love to have people visit my studio. If
they want to come by, just check the site and get in touch. The house is a
A gallery full of air, light and silent moments; the home of someone
doing what he loves.