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August 31st, 2014

For the 5th year in a row I will be donating a painting to Circus Couture to help raise funds for pediatric cancer treatment and research. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve donated a painting to this event every year since its inception. I believe strongly in what they do and I know that even my small part can make a difference in children’s lives. I’m honored and humbled that the Circus Couture board has recognized the small part I’ve played over the past few years and has chosen me to be a featured artist this year during the live auction part of the event. Wow.

Each year Circus Couture chooses a theme around which the performances revolve. This year’s theme is “Unlocked”. As I prepared to create the painting to donate I meditated on the poem that they sent me titled, You Hold the Key to Your Own Cage:

A lock to keep it safe, a lock to make it hide
A lock protects the value of what we hold inside.
A key to find success, a key to open doors,
Keys perhaps to set us free toward all we hope and more.

Combining the words to this inspiring poem with my love for my family and my love for my savior, Jesus Christ, I came up with the following painting…


 Unlocked – 40″x30″ – Acrylic on canvas – Completed 8/25/14

The lovely models in Unlocked are Lora Kelsey and Kat Day. They are both Las Vegas performers who have donated their time and skills to Circus Couture. The reference photo that I used of those lovely ladies was taken by the outstanding photographer Jerry Metellus who has also graciously donated his time and skills to this wonderful charity event. The photo of the ladies comes from a promotional piece for this year’s Circus Couture event, which can be seen below…

The Gang-cropped

I loved the reflective nature of the gold makeup on the models and thought they would work really well in this painting. I also LOVED the pose of the ladies with their interlocking arms while looking in two totally different directions. After getting permission from both the photographer and the Circus Couture president/artistic director, Erica Linz, I got busy. I tweaked their coloring quite a bit to give them an ‘ethereal’ look, and then I put them in front of the open doorway with the whole world on display behind them.

But, before I did any of this, I needed to experiment to decide how I wanted to incorporate them in one of my Over the Under-Schmeerings (OTUS) paintings. So, I painted this little study of the effervescent Erica Linz from the same photo… (You may notice that Erica is the performer doing the backflip just to the left of center in the photo above.)


Effervescence – 10″x10″ – Acrylic on canvas – Completed 7/30/14

After painting this study, I decided to ‘tweak’ the coloring of the ladies for the painting Unlocked and make them even more reflective. As much as I liked the way Effervescence turned out, I felt Erica got a little lost in the schmeerings and wanted Lora and Kat to ‘punch’ a little harder visually. Like this…

Da Girls

The inclusion of the little Fisher Price toy has a two-fold purpose for me. Primarily, for this event, it represents the innocence of childhood and its boundless potential. Secondarily, and on a more personal level, it memorializes our son, Donald, who lost his battle with cancer last year. Donald had a green three-wheeled tractor that he rode like a wild man from the time he got it when he was almost 3 until he outgrew it a few years later. Here he is driving it around on the Christmas morning that he received it…

Donald n New Tractor - Christmas 90-lo res

Christmas Morning 1990

Last, and certainly not least, the cross hanging on the wall… I wanted to represent the key to the doorway. The key that unlocks everything. It’s been put to use. It’s job is finished.

The Cross

Unlocked (Cross detail) – approx. 10″x8″

So, if you’re not doing anything on the evening of October 5th, come on out to The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and be entertained while helping to generate funding to treat children with cancer and other blood-born illnesses. It’s a labor of love put together by an eclectic, beautiful and artistic group of individuals. Click here for more details.

Circus Couture-Save the Date

Circus Couture – Save the Date card

Happy Creating!

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9 Comments for 'Unlocked'

  1. No Socks Niki Said:

    Beautifully done and the words you wrote were heart warming. xo

  2. Darlene tasso Said:

    Love how you tie everything together in your blog. Makes it so meaningful! Love everything about it, but my favorite is the cross. Another job well done, and for a great cause. Prayers for you and your family in the loss of your son.

  3. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    NIki… Thank you. Coming from such a warm heart your comment means the world to me.

    Darlene… I’m glad you enjoyed my little write-up. 🙂 I’m really proud of the cross. It was my own creation and each symbol has specific meaning. Thank you, and God Bless!


  4. Deborah Younglao Said:

    This sounds like such an interesting event! I love your take on the metallic ladies… they really shine. And the painting is a wonderful memorial to your son.

  5. Stan Kurth Said:

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

  6. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Deborah… It is a beautiful event for a very worthy cause! Hundreds of creative people volunteer their talents to create a magical night. It’s always a highlight of my year. Thank you.

    Stanley… Thanks!


  7. Pam Huggins Said:

    It’s a beautiful painting with so many layers of meaning. So well executed. Gorgeous!
    You always go into your art 100%. As Stan said, BRAVO!

  8. Erica Linz Said:

    It’s been an honor to have your work a part of our event all these years, but it is truly an incredible feeling to have been a subject of your work as well. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you… For every little thing. Specifically, thank you for a little elephant you painted not so long ago. Be not offended, but I think it is my all time favorite Don Michael Jr piece. I think you know why… The hugs from the tiny warrior who requested it must have been worth more than any standard price you’ve earned from a patron. Moments like that keep me believing in the power of art and performance as mediums to paint a healthy future for kiddos. They also forge community in a more touching way than I ever could have imagined before witnessing it. Much love and gratitude to you. x x

  9. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    PAMO… Thank you, so much! It’s easy to go all in when you believe in the cause. 🙂

    Erica… Bless you! Those hugs that came with the painting of that little elephant will be a part of me the rest of my life. What a beautiful little soul! I am proud to be working with you and all the other talented people behind Circus Couture as we work towards a healthy future for our children. Hugs and Happy Creating!!!




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