Michael Bell is a celebrity artist, and is known for his gangster series paintings. While some of his work included a painting of the late John Gotti, Bell recently unveiled a painting for VH1′s “Mob Wives,” with Toni Marie Ricci.
Bell took an interest in painting at the age of 5, learning from his grandmother who, in fact, learned how to paint on her own. In 2008, he began the “Ticket to Ride” painting series, and is currently being developed into a feature film. Bell gave us some insight into the series:
“It took me a couple of years to finish the paintings, and when I did, I had a launch party in New York. I had some of my “Sopranos” pals come out, and it was pretty star-studded. I launched the first three paintings at that opening. After that, a few have urged me to write a screenplay based on everything that transpired in the paintings. From one painting to the next, it tells a story. I wrote it, and it took a couple of years in the making for that. The hard part is getting the right funding. I had one deal that seemed like a legit thing, but it fell through at the last minute. I held onto it, and it has been building back up momentum of its own. I started a new series, ‘Carnival Italiano,’ which is a prequel series to ‘Ticket to Ride.’ I think that reinvigorated interest in the paintings.”
In 2012, Bell did a commemorative video and paint project for Amanda Todd, the young teen who committed suicide that October due to years of being bullied. Amanda’s mother, Carol, created a snowflake foundation for people to keep a snowflake ornament up in their house to honor Amanda.
“It touched a chord with me on many levels. I decided to go to my studio the next morning, and I started painting her portrait. I don’t know why I am painting it, but started to do it anyway. Before you know it, I had a trail of kids coming into my studio. They asked what I was doing, and I showed them the painting, video, and were moved. They can relate because it could have been one of their peers. They wanted to help, and said they could do something with the collaboration. By the end of the day, word spread and everyone wanted to get involved. Purple is the national bullying awareness color, so people came to the studio, paint their hand purple, and stamp their hand right on the canvas to show solidarity and that people care.”
Bell unveiled a painting for VH1′s “Mob Wives” with Toni Marie Ricci, and each of the paintings will be seen in Toni Marie’s novel, “Scars of a Real Mob Wife,” which is set to hit the bookstores later this year.
“We have been in talks to do a coffee-table art book that would have some behind-the-scenes writings of hers along with some of my visual journal excerpts. It’s a really interesting project, and one that has not been done anywhere before. She has seen a part of a life that most people only catch a glimpse of. The way we met, we know some of the same people. She was instrumental in setting John Gotti, Jr. free. A lot of this will come out in her book. We ended up talking and collaborated on the idea. I am hoping it will be on Season 3 of ‘Mob Wives,’ and it was an awesome unveiling. Toni Marie never even seen it live. I held it back so I could get an honest reaction.”
To download the full podcast with Michael Bell, where we talked more on Ticket to Ride, Carol/Amanda Todd, and more, click the player below the article: