Dec 04 2010

“Mr. Jackson would love to see more art”

Category: Art,Friends,MJ Quotes,Photos,Prose/Essays,Quotes About MJSeven @ 12:54 am


This is yet another heartwarming story about Michael mentoring a young artist. In this case, it was a young sketch artist named Celine Lavail. It seems Michael influenced and even personally befriended and mentored so many artists in his life. Not just musicians and songwriters, but also dancers, painters, sketch artists, writers, any artists and most any kind of art. I’ll let Celine tell her story:

Celene Lavail and Michael


I was only 17 years old when I first met Michael Jackson. It was 1996 and he was staying in Monte Carlo for a few days. I’d always been a fan of his music and I’d heard he was also a massive art lover. At that time I used to draw and sketch a lot as a hobby. My plan was to go to his hotel and give some of my pictures to his security staff in the hope that they would reach him in some way. When I got there with the pictures, the security guards handed them to a member of his staff.

Amazingly, I was told that Michael wanted to see me. I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking. Thank god I had the drawings — if the worst came to the worst, I could always hide behind them. Suddenly I was being ushered up to his suite, by now terrified. As I entered the room — surrounded by his aides, people in suits — Michael was just standing there, welcoming me with a big smile. That relaxed me a little, but I knew things would be difficult because my English was not so good. I lived in Perpignan in France at the time, a town near the Spanish border, but I had only learned some of the language at school. “I’ve done something for you,” I said. He stared at my pictures. I’d brought five or six sketches, they were rough but I was pleased with them. “You study art?” he said. I told him that I didn’t and this caused the most unusual reaction: he started clapping. “You’ve got a gift,” he said. “It comes from God, you have to cherish this gift and feed it. Please keep on creating, I want to see more.” I felt proud and embarrassed at the same time. It was such a surreal experience. As I walked out of the suite, one member of his staff handed me a piece of paper. On it was the name of Michael’s assistant with a telephone number. I was told that “Mr Jackson would love to see more art,” and I walked away from the hotel, my head spinning, lost for words.

Almost immediately, I started sending sketches to Los Angeles without knowing exactly if they would eventually end up in Michael’s hands. I soon found out that they were getting through: I would sometimes get feedback from him or suggestions. I would ask Michael for hints. I wanted to know what I should work on and his answers varied from a single word like “royalty”, or a very precise scene he wanted to see. Most of all, he said, he wanted me to pull from my guts and be creative. He even called one day. The phone rang and a voice enquired, “Celine?” I recognised him straightaway, but I couldn’t believe it. Michael Jackson, the man who made Thriller, the dancer who moonwalked at the Motown 25 show, had called me. Still it was hard to match that person to the voice because he was so humble and normal. I had sent him some sketches of Peter Pan and he told me he loved them. I’d been drawing other Disney characters for him, but he told me to be “more creative.”

“You’ve got imagination, I know it,” he said. “Do something that has never been done before.”

He told me several times to study and to be inspired by the great artists. I was astonished when I realised how knowledgeable he was when it came to classic art. He told me about Michelangelo, Delacroix, Leonardo Da Vinci and Nicolas Poussin. We talked about modern popular illustrators such as Norman Rockwell or Scott Gustafson. In his hotel room there were often piles of art books. He was very fond of the figurative style and enjoyed everything related to fantasy. Following his advice I paced up and down most of Paris’ museums, staring at the work of all the greatest masters and worked hard to improve my craft.

By 1999, I decided it was time to show Michael the new piece I’d been working on: a portrait of him as Peter Pan. I knew he would love it, he was so fond of the Disney character. He was staying at the Ritz in Paris so I arranged a visit. When he saw the picture, he opened his eyes wide and hugged me really hard. “I love Peter Pan,” he laughed. “I am Peter Pan!”. That wasn’t all. Michael was about to commission an artwork from me. He pointed to the delicate mouldings on the walls that represented cherubs and softly explained the exact scene he had in mind: “Babies are adoring me with love and affection, which represent peace, love and harmony of all races,” he said. This artwork would later be named Inspiration.

During the creative process of this piece I occasionally received instructions from Michael’s part, asking me to add or remove details in the composition. In the picture, Michael is pictured reaching for the finger of a cherub who is Prince, his first son. When he finally found out about this “detail” he seemed happy. He believed I’d been inspired by Michelangelo’s Creation Of Adam. At first, this painting was hung in Neverland. Later it would be reproduced on the carts that were used to drive around the ranch, though I don’t know where they are now. Overall, I think he had five paintings of mine, plus a jacket I made for him and a book.

Looking back, one moment summed up our collaboration. I remember that Michael loved the fact that Michelangelo — one of his favourite artists — had inspired generations of others. His great achievements were still widely acknowledged centuries after his death. One day, I had a very interesting discussion with him about the power of art and the way it can transcend life, space and races. At the end of our meeting, Michael handed me a piece of paper. On it was written, “I know the creator will go, but his work survives, that is why to escape death I attempt to bind my soul to my work.” He looked at me. “Michelangelo said this,” he explained, though in hindsight, it’s probably a perfect way with which to describe Michael Jackson’s life.

Michael's note to Celine

Michael’s note to Celine






‘Inspiration’ by Celine Lavail









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21 Responses to ““Mr. Jackson would love to see more art””

  1. Seven says:

    Wow Matilde! That’s awesome! Thanks!

  2. Kiki says:

    This story is SO beautiful and uplifting! I’m currently easing my way back into my Artistic Crafts and reading this article was RIGHT on time!

    My GOSH, Celine’s art is wonderful! I really like “Mad Hatter” & “Inspiration,” but they’re all great!

    She is so lucky! I wouldn’t know WHAT to do if Michael Jackson HIMSELF was MY mentor in ART (or ANYTHING, for that matter)! I hope she keeps the memories and lessons in her Heart & Mind forever…

  3. corlista says:

    I agree, Ellen, that he is everything that is beautiful and creative and that the world did not even come close to realizing that or understanding him. I also never cease to be amazed at his generosity of spirit. He was the most gifted of human beings and yet we hear story after story of him taking time with the Celines of this world to encourage them and bless their art. What a pure soul and loving soul he was. What a loss to our world! I would hever have believed a year and a half ago that I would still miss him so much. It’s like a wound that never heals….

  4. Ellen says:

    I echo the words of Lisa D. No matter where I go, or what I see and hear, everything beautiful in life reminds me of Michael. He was not fully appreciated for his enormous artistic and creative abilities. There was so much more he could have and would have created in his life. His talent had no boundaries. I miss him so very much every single day. The world has not even begun to understand or appreciate the loss that we have suffered with his passing. I pray every day that God will keep him safe and at peace and I look forward to the day I will be honored to meet my angel, Michael in heaven. I love you and miss you terribly. No one will ever come close to the greatness of Michael – so special in so many, many ways.

  5. Lisa D11:11 says:

    When I watch the leaves falling gracefully from the trees, I feel Michael, when I hear any kind of love song, I feel Michael, When I see children playing or walking with their parents, I see Michael..Everyday I miss him even more..does time really heal all? Not when it comes to Michael..This is an awesome story, another example of Michael’s heart of giving, not only of his time, but of his unconditional support to other talented artists..he did it his whole life..Michael you are beloved King, King of Hearts, King of LOVE, and King of Music..I will see you in paradise..Everyday brings me closer to you..

  6. Angela says:

    Hi Seven

    On the topic of Michael’s beauty, you may have seen some really nice 2008 photos of Michael before, but if not: I found some on the site and they’re in a gallery mislabelled 2007’s. They were taken at the 50th birthday party of Christian Audigier in L.A. in May/08. These days I see so many photos in the media of MJ from the 1980’s, or for a recent picture I keep seeing shots from the press conference in London (spring/09). But these Audigier pics are very beautiful (and Michael is not wearing his shades) and they show him looking stunning even at 49 yrs old. His grace, dignity, humour, and humility are also discernible in these pictures – I just love them. Not forgetting his beauty….. Oh, I think I mentioned that once or twice…..

    I hope that you’ll enjoy these photos and that they’ll brighten your December!

  7. Brigitte Pfisterer says:

    Excellent article Seven!!!
    Do something that never has been done before … create! create! create! Express your fantasy!!!

  8. Rosa Alers says:

    Seven, excellent!!!!!

  9. Carmina Brasil says:

    Oh, Michael appreciated all forms of art and encouraged those who had talent with suggestions, support and trust.

    Michael was a sensitive and generous soul. celine desnhos of the beautiful. Congratulations to her.

    Hugs from Brazil.

  10. Ieva says:

    Wow lucky girl! Thank you Seven about story! 😉

  11. Karen says:

    I’m so glad you find these wonderful stories Seven and share them with the rest of us! Thank you so much…

  12. melinda says:

    I agree there will never be anyone like him:( Miss him everyday

  13. Karen says:

    There never has been, nor will there ever be another like Michael Jackson. His love, beauty, faith and creatative genius transcend all bounds. It is a tragedy the world as a whole did not recognize who he was and that he was trying to teach the world about love and compassion for others. My heart aches at what we have lost with the loss of Michael. Lord knows we need a lot more like him in this world we live in today.

  14. Susan T says:

    Beautiful story! Thank you, Seven.

    Celene Levail’s artwork is quite interesting and imaginative. I’m sure his encouragement and appreciation inspired her to even greater works.

    I hope her memories of him are sweet.

    There’s a likely a treasure trove of lovely, wonderful personal accounts from people who had the pleasure of meeting Michael and cultivating a friendship. It’s so special when a story like this one is discovered and shared.

  15. melinda says:

    Wow these paintings are amazing !!!

  16. Sina says:

    What an inspiring story .One lucky talented gal encouraged by Michael himself to develop her art.I see why so many artists wanted to paint Michael or take his photos. He is the perfect model.
    And the perfect rollmodel.
    The Paradox is intriguing and the Mad hatter looks quite recent.
    Nice work. Hope these stay in the family.

  17. Jeanne says:

    This is why I come here . Love Love Love ! ! !

  18. Michelle says:

    Simply brilliant! Michael is just sooooo sweet.

  19. Saskia says:

    Great story again! Michael was not only inspired by the world greatest, he taught other people to get inspired as well.

    And I love Celine her art, she truly has a gift from God.

  20. Jackie says:

    Brillient simply brillient!!!

    Not only in the music but also in Art Michael changed and inspired lives of people!!!