Jan 09 2011

Interview with Michael’s personal artist Nate Giorgio

Category: Art,Friends,Quotes About MJSeven @ 1:42 pm

Promo Poster Giorgio did in the 1990s - Exclusive for HMV

Promo Poster Nate Giorgio did in the 1990s

Artist Nate Giorgio signed an exclusive contract with Michael Jackson in 1984 to be his personal artist. His work appears on the cover and the chapter pages of the ‘Michael Jackson Opus‘, as well as inside the Opus. You’ll see his logo work on ‘We Are The World 25 for Haiti‘, and in Michael’s book ‘Dancing the Dream‘. Look at ‘Children of the World‘, and ‘Love‘, to see some of his work in ‘Dancing the Dream‘.

His ‘Heroes, The Last Supper‘ painting hung over Michael’s bed at Neverland, and he has done many other exclusive sketches, paintings and drawings of Michael for various projects over the years. Besides his website, whose music I listened to while putting this piece together, Nate has a YouTube channel where you can actually watch him sketch/paint Michael, and of course he has a Facebook page, as well.

Nate was kind enough to answer a few questions from me via email about working with Michael and about his art in general. His comments were very interesting, and I’d like to share them with you here.

• • •

Seven: Besides the work in the Opus and in Dancing the Dream, and WATW 25, what other works had you done for MJ?

Nate: Many, many paintings, sketches and ideas since 1984 when I signed a contract with MJ. My favorite sketches are the quick little drawings he wanted me to do in the studio when he was recording BAD. He asked for himself walking on a road of gold records surrounded by children. All sorts of quick inspirational drawings, his face with all nationalities…He would prop up these sketches on his podium while he cut his vocals. I have a polaroid of a few of my doodles on his stand while he took a break. At Westlake in LA.

Seven: What is the status of the two large paintings you were working on for MJ before he died – the ones for what was to be his home in Vegas? Will you complete them?

Nate: I would LOVE to finish these paintings. We talked for hours about what he wanted. All I can say is the paintings he wanted large with his children and himself in different settings. Moonlight shining down, heroic type themes is what he asked for, not just himself sitting or standing there. Someday I’ll write about all the themes and ideas I was going to paint for him. He was going to let me photograph him for all types of references… I was really looking forward to that!

Seven: You list Picasso on your site as one of your influences. He is one of my favorite artists. What inspires you most when you work on a piece?

Nate: Inspiration is a funny thing for me. Sometimes it can be a beautiful scene, a certain technique I’m trying to perfect, or simply creating something unique. I have to say most of the time it’s the IDEA of capturing a certain feeling inside. If I walked into a room and saw MJ sitting there in his black sport coat I would immediately try to capture the mood or feeling I get from him, his essence. Not so much his features, although that is important, but his presence. Capturing the moment. The inspiration for me being ‘capture this moment because it will never come again.’ Drawing is a strange thing for an artist, why do artist’s draw? I always say it’s to create a beautiful world that you wished existed. A perfect place.


Seven: What do you think may have inspired Michael most in his work?

Nate: That’s easy, love & perfection. He had this drive to create something perfect. You see it even in his children, he wanted them to be perfect or exceptional, that’s what drove him. It could be his art or his dancing or his family. The drive in a great artist is knowing your work will be seen by thousands of people. This is why you want the work to say something, stand on its own. Without this platform I doubt MJ would have created such great music, he knew he could reach millions of people from all races.

Seven: Another thing you express on your own website is an ability to move the viewer – to give them a sense of ‘another place’. Michael wanted to always give people, via his music, dance, film and performances, a sense of escapism. Is this something the two of you shared and saw eye to eye on? Did you talk about that?

Nate: We touched on it. Escapism sort of, but people must be able to relate to your art or you’ll lose them. Art must have a common touch along with something out of this world to move a viewer. To move the viewer an artist must make his art understood. My paintings and MJ’s music have a very simple message most of the time, but it’s the way the pieces are executed that move people. Again, the art was produced in a unique way, high quality, almost from another world that makes it last and stand out. This is what we talked about.


Seven: How did Michael’s music influence your work for him, if at all?

Nate: It was just an awesome experience to hear his music and the quality behind it all. That was plenty to influence me and my art. MJ’s music put so many visuals into my brain whenever I heard it… you can see how I could place him in the heavens, or his eyes in a powerful burst of light, even a soft straight forward portrait meant something. I would tell him “I could put you in any situation MJ,” he had that quality. He’s really one of the few entertainers that have an ethereal soul.

Seven: I sometimes see a painting when I listen to music – notes and melodies floating onto the canvas or paper in different colors, some in the foreground, others in the background, others floating in from the side or above or below. The music gives aural movement to the visual piece. What do you think of that correlation?

Nate: Oh yes I agree. Music and painting are so intertwined. Music will even move me more than a painting. I think the two hit a person in different areas, the heart and the mind. Music to me hits my soul, it’s all a feeling and I always see a visual floating by. I can hear a great classical piece like Adagio For Strings and it will tear me up. A painting hits my mind more. Makes me think how on earth did a human do this (David, Sistine Chapel, etc.) and I see it in stages, I break it down more to understand it. I see paintings and more when I listen to a great piece of music, visual and soulful, effects me in many different ways. But yes, when I hear a great song and look at a painting the art becomes alive, this is why I listen to music while I paint.


Seven: My favorite pieces you did for MJ are the ones with children – such as ‘Children of the World‘. What were your favorite ones – which ones did you most enjoy working with/for him on and why?

Nate: I like the children pieces too, because I knew how much MJ loved those paintings. I’ll never forget when he called me to say he was using Children in his greatest hits album. That meant so much to me, the one career highlight that I’ll never forget. All those early paintings like Heroes mean a great deal to me. Heroes is one of my favorites too because it includes the people who really blew MJ away. Like Disney, man he loved that guy. The other person he truly loved and would talk to me about all the time was Norman Rockwell! He was obsessed with him and his art. We would watch DVD’s of him and MJ would say – look at his walk, check it out! He studied everything about him, no one really knows this. Heroes is one of my all time favorites because it hung above his bed, MJ really wanted that piece near him.

'Heroes - The Last Supper' by Nate Giorgio

'Heroes - The Last Supper' by Nate Giorgio

Seven: What funny stories or anecdotes can you tell us about you and Michael? A conversation or situation that you might feel comfortable sharing that would help us understand yourself, Michael, and your relationship together better?

Nate: When we gave Liz Taylor a painting I did at her wedding! He had me do a large portrait of her and we planned to give it to her at the ranch on her wedding day. I was worried all day she would leave before getting the painting, so every 5 min I’d go up to MJ and say- what about the picture? He was sitting with someone new and I’d run up to him, what about the picture? Every 5 min I did this. He was sitting visiting Brooke Shields and I ran up to him again and he just turned to me and said, “Man, just have a good time!” We both looked at each other and started laughing. The other great time we had was when I drew funny cartoon faces for him on tour. We would laugh so hard the next day when he thought about the drawings. Just crazy MAD Magazine type faces, so funny! He loved these so much, he would just burst out laughing.


Seven: What do you remember most about Michael Jackson – both the human being, and the artist/entertainer? How did working for him affect you and your work, if at all?

Nate: How humble he truly was. His nature was so so sweet, a very kind person. Soft spoken, respectable. He would always say to me: God blessed the humble the most. I will always remember this. As an artist, just how incredibly talented and quick minded he was. Working with MJ put me at another level, I know how lucky I was to have worked with him. Through MJ I met so many incredible people, it was because of MJ that I got a private tour of The Vatican and Michelangelo’s work, that I met Quincy Jones, the reason I moved to California and changed my career. In my heart I know we connected as 2 artists who appreciated each others work. I respected him so much and it felt great to know he liked my art and would call to talk about art or something new he was thinking about. I knew he trusted me and felt comfortable.

Seven: How did Michael go about telling you what he wanted? Did he just call you up and say “paint me this…” or did he ask you “can you do…?

Nate: All different ways, early on he would just call. Or his assistant would contact me and have me call a number. Later he would just call me, or have someone call me and say can you meet with MJ on Tuesday at the house? All different ways. Before he passed I was only about 2 miles from his home on Carolwood, so I would cruise up around noon to see him. It was great.

Seven: Others have said he was a bit of a prankster and that he would call people at odd hours. Was that the case with you?

Nate: No, I never saw this side of him. Maybe he didn’t want to seem goofy around me. But I’m sure with kids he did funny pranks. We always talked about art and new projects. New art books he loved and wanted to show me .


Seven: How did you meet MJ? What were your conversations or meetings/sessions like in general. Any particularly memorable one(s) you’d like to share?

Nate: I read how he loved art so I did a few paintings and sent them off to his office. I was still in NY and one day his assistant called me. She said MJ’s right here dancing around when he saw your art, he wants to meet you. Within a few weeks he flew me out to his home in Encino and we met. We went to see a rough cartoon version of Captain EO! At Disney studios, him and I just sitting there eating popcorn checking out the film. It blew me away and it was still rough, hand drawn segments mixed with live action.

Seven: When was the last time you saw or spoke with him and what was said or discussed – if you care to share that?

Nate: Right before he passed at his home on Carolwood. I was talking with him about everything, but mainly the new large paintings he wanted me to start on. We were trying to set up a photo shoot for references.

Seven: What do you think of the pre-trial hearings involving Conrad Murray – or have you been avoiding that due to the upsetting nature of it, too busy, and/or would rather not comment? (fully understood if that is the case!)

Nate: I watch it of course, like today the news had Alberto on. But everyone knows Murray’s to blame, made many serious mistakes. I just feel so sad that MJ’s gone, I don’t even want to think about the Doctor, what he’s done. It’s just so unbelievable someone so incredible, so special as MJ was treated like this. I still can’t believe this was going on with a friend I talked to and hung out with so many times.

Seven: How and when did you learn of his death?

Nate: My sister called me and was shaken, I was painting and I thought it was another fake story. So I flipped on the news ready to hear an explanation when it just kept getting worse and worse. I finally had to shut it off I was so out of it. Could not believe it, still doesn’t feel like he’s gone.

Seven: Are you working on any MJ-inspired or related work in the future?

Nate: Maybe, talking about some things…

Seven: Is there anything else you’d like to express or say – about your own work or your work with MJ?

Nate: There’s a lot yeah, he meant a great deal to me…

Poster by Nate Giorgio Exclusive for HMV

Poster by Nate Giorgio

• • •

He meant so much to so many. Thank you Nate Giorgio for sharing your time and thoughts with us!

'Children of the World' by Nate Giorgio

'Children of the World' by Nate Giorgio

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18 Responses to “Interview with Michael’s personal artist Nate Giorgio”

  1. Jeannette Morgan says:

    Bless you Seven, a wonderful interview indeed❤An insight into a world so beautiful and inspiring.

  2. Diane Jones says:

    Wow, what an intriguing and insightful interview. So cool! I truly enjoyed the awesome essential points disclosed here (via MJ’s artist, Nate Giorgio) about the two of them…and also MJ’s life and what kind of art that he enjoyed. MJ was a perfectionist, so I can believe that he sought and attempted for most things in his life to turn out perfect, including his children. He wanted the best for them and the best from them (especially, for their future) and I am certain that he cared to show the world that they were his best and most sincere quality-of-work (if you will), as he was an awesome father!

    I understand that you too are humble Seven, but thank you for sharing this interview. It was really an enjoyable, delightful and a connecting-like treat, toward embodying the genuine-essence of Michael Jackson

    I will forever miss this special-man.

  3. Peggy Baker says:

    This is such a great interview. We all miss Michael so very much but for those who really knew him, the loss is that much greater. Thank you for doing this for us Seven. Much l.o.v.e to you

  4. Cynthia Kent says:

    Loved this interview! I too have the “OPUS” & think that Nates artwork was By Far the best out there! I can see why Michael choose Nate as his personal artist. Both were so commited & passionate about their field. I read once that Diana Ross sparked Michaels interest in drawing/painting at a young age & created Michaels lifelong interest in the arts.. Nates work is fantastic! I too have checked out some of his other celebrity portraits & WOW! I’ve got the plate with that picture of Michael standing in pose with Michaels beautiful,dark eyes…I’ll treasure that always! Nate actually grew up in my hometown-he graduated a year after me:). I’m So Happy he was able to be such a joy & inspiration for Michael! So refreshing to read this. Michael is missed beyond words …we all loved him so much-justice WILL come-I’m certain! L.O.V.E. to all!!!

  5. Jill says:

    Wow, what a wonderful interview and such a great painter/man. Thank you Seven.

    We must continue fighting for Justice for Michael until the evil is put behind bars!! JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL JACKSON!

    God bless you Seven for writing the truth about Michael Jackson on your blog. L.O.V.E

  6. Deb says:

    I received a message from Nate Giorgio around Christmas 2009 which was wonderful in many ways especially how he spoke of Michael. It was very evident how much he loves sharing stories and anecdotes about their times spent together for the many years they were very close friends. I am so happy to see his interview here as he is one of Michael’s best advocates for the truly sweet and amazingly humble person he was to everyone.

    Now that the preliminary hearing has concluded and Murray is to stand trial, we can only pray for the long awaited justice for Michael’s accused killer to be convicted. We need more of these wonderful people that were in Michael’s life to come forward to state what was true and to discount what isn’t so the so called MSM (media) cannot get away with spewing their vitriole and lies about our dear MJ while we do our best to maintain during the very difficult days ahead while awaiting the final conclusion.

    God Bless and Keep you all who L.O.V.E. and perpetuate Michael’s many hopes and wishes for the world – carrying into the future his messages of compassion and caring for the children of the Earth – and for teaching future generations all you can about Michael Jackson – to KEEP MJ”s LEGACY ALIVE FOREVER! JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL JACKSON!!

  7. dez says:

    thanks again seven, what a lovely interview. Just wow!

  8. Raven says:

    Thank you for this great interview!

  9. Jeanne says:

    I have gone back to Nate Giorgio’s site over and over again and sat for quite a long time starring at the pictures and especially the one of the last supper. I saw so much feeling in this painting. This says so much of who Michael was and it was a personal story one that he hung over his bed, a very personal place. A very private place. It was like a peek inside his very thoughts. Look at each person in that picture, each one did something in their lives that meant something to Michael. We are not here forever. Who do we want to dine with us at our last supper? Who wants me to dine with them at their last supper? This is why I love great art. It takes you beyond your eyes like great music takes you beyond your ears.

  10. Max says:

    This was fun, a wonderful “up” piece. I appreciate it. Michael was passionate about beauty. It wasn’t so much that he wanted his kids to be perfect, I think, but that he wanted them to be the best they could be. Which is what he wanted for his music and his own life. That’s different from “perfect,” because “I want to be perfect” sounds arrogant, while, “I want to be the best I can be,” sounds like something everyone should and can strive for. This last blog is one of my favorites. Many thanks.

  11. Bella Jackson says:

    Seven, thank you so much. You have no idea how much I loved reading this interview. MJ’s real friends shed such a beautiful light on him. I could feel the connection between these two souls.

  12. Galina says:

    Thank you , Seven for this great article!
    I love Norman Rockwell. His art is timeless, his paintings breath in happiness and innocence same is Michael’s music.

  13. Jeanne says:

    This made me happy. How beautiful . Thank You Seven.

  14. gigi says:

    This is a beautiful interview Seven. I have the Opus and as an artist myself I just love the Art Sections in the Opus. The last sketches Nate did of MJ in 09 were these quick study sketches in ink. They have this Japanese painting style, very beautiful. There’s also this awesome portrait done in pencil of MJ just looking straight at you the emphasis is on those big brown eyes. In the caption on that portrait Nate said “Another example of how important it is for an artist to be spontaneous when drawing and sketching. This was me simply trying to capture the essence of MJ.” And, Nate certainly did that, when I look at that portrait it reminds me of what David Nordhal said about seeing a 1,000 miles into MJ eyes. There’s a Billie Jean portrait Nate did in 88, when Nate met w/ MJ in early 09 he saw that piece again in Nate’s portfolio. Nate said it was 1 of MJ’s favorites and he wrote a note to Nate on it saying, “To Nate you are truly a gift to this planet Love Always Michael Jackson”

    I just love all the artworks in the Opus and MJ was very talented in visual arts himself, his own sketches are very good. I remember back when History lp first came out. I would stare at that pencil sketch of Little Michael holding a microphone for the longest time and I kept wondering did MJ draw this? And he did! I was still a teenager at the time and still practicing and developing my drawing skills. I remember drawing that Little Michael sketch and a portrait sketch of Michael. Then had my Mom find his address so I could mail it to him. With all his mail I don’t think he every got around to opening mine lol. I tell ya God most definitely blessed him, he was very gifted and talented in all the arts.

  15. Filthy Tabloid Trash says:

    What a great read!

    Thanks to Mr. Giorgio for taking the time to share his thoughts and remembrances with us.

  16. Daryn says:

    This interview makes me want to get more involved in art! Thank You for sharing. It put a smile on my face 🙂

  17. JANE MERCURIO says:


  18. Sina says:

    Seven thanks for the interview and for escaping a bit from the ugliness of the preliminaries.
    Art can be very comforting and a great stress reliever.
    I love Nate Giogios work in Dancing the dream and his portraits in Michaels collection. Wonder what he was working on for Michael and I hope he will finish it for the children or for exposition.
    It would be nice to one day see an exposition of the work of all the artists who worked for Michael.
    I was intrigued why Michael would be so interested in Norman Rockwell and looked up his biography and work. And I understood right away, many of his themes are things that Michael was concerned about.
    Im not familiar with Rockwells work but I remember the freedom of speech painting and the painting with the little girl going to a deseggragated school escorted by police.
    It strikes me that the men escorting the girl wear armbands that look like Michaels iconic armbands. Coincidence?
    Interesting to learn about the people that Michael was inspired by and how passionate he was about them. Nice read.