Painter Jouvon Michael Kingsby

The artist as a ’gateway drug.’

Michael KingsbyKingsby painted his first mural during a military tour in Iraq—inside Saddam Hussein’s bunker. This ability to paint anywhere has aided him greatly, whether he’s working at the Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA; honoring his inspiration, Jean-Michel Basquiat, at the Fullerton Museum Center; or composing on the walls and doorways of downtown Santa Ana. Within the confines of his tiny bedroom-art studio, he has been tackling a different kind of commission: portraits. People, pets, you name it.

Michael Kingsby muralThe sublime image here of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri (the revered late 19th, early 20th century yogi) shows the uncanny way he preserves personality on canvas: his subject floating still amid bubbling, chaotic color; the almost 3-D effect that gives the depth and suggestion of photorealism; finally, a devotion to the intentionally imperfect, catching the tilt of the head. Kingsby winks and calls himself a “gateway drug to the art world,” hoping his painting inspires a greater appreciation of the form. “The most important issue is just to get people to like art in the first place. … I’m an everyday person. I know what people like to look at.”—Dave Barton

See It! Kingsby’s Santa Ana studio is open by appointment only. Email him at or visit his website,

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