Michael Bell (artist)

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Michael Bell
Michael Bell.jpg
Michael Bell, In Studio
Born (1971-04-10) April 10, 1971 (age 46)
Nationality American
Education Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Known for Painting, Murals, Screenwriting

Michael Bell (born April 10, 1971), is an American portrait painter, muralist, screenwriter and author . He has painted portraits of John Gotti[1][2] and actors from Mafia dramas The Sopranos, Goodfellas and A Bronx Tale. Bell is an anti-domestic violence, anti-bullying and Autism activist. In June, 2017 Bell published his memoir "DUAL LIVES: from the Streets to the Studio".[3][4][5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

At the age of five Bell won the first juried art exhibition he entered. As a young artist he spent a lot of his time in and around New York City studying art with his maternal grandmother, Violet Vallery, a self-taught artist from Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

Bell has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Lycoming College and a Master of Education in Art Education from Towson University.


Michael Bell, while becoming one of the most highly regarded art teachers in the USA, spent his evenings painting portraits of mob bosses. Bell just published his memoir, DUAL LIVES, which chronicles his rise as an educator and portraitist who painted for the likes of John Gotti and the Sopranos.[7]

Bell is active in the Visual Journaling movement, giving workshops throughout the United States and donating his paintings for sale by charities.[8][9]

After painting portraits for John Gotti he received commissions to paint actors who play Mafia members in movies and on television, including from The Sopranos, Goodfellas and A Bronx Tale.

In 2008 Bell wrote a screenplay based on stories behind his paintings.[10][11] Later in 2008 Bell was commissioned to paint another portrait for Joseph R. Gannascoli to benefit Bright Steps Forward and Autism Awareness. [12]

He has a resume filled with achievements, including speaking engagements on innovation in arts education with former U.S. secretary Arne Duncan in 2009. In 2010 Bell achieved National Board Certification.[13] That's a striking contrast to Bell's work as an artist - with his clientele list including names like Gotti and Capone. Bell said he and Gotti are close and that Gotti has been very supportive of Bell's son, who was diagnosed with Autism. His son's diagnosis inspired Bell to write his book.[14]

In 2013 Bell was moved by Amanda Todd's tragic story and created a portrait as a tribute to the bullied B.C. teen who killed herself that year. The painting snowballed into an anti-bullying project and YouTube video. [15] In 2013 Bell also painted a series of portraits of Mob Wives' Toni Marie Ricci.[16] Bell also received three national teaching awards this year - the CollegeBoard's William U. Harris Award of Excellence, the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Award and the NAEA's National Art Honor Society Sponsor of the Year.[17] Bell also received the Dr. James E. Douthat Outstanding Achievement Award, given in recognition of alumni who have achieved significant accomplishments that reflect positively on his college. Bell was honored specifically for his contributions to the arts programs at Lycoming College.[18]

In 2015 he painted Dominic Capone III, Al Capone's great nephew.[19][20] In 2015 Bell was commissioned to paint a portrait of John A. Gotti that featured on the cover of the New York Daily News.[21]

In 2017 his book DUAL LIVES was published as an inspiring and brutally candid memoir chronicling Michael’s meteoric rise to becoming one of the most highly decorated national award-winning educators in America, all the while, living out a storied and often controversial professional painting career as “Mob Artist” to America’s most infamous. His book is also backed by an impressive list of contributors, from the foreword by Peter J. Gotti to excerpts from John A. Gotti, Dominic Capone, world-renowned artist Eric Fischl and Senior Art Critic for the New York Magazine Jerry Saltz, New York Times best-selling authors Jay Mathews and Daniel Pink, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David J. Leeson, Sopranos star Joseph R. Gannascoli, two-time boxing world champion Paulie Malignaggi and celebrity chef Steve Martorano, to name a few.[22]

Awards and honors[edit]

2014 - 2016: Scholastic Arts National Gold Medalist Teacher
2013: Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher of the Year
2013: William U. Harris National Award of Excellence
2013: NAEA National Art Honor Society Sponsor of the Year Award
2010: National Board Certification
2010: Appointed to Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Council
2009: National Blue Ribbon Presenter, USDE, Washington D.C.
2005: Los Angeles Good Shepherd Community Service Award
2004: Anne Arundel County Public School's Teacher of the Year
2003: Who's Who Among America's Teachers
2002: Maryland Art Education Association's Most Outstanding Arts Educator of the Year Award
2001: State Superintendent Commendation for Post September 11 Relief Efforts


  1. ^ Needham, C., "Victoria's Secret: She Can Paint" New York Newsday, July 17, 2003.
  2. ^ Michaels, M., "Michael Bell More Than An Artist to the Stars" Starpulse Magazine, April 24, 2014.
  3. ^ Sigler, M., "Domestic Violence Activist Honored" The Capital, September 30, 2003, p. C3.
  4. ^ Sigler, M., "Bell dons his tux at Albert Schweitzer Leadership Awards" The Capital, June 6, pp. B3, B4.
  5. ^ Knotts, K., "Local Artist Paints in Words" The Bay Weekly, September 14, 2017.
  6. ^ "The moment my son with autism said I believe in me" AutismSpeaks, July 7, 2016.
  7. ^ Sobko, K., "Teacher by Day, Mob Artist by Night", USA Today US Edition, July 20, 2017.
  8. ^ Ralli, N., "Key Choices in Chicago Happenings" Chicago SCENE Magazine, February 2007.
  9. ^ Stephenson, M., "Harwood's Celebrity Artist" The Capital, October 3, 2008.
  10. ^ Scanlon, M., "Stars & Cigars" Industry Magazine, November - December 2008 p.67.
  11. ^ Benanti, Carol., "Glitzy fun for a good cause" Staten Island Advance, September 10, 2008
  12. ^ Stephenson, M., "Harwood's Celebrity Artist", The Capital, October 3, 2008.
  13. ^ Stephenson, M., "Michael Bell: Nationally Board Certified Teacher" South River Source, 31, December 2009.
  14. ^ Sobko, K., "Lyndhurst native a teacher by day, mob artist by night", The Record, July 19, 2017.
  15. ^ Lau, A., "Amanda Todd Painting Created By U.S. Artist Michael Bell", Huffington Post, March 12, 2013.
  16. ^ Soprano, C., "Michael Bell paints Scars of a Real Mob Wife" M.O.B. WIVES Official Blog, December 3, 2012.
  17. ^ Carr, K., "Southern High Art Chair Receives Outstanding Teacher Award" the Edgewater Patch, May 7, 2013.
  18. ^ Downey, A., "Five receive Lycoming College Alumni Awards", The Lycourier, October 28, 2013.
  19. ^ del Rio, I., "The Capones Reality Show. Interview with Michael Bell" Yareah Magazine, December 11, 2013.
  20. ^ Rackl, L., "New reality series The Capones hopes to be a hit for Reelz Channel this fall" Chicago Sun-Times, April 10, 2013.
  21. ^ Stasi, L., "My Secret Life with John Gotti" New York Daily News, January 18, 2015.
  22. ^ Michaels, M., "Connecting with Dual Lives Author Michael Bell", L'Etage Magazine, September Issue, 2017.

External links[edit]