A Painting Speaks 1000 Words

What do you see when you look at a painting? Is it the technical aspects of the paint strokes and the combination of colours? Is it the use of light and dark to create contrast and perspective? Or is it something more?
Is it the subjects and the characters of the piece? Is it the environment depicted and the little idiosyncrasies and details?
A picture may just be a picture, but a painting can tell a story of a thousand words, in the passing of a moment. 

Humans have created art for millennia. For most of that time the images have been narrative. Only in the 20th century with the rise of abstract art have things changed with images produced that don’t resemble anything relative, with no figures or objects from the real world. Early 20th century artists rebelled against realism and narrative painting. Movements like Cubism, which broke forms into geometric shapes, and abstract expressionism, which explored feelings through colour and brushstrokes, moved away from narrative art.

Paintings With A Story

 Theo’s art is almost always narrative. It always depicts a representation of a real world scenario that we can relate to and understand. The objective is to tell a story that elicits a focused attention and emotions from the viewer. It isn’t just capturing a moment. It is capturing a moment that explains the past and foreshadows the future.


  • Romantic painting Serenade, inspired by Carl Spitzweg das Ständchen, an oil painting by Theo Michael

    In Theo’s painting Serenade there is a constant and immediated drama.
    A man has climbed a ladder which is being held up unconventionally by his fellow musician. Perhaps they are a little bit tipsy which would explain the precarious balancing act. A woman is looking down from above, and there is no question that she is the recipient of the man’s musical advances. Two cars painted in lifelike detail further ground the picture, lending a sense of modernity to the classical scene that on first glance looks like it could have been in the 40’s or 50’s. We wonder if one of the musicians is her lover, or whether her lover has sent the musicians to serenade her. We wonder what will become of the musicians, or the woman, and we can feel that she is enraptured by the music they are playing.

    Serenade. oil painting by Theo Michael May 2012

The Picnic Basket

  • oil painting, Edouard Manet inspired painting title The Picnic Basket by Theo Michael

    The Picnic Basket is a modern take on Edouard Manet's painting Le Déjeuner sur l'herbes.
    It is a snapshot in time and a scene of details along a Cypriot beach. The woman is standing naked in front of a basket of fruit. Her hand is placed seductively on her man’s thigh, and another woman sits in the shade wearing sunglasses. Off to the right a man sits in a chair and two children sit in the shade of the tree. Cars are pulled up on the beach and in the background we can see the rich blue ocean creating contrast on the horizon. This is an image of stories untold, and it is left for the viewer to fill in the gaps that have been left.
    The Picnic Basket, oil painting by Theo Michael September 2014

The Rehearsal

  • Oil painting, The Rehearsal a woman in an auditorium observing a dress rehearsal of an orchestra, a painting by Theo Michael

    The Rehearsal features a woman smoking a cigarette in an auditorium. An orchestra is rehearsing a performance below in this grand scene that is immediately romantic and alluring. A shawl is thrown on the banister as an aside and the woman’s pearl necklace is draped across her shoulder and back stylishly. She wears a golden glove that shimmers in the auditorium light. Blue spotlights behind the orchestra give the painting focus and perspective. We are left to wonder if the woman is alone, or with a partner? Are they in love, or
    in a long term relationship? We wonder about her state of mind and what is going on in her life, as we are swept up in the music just as she appears to be. If we really listen to the painting we can almost hear the orchestral music playing and echoing throughout the hall.

    The Rehearsal, oil painting by Theo Michael August 2011

Evening Stroll

  • oil painting of two figures silhouetted by a sunset on a mountain top titled The Evening Stroll by Theo Michael

    Evening Stroll is another strong narrative painting by Theo. Two men walk along a mountain top with the sun setting on the horizon. We immediately are given clues to their conversation with the relaxed poise of both men, although they are clearly deep into their deliberations and connected to each other. What might they be saying we wonder? Are they brothers, friends, or work colleagues? It has been suggested that the figure on the right has just been informed that his wife is expecting twins. That being the case, his life is about to get a little bit more complicated.
    In the sky a gull is swooping into the heavens adding a sense of movement into the moody scene and further lending our focus onto the two men who are ambling their way across the undergrowth. 

    The Evening Stroll, oil painting by Theo Michael May 2016

oil painting featuring flamingos and a beautiful woman in the water, The Lady Of The Lake by Theo Michael

Lady Of The Lake

The Lady Of the Lake is one of Theo’s most eclectic offerings. Pink flamingos catch the eye almost immediately as a woman walks forward with her colourful shawl fluttering in the breeze. Birds fly overhead and the brush is dense and green. Is she alone? How big is the lake? Will she sunbathe, swim, or read a book? Is her partner close by?
Our fantasy fans out there concluded that the lady is the mother of the flamingos; she'll get into the water and magically transform into a flamingo herself, to be with her children.
The beauty of the image asks us questions that further enhance this compelling painting. A snapshot in time therefore becomes a series of moments in our minds, fluttering like a colourful film reel. 

Lady Of The Lake, oil painting by Theo Michael April 2016

Man With Bicycle

  • Oil painting, Man With Bicycle by Theo Michael, a painting about the change of a traditional landscape into a modern world

    Man With Bicycle is a story of perspective and eras bygone. A tall tower block dwarfs our subject in the foreground. This is a painting of modernity and tradition, with a smaller traditional building below contrasting sharply with the modern sky rise. How does the changing world adapt and fit in with our traditions?

    This is a portrait of Theo's father who returned home to Larnaca after 25 years in England where dramatic changes of his once familiar landscape awaited him.
    The subject of the painting is contemplating the view, as he serves as a conduit through which we can understand the scene better. He holds onto the seat of his bike as he digests the grandeur of the buildings ahead of him.

    Man With Bicycle, oil painting by Theo Michael January 2014


Paintings With A Story

But, today artists work in many styles, some narrative, and some abstract, but Theo constantly focuses on the storytelling aspect of painting, and it is his choice to paint in a restrained style, leaving a great deal to the imagination of the viewer. In this regard, his work is different for every viewer that peruses it, in that his paintings tell a story that is a little bit about ourselves, as well as they detail the sometimes simple, and sometimes complicated scenes that are on display.  

A picture may be just a moment in time, but it can still tell a story of 1000 words. This is Theo’s charge and throughout his extensive catalogue of work he has delivered a repertoire of narrative work that engages us compellingly.
It is this underlying poetry of painting that compels Theo. Just like a novel, the painstaking storytelling takes us on a journey of conflict, and adventure. And, just like a novel his paintings are sometimes bittersweet and melancholy. But, unlike most novels, we are left with no ending. This is something we have to supply ourselves.
Theo's work remains, always, an emotive experience that can be enjoyed over and over again by those who view it. It simply requires a leap of faith and an investment of the soul.

Author Marc Michael, March 14th 2022