Santiago H. Michalek was born near Buenos Aires, Argentina. His artistic ability presented itself early in life, following the influence of his grandfather, who introduced him to drawing. Santiago warmly recalls how, as a child, he and his grandfather drew horses while sitting on the veranda of his childhood home. Those intimate moments sparked a lifelong passion in Santiago, who has been advancing his craft as an artist and a painter ever since.
In 2003, Santiago started his own business, restoring vintage models of Volkswagen beetles and buses. He successfully turned his hobby of tinkering and love for VWs into a profitable business with multiple restoration projects. He also began to notice that VW owners shared a certain common quirk: each was completely devoted to Volkswagen vehicles, often passionately so. This fierce devotion resonated with Santiago, whose fondness for VWs compelled him to become a master on the vehicles, with a near encyclopedic knowledge of their makes and models throughout the car company’s history.
Though Santiago’s VW paintings naturally reflect his love for VWs, he also enjoys painting and drawing a broad range of subjects, particularly the human figure. In his work as a figurative painter, Santiago strives to capture the essence of day-to-day existence, rendering unforgettable figurative images with the clarity and refinement present in his VW paintings.
In 2009, Santiago’s self-taught skills and formidable talent, as well as a lifetime of painting and preparation, coalesced under the guidance and encouragement of Sean Diediker and Justin Taylor at the Bridge Academy of Art. His work has since been exhibited at the Springville Museum of Art, and the Meyer Gallery in Park City. He has also received an Award of Merit in the Springville Museum of Art’s 2010 Spring Salon.
He currently resides in Provo, Utah, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Kimball, a budding artist who loves to draw VW buses with his dad.
As an artist, I celebrate the things that are sometimes difficult to fully render in words, particularly qualities associated with passion and fascination. What drives human interests? What elements compel the human spirit? How can I convey the most elusive emotions through my art?
In concept, my paintings are simple. I paint Volkswagen vehicles, capturing subtleties in the interplay of light on metal and paint. The interest in my work lies in the allure and iconic charge associated with vintage Volkswagens. Everyone knows a classic VW when they see one: the curved lines, unmistakable paint, and delicately rounded bumpers. I strive to evoke the near-mythical elements that surround these vehicles – elements that are palpable, vivid, and utterly indelible – sparking memories which, as a culture, unite us. I often learn the stories surrounding the vintage VWs that I restore in my garage. These stories bring my artistic work to life. I’m not just painting what I do for a living. I’m painting the collective reminiscent history of several generations spanning the world.