CCC alumnus paints his way to success

Photo courtesy of:  Byrd Anthony Photography Michael J - self portrait

Photo courtesy of:
Byrd Anthony Photography
Michael J – self portrait


Staff Writer

Michael Joseph Kenney is a 22 year-old artist from Vineland, New Jersey. Kenney, who goes by Michael J, graduated from Vineland High School in 2009 and attended Cumberland County College for three years before transferring to Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Michael J brings a unique and one-of-a-kind style to portraits of well-known celebrities and movie characters ranging from Justin Timberlake, Bane from Batman, to The Dark Knight Rises, as well as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. I was able to talk to Michael about creating art, balancing school, coaching the VHS Boys Lacrosse team coach and managing PacSun at the Cumberland Mall.

KB: What made you start painting?

MJ: I have always loved art. I loved the idea of expressing myself without any rules.  For the longest time, I actually didn’t even want to touch a paintbrush. I think I was scared of the outcome because I had drawn for so long. Then I realized there are so many possibilities with a paintbrush and I just started messing around and fell in love (with painting).

KB: Who are your biggest influences in the art world for your style of work?

MJ: I would say artists like Greg Simkins, Alex Pardee, Madsteez, Andy Warhol, David Garibaldi, and Walt Disney.

KB: How big of an influence is your family with your art and how much do you push yourself to succeed?

MJ: My mother is probably the best painter I know. Although her painting style is vastly different then mine, I always ask her questions on techniques she uses. I also remember watching her when I was little. My family also supports me as an artist. They help me at shows, help me with supplies, but most of all my family is honest with me. They tell me if they think something looks good or not and without that I can’t grow as an artist. I hold myself to a high standard. I want to meet that standard with every piece I paint. Sometimes the pieces come out better then what I expect and sometimes they don’t.  But no matter what I try to keep each piece to that standard.

KB: Do you think painting and art could bring you a career?

MJ: I would like to say I hope so. I love what I do and that’s why I do it. If I never made any money from art I would be happy because I love it that much. I would love to paint for the rest of my life as a career, but just like anything it’s hard to break out into the art scene.

KB: What is it like having to run your own website and what is your online purchase demand?

MJ: Running a website is a lot harder then it looks. I have to constantly update it and make sure that it’s up to date with the latest information and pieces I am working on. The website also has to portray the image my art does all the while still looking professional. It’s basically a job of its own. My online purchase demand fluctuates with the time of year. If it’s a time that I am participating in a lot of shows then, I get a lot of online purchase and it slows down in times I am off.

KB: What is it like to be in school and still balance your art along with other jobs and commitments?

MJ: It’s a huge challenge. Painting is my favorite thing to do. I try to paint everyday, if I can’t get to my canvas I draw, everyday, even if it’s just a small sketch to practice. However, school and my job do take a lot of time away from my painting. So, I fit in as much painting in over summer and Christmas Breaks.

For more on Michael J and his art, visit


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