Getting to Know Mike Venezia
I was born in New York City and spent the first ten years of my life moving between there and Chicago. My mother's family was from New York, and my father's family was from Chicago, so they could never make up their minds where they wanted to live. Fortunately, my dad was an airline mechanic for Trans World Airlines, and it was easy for him to transfer between cities. He learned to be a mechanic during World War II when he was in the U.S. Army Air Force, and he knew how to draw every fighter plane in great detail. We would sit down together and draw airplanes and make up battle scenes.
I have to admit that when I started school I was not a very good student. I didn't even consider myself to be the best artist in the class. But I did use art to help me with essays and stories, and even to show how certain math problems would work.
When I was ten years old, my family moved back to the Chicago area permanently. I finished grade school and high school there. Thankfully, my high school art teacher talked me into trying out for The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, which I attended for four years and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. It was a great experience, and many years later I put my art history knowledge to use in creating my Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists books.
I recently retired from my job of 33 years as Executive Art Director and Vice President at Chicago's largest advertising agency, Leo Burnett Company, so that I can work full time on my books and videos. I started my writing career back in 1978, when I authored and illustrated books for Childrens Press (Grolier/Scholastic). I've always had great support from my wife, Jeannine, son and daughter, Mike and Elizabeth, and even my dog, Bear. You can see them in cartoons on the back cover of many of my books. I hope to finish up my artist series with about another dozen books, expand my composer book series, and turn out at least another dozen animated videos. Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists is Childrens Press' #1 Best Selling trade book series, and is a top seller in school and library sales.
The series Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers began in 1994. All of my books introduce children to art, music, and history in an unstuffy, fun way. Each of the books tells the story of a famous artist or composer, from masters well known among children, such as Pablo Picasso and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to less familiar names such as Frida Kahlo and Aaron Copland. Written for children and families, my books are full of famous artworks and light cartoon-like drawings that help children feel more comfortable about art and music and let them see the artists and composers as real people who had a special gift to give. The books have also been published in many foreign languages including Chinese, Korean, Portugese, Greek, and Hebrew.
By the way, my book series, Getting To Know the U.S. Presidents, includes all 43 presidents. I was surprised to learn that each and every one had an exciting life story and made decisions that affect our lives today - even those who were president over a hundred years ago!
I've just completed my latest series, Getting To Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists. There are 16 titles! Everybody from Mary Leakey to Stephen Hawking. I'm learning as I'm writing these books - about everything from humanlike creatures that walked the earth 3 million years ago to the idea that a star the size of our sun could shrink down to an object smaller than the head of a pin!
This year I came out with a brand new book that I wrote and illustrated with my friend, George Berlin. It's got great weird and wacky illustrations! Check it out on www.mikeandgeorgebooks.com.
Thanks to these books and videos, I've met many students from different
schools all over the country as well as teachers and appreciative
parents. If you have questions that weren't answered here, check
out my Frequently Asked Questions page or