About the artist

A creative career

Robert Maniscalco

Robert Maniscalco has been a professional creative his entire adult life. Born in 1959 in Detroit, he has lived in New York, New Orleans and currently in Charleston. His commission portraits and fine art are part of over a thousand collections throughout North America. In Detroit he hosted Artbeat on PBS and founded the Maniscalco Gallery. As a fine artist, he likes to work in multiple series. Perhaps his most enduring series is that of a commission portrait artist, immortalizing Supreme Court Justices as well as children and families. In 2014 Robert took on a vision-quest, called The Quench Project, in which he traveled to Haiti, producing numerous paintings, a documentary short (Out of Darkness), along with a companion book (Quench), juxtaposing the Haitian struggle with obtaining fresh water against our society’s obscene wealth inequality. Robert blogs on a wide range of subjects and written three other books, The Fishly and Point of Art. His fourth book, an Amazon #1 bestseller, is a full color drawing/painting method, called The Power of Positive Painting. He is an actor/director, writer/playwright, musician/composer and teacher, a former Adjunct Professor of fine art and theatre at Charleston Southern University and drawing illustration at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Robert has expanded his creative milieu to include courtroom sketching, covering the Dylann Roof and Michael Slager trials in Charleston. His multi-disciplinary play, Vincent John Doe, received its world premiere, to rave reviews, during the 2018 and 2019 Piccolo Spoleto Festivals. He is now a regular exhibitor in the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition.

Extended Biography

To know about the artist, Robert Maniscalco, you must first understand that his painting method and style is built on the classical painting traditions of Rembrandt, Velazquez, Hals and Sargent. Like these artists, Robert explores the subtle use of light and form as a means of creating mood and achieving character and deep expression in his subjects. He refers to himself as an Expressive Realist.

Born in Detroit in 1959, he is the son of internationally renowned portrait artist Joseph Maniscalco, with whom he apprenticed during the early 1980’s. He began taking commissions while putting himself through music school at Wayne State University, where, as part of the Schaller studio for clarinet, he earned a BM in performance and a certificate as a music teacher. After graduation, he became active in the Detroit theatre community as well as doing commission portraits.

He moved to New York City in 1986 where, in addition to his fine art, he also worked as an actor and director on numerous stage, film and TV projects. He was a founding member of The New Renaissance Chamber Artists and was instrumental in the creation and performance of numerous multi-disciplinary works, making his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1992. He returned to Detroit in 1997, after a three year portrait residency in New Orleans, where he became the favorite for judges and family portraits. Back In Detroit he founded the Maniscalco Gallery, in Grosse Pointe, which showcased many local and international artists. The MG became a creative force in Detroit. As host of Art Beat, the critically acclaimed and popular PBS series on Detroit Public Television, he explored the creative process with his celebrated guests.

He has created two DVDs on painting portraits, called The Power of Positive Painting and The Portrait. His first novel, The Fishfly, is a psychological thriller centered on the deep underworld of pedophilia. It is a semi-autobiographical look into the artists’ own struggle to resolve the trauma of being sexually assaulted as a child. He has since become an advocate for CSA survivors and works for the prevention of CSA by blogging and hosting a FB Group called TheFishflycsa. He was one of 200 male survivors who appeared in two history making episodes of The Oprah show in 2010.

Along with his work as an artist, author and actor, Robert has recently made a return to making music, his undergraduate pursuit, and plans to create more dreamlike soundscapes in the future.

Although his creative muse has taken many forms over the years, Maniscalco has discovered a common thread which connects them all together. Robert speaks to the basic need we all share to communicate aesthetically about the human condition, particularly the celebration of man’s capacity to overcome great struggle.

View his artist statement


Since 1980, Maniscalco’s exquisite commissioned portraits and fine art have become part of over a thousand distinguished private and public collections throughout North America. In Detroit he hosted two seasons of Artbeat on PBS between 2003-05. He founded the Maniscalco Gallery in 1997. The MG became a launching point for many artistic careers and a staple in the Detroit art scene. Although he closed the doors to the brick and mortar gallery in 2006, The MG continues as an online resource for all things creative, featuring Robert’s artwork and writing.

As a fine artist, he likes to work in multiple series. Perhaps his most enduring work is that of a commission portrait artist, immortalizing Supreme Court Justices as well as children and families. He shares his remarkable journey toward personal and professional growth and creative self-expression is documented in his book, Point of Art, which explores the artist’s muse and the creative process.

In addition to his exquisite portrait art, Robert has created several bodies of work, including Faces of China, Italia, Authentic Sports and a series of pastels on velour entitled Chromo Sapient. He continues working on these, as well as a series called Faces of the Lowcountry, featuring the Gullah Giche people of the Carolina Lowcountry, as well as a related landscape series called, Iconic Charleston. He works in genres like landscape, still life, wildlife, figurative and non-commission portraiture.

Maniscalco is also the doppelganger of the ephemeral artist, NETI, “who is that he is not.” These works explore the deep recesses of the imagination, with whimsical and sometimes dark imagery, which emerge only in the wild wonderful world that is NETI.

In the last few years Robert has been focusing on The Quench Project, in which began when he traveled to Haiti in 2015 and produced multiple paintings, a documentary short, called Out of Darkness and a full color companion book, Quench, expressing the Haitian struggle with obtaining fresh water. He received Kickstarter funding, in partnership with Watermission. His focus was on the juxtaposing of the Haitian struggle with obtaining fresh water against our society’s obscene wealth inequality. The paintings have evolved to explore the endless possibilities on the theme of desire and what it means to quench it. His BLOGS on justice and equality and experiences as a courtroom sketch artist have formed a natural bridge back to The Quench Project.

Robert has written and performed in a new play, called Vincent John Doe, which asks, “what if Vincent Van Gogh somehow showed up in our time?” VJD was part of the Piccolo Spoletto Festival in 2018 and 2019, receiving rave reviews and critical acclaim.

He is now a regular exhibitor in the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition and has developed a following at the annual spring event in Marion Square, Charleston.

He has just published his fourth book, which has become an Amazon #1 bestseller, The Power of Positive Painting. The P3 Method represents the culmination of his forty years as an artist and teacher. Maniscalco gets under the skin of his art, breaking the process down and urging budding artists to move from couch to canvas. The Democratization of art has always been a central theme in Robert’s creative life.

Maniscalco currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina where he continues his artistic mission. He is married to Cate Maniscalco and has two children, Danny and Mary.


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