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Soul Stories: Fabian Israel

With each stroke of a paintbrush, Soul Studio artist Fabian Israel deliberately crafts his next piece of art. The ability to create something new gives him a feeling of excitement unlike anything else. Whether it’s a portrait, a landscape, or even a safety sign, Fabian’s artwork represents what he’s feeling and helps him communicate those feelings. In a sense, each piece of Fabian’s art is an expression of himself.

“His artwork is a picture in his mind that has given him pleasure, usually at that moment, and that’s usually how he describes it to us,” says Lori Burkhardt, one of Fabian’s teachers with the Novi Adult Transition Center, a program of the Novi Community School District. “With autism there’s always that sensory piece. For him, the movement of the paintbrush, the movement of the pencil on paper, is very soothing to him. It goes straight to his soul.”

The 6’4” gentle giant also has a remarkable ability to duplicate an image that’s in front of him. During one recent painting session, Fabian hand sketched and reproduced a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. on canvas with stunning accuracy. The civil rights leader is seen sitting in front of an American flag with vibrant hues of red, white and blue. Fabian’s artwork captures shading, dimension, and intricate details.

“I like to paint landscapes and cities. I like to paint some cars,” he says. “It makes me happy.”

Fabian first discovered his talent for art in middle school. The 23 year-old from Novi is hard at work at Soul Studio multiple days a week. If it were up to Fabian, he’d be there all day, every day. In addition to painting, he also loves drawing, ceramics and weaving.

One particular project focuses on kitchen safety. Fabian made a series of drawings detailing what people should do stay safe. The mural includes an image of a toaster, fork, knife and spoon with the message “no utensils in toaster.” It was an idea Fabian came up with himself. His teachers say it was his way of using art in a meaningful way to help others.

“Fabian is a wonderful young man. That is probably the first word everybody uses to describe him,” Burkhardt says. He’s just wonderful, sweet, kind… he has a smile for every moment. Even when things get challenging for him, he’s able to smile about it and move on.”

Fabian’s background is unique. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland and has lived in a variety of different places with his parents Josephine and Albert Israel and his sister, Irene. He can speak some foreign languages. And Fabian’s creativity extends to the kitchen. He loves to cook and has the recipe for orange chicken memorized right down to the sauce.

“One cup of orange juice, one half cup of brown sugar, one tablespoon of white sugar and one tablespoon of honey,” he says, without looking at the recipe. “Then add sesame oil and some chili paste.”

Fabian hopes to make a career out of his artwork. When asked how he would feel if he sold a painting, he says simply, “I will feel happy, proud, and excited.”

His teachers say Soul Studio is the place that gives him the most joy. Having the opportunity to express himself through art has not only had a positive impact on Fabian’s life, but on those around him.

“That’s the most positive way he looks at art,” Burkardt says. “Not only is it filling his soul, but we’re taking it as our soul-filling moment also.”

dino on wheels

Dylan Yates’ ‘DINOmite’ Artwork Adorns Royal Oak Parking Meters

dinos meter
For a humble, quiet-mannered artist who isn’t fond of the spotlight, Dylan Yates and his dinosaur-themed artwork sure are getting lots of attention.

And the City of Royal is grateful for that.

Dylan, an artist since the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio opened in 2016, was commissioned by his hometown to create vibrant-colored wraps for the city’s parking meters.

“A few years ago, the city added bike hitches to the meters in downtown Royal Oak and no one noticed them,” says Judy Davids, community engagement specialist for the City of Royal Oak. “We knew we had to make the meters pop so we came up with the idea to wrap them in art.”

A former editor of Royal Oak Patch, Davids was familiar with Dylan’s artwork and knew he’d be perfect for the job.

“I love his use of color and his playful images,” she added.

After Davids reached out to the Yates family – and they got the green light for funding from the city’s art commission – the project got rolling.

Dinos on Wheels

dino on wheels
Deciding on a design for his drawing wasn’t easy for the 24-year-old, says his mom, Donna Yates.

At first, Dylan – who has been enthralled with dinosaurs since childhood – wasn’t convinced his muse would pair well with the cycling theme.

“Dinosaurs don’t work with bicycles,” Dylan told his mom.

But with a little coaching – and lots of encouragement — from Soul Studio creative director Adam LaVoy, he soon changed his mind.

A Google search turned up images that helped Dylan formulate his own vision.

“Showing instead of telling makes all the difference in the world,” says Adam.
Then, the young artist quickly went to work.

Dylan drew 10 to 12 different dinosaur images, each one in a matter of minutes.

Working side by side, the pair scanned Dylan’s drawings into the computer and used graphic design software to select colors and arrange patterns. The result: bold, brightly colored dinos riding a variety of bicycles and unicycles set against a beautiful turquoise background with subtle images of prehistoric leaves.

Dylan’s design was a hit, his mom says, and the wraps caught the eyes of passers-by within minutes of being permanently affixed to 10 city meters last spring.

Artistic Dynamo

The project – and Friendship Circle — have helped her shy, unassuming son gain the confidence he needs to take his artistic gift to the next level. Up until he joined the Soul Studio, Dylan hadn’t really fancied himself an artist – even though his emerging talent indicated otherwise.

“It’s been demonstrated throughout his life that art was his strength,” says Donna, adding that he studied visual imaging and fine art in high school.

“He used to say he was a paleontologist who does art,” says Donna. But today he proudly exclaims: “I’m an artist!
“He owns it now.”

And, she says, the Soul Studio has given Dylan so much more than a chance to explore his gift.

“He’s gained confidence, self-esteem, social skills, peer interaction and is building relationships,” she says. “It’s art – but
it’s all those other things that we all need.”

You can spot Dylan’s Dinos near the following Royal Oak landmarks: Beruit Palace, Blaze, Ewe Nique Knits, Hermann’s, Burn Rubber, Noodles, AE Salon, Rock on Third, City Hall and Andiamo restaurant.

Story by Holly Griffin

Soul Center Fiber Arts Studio Receives Generous Donation

Opportunity Knocks

Carolyn Sklarchyk has been weaving for over thirty-five years. Her son, Sam, age 24, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Since then, her family has been continuously involved with the Friendship Circle. When she learned they were planning to open an art studio alongside a kosher cafe, now the Farber Soul Center, she approached Bassie Shemtov, Co-President of the organization, about teaching weaving to the participants in the art studio. Her son Sam, who began in the painting area of the studio, now works in the cafe.

“Exploration is important.”

Brother Sewing Machine

The majority of Sklarchyk’s students come in with no prior experience in the fiber arts. She gets them right into it, teaching them about different types and colors of yarn, types of looms, and different things they might be able to create. Then she puts them at the loom and has them dive in headfirst. “It’s a lot of experimenting and guidance,” says Sklarchyk.

She works with up to thirty students at a time, fifteen to twenty on an average day, each assisted by a volunteer. All her students are over the age of eighteen, ranging up to adults in their late forties. There is an equal mix of male and female participants in the studio. “It’s a blast,” Sklarchyk told us.

Great for Everybody

Brother Donates Sewing Machines

Sklarchyk had mentioned to Shemtov that there was a need for sewing machines in the fiber arts studio. Many participants were interested in sewing, and it would make creating items, such as purses and pillows, much easier. Shemtov approached Brother International Corporation, a leading manufacturer of home sewing and embroidery machines, and got them to donate six machines, including a embroidery machine and an edging machine. “They donated magnificent equipment. The artists have been using everything,” Sklarchyk gushes about the donation.

Carolyn’s daughter Emma (Morris), 21, helped to set up the machines and assisted a few artists with their first projects. One artist, Dovid, was thrilled to embroider text on his tallis bag.

Sklarchyk reflected on how the artists have gained new skills on the new equipment.  “They’re learning faster than me and they started using it the morning after it was donated!”

When asked about how the Soul Center has benefitted individuals with special needs, she had this to say, “In the creative world, we are all equal. We all have the ability to create. When they sew or weave, their (the students) self-esteem grows. It has been great for everybody.”