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.”

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