The Cycling Artist
The Cycling Artist
by Jen Agan
From ad agencies to associate creative director to executive creative director, artist and illustrator Michael Valenti - the cycling artist - is chasing the peloton one original art piece at a time.
From riding bikes since childhood and drawing pictures just as long as he can remember, there was never any doubt or hesitation for Michael Valenti. “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an artist just like my dad.”
Setting out to do just that, Valenti went on to majoring in Illustration at The Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts. For the first ten years of his career Valenti settled in Boston working at ad agencies. He later made the move to Chicago which led to the beginning of a 15 - year career with Leo Burnett as an Associate Creative Director and eventually Executive Creative Director.
“When I moved to Leo Burnett in Chicago as an Associate Creative Director that was the start of fifteen years of working with some of the most brilliant creative people on the planet. This training ground gave me the experiences I needed to move to the next level of self employment and development. I left LBC as an Executive Creative Director after fifteen years” says Valenti.
With the ability to wear many hats, Valenti has infused his lessons learned as a creative director into running the Valenti Cycling Art - Veloist full-time. “Planning what you want as an outcome and designing to make that happen. Understanding how to push yourself, your work and understanding the importance of brand. That’s the big one, knowing what you’re all about and staying true to Brand. I’m a marketing guy first, an illustrator/artist second, and a cyclist third” says Valenti.
There was never an “ah-ha” moment for Valenti - this has been thoughtfully orchestrated since 2007. Knowing once he retired that it would be the end as a creative director, he started the Veloist and making cycling art prints.
“I needed a product that would live beyond me. Cycling Art - iconic images of races, places and faces - would be my answer.” says Valenti
Since 2007 - before retiring from Leo Burnett - Valenti would moon-light his energy, devoting more time to creating a body of work while defining the brand Valenti Cycling Art - Veloist.
As planned in 2017, Valenti went both-feet-in working only for himself and cycling related clients. “This is my full-time gig now and it is amazing! I am living the life I planned and dreamed of...crazy stuff,” says Valenti.
From the grand races like Tour de France and Giro d’Italia to the famous climbs of Mount Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez, Valenti invites you to experience the history, passion, and excitement of cycling with his modern twist on old-school cycling art posters with his unique whimsy charm.
Michael Valenti the cycling artist is making a living doing exactly what he has set out to do. During his time traveling, some days he will plan to be at the start city, some days the finish city, and some days a feed zone or a famous mountain pass.
“Finishing cities are a mob scene, on these days I might get to ride in the morning without my art bag. I’ll spend the afternoon drawing near the finish line drinking beer and watching the race play out on the big screen TV that’s always near the finish.”
Drawing inspiration from the area, architecture, and landscape, Valenti travels with a sketchbook for ideas, his iPhone, paper, pen and ink, watercolors, Clif Bars, and for the end of the day, as Valenti says, “a wee dram of whiskey.”
Valenti opens up on his new plan: The Tour Down Under with partner Ride International Tours as his logistical provider. If all goes well, partnering together again for the last week of the Giro is a possibility. Valenti intends to make his return to the Tour de France for the start in Brussels and chase the peloton for the first week.
And since Ride International Tours lives down under, they have introduced Valenti to Rapha Australia where Valenti will team up with EF Education First Pro Cycling at the Rapha Pop-Up in Adelaide to debut the teams new kit. Valenti has something really special planned for the pop-up so be sure to follow Michael Valenti for more details.
With his travels under his feet and his art bag on his hip, this artist has more than ink and watercolors - he has stories - lots of them - and I want to hear them. I want to hear them all. But, I ask for one, one story - one crazy fun filled story.
We end the interview with a proper retelling of his first travels to The Tour de France.
“On my first trip to the TDF we were flying around by the seat of our pants in the early part of the trip. We didn’t have a ‘system’ yet. I can’t remember the town but we were looking for a place to wild camp - park anywhere - in the middle of nowhere. We came across a little village along a valley where the race would follow. We stopped and asked the owners of a small house if we could park next to the garage. Yes, of course we could. They gave us water for the motorhome and allowed us to plug in and charge the MOHO, very important. I drew a picture of the village church and gave it to them. We watched the peloton go by on a nearby climb. We then ended up getting very drunk with them on homemade wine while eating wild boar sausages. You know you’re in for a good time when you’re drinking with shirtless Frenchmen in a garage.” - Michael Valenti