Raised and residing in the historic Shenandoah Valley in northern Virginia, Michael Strawderman has been capturing the likenesses of those around him since he was a young child. Originally working in pencil, he was introduced to the world of bas-relief sculpture in 1989 and he has been working in clay every since. But regardless of the medium, the goal is the same for Strawderman when he is creating a portrait; and that is to capture the “essence” of the person involved.
Although mostly self-taught, Strawderman’s work as a foundry artist at the Equestrian Forge in Leesburg, VA allowed him several years to hone his sculpting skills in clay and wax. The company not only provided him with guidance and experience, but also become instrumental in securing several of the sculptural commissions that Strawderman has been associated with.
In 2005, 2006, and 2007 Michael Strawderman received commissions to create a series of 13 portrait sculptures of past and current NASCAR and INDY drivers who won races at Chicagoland Raceway in Joliet IL. These portraits, which included Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., were placed on bronze plaques along the Walk of Champions pathway located there.
Michael Strawderman is, perhaps, most honored to be associated with the commission for the creation of over fifty portraits of Medal of Honor recipients that served in the United States Air Force. The creation of these portraits commenced in late 2007 and are located at the Airmen’s Heritage Park at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. The portraits of these heroic airmen include Eddie Rickenbacker and Col James Doolittle. Whenever the Air Force awards one of these prestigious awards, Strawderman is the sculptor that is contacted to create the bas-relief portrait. Following this commission a selection of his pieces and a feature article were published in E’lan art magazine.
Living in Winchester, VA most of his life, Michael Strawderman grew up surrounded by history. George Washington spent time there as a young man as a surveyor, and later built Fort Loudoun located in the center of the city. Strawderman’s hometown also served as a pivotal location during the Civil War, changing hands over seventy times between the North and South. You can see this historical influence in many of the bas-relief portraits that Strawderman creates when he is not fulfilling commissions.