Yanni Posnakoff was born in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1933. He witnessed the wartime murder of his Greek mother and Bulgarian father. Unusually bright, Posnakoff was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1954 and graduated from M.I.T. four years later as a naval architect. He then came to work in Baltimore as a maritime engineer, fell into the bohemian arts community, and had a brief passionate affair with the young actress and artist Maelcum Soul, whom filmmaker John Waters described as his first star.
In 1965, he moved to New York, opened an arts café and bakery, and made and widely exhibited his artwork. Obsessed with angels since childhood, he vowed to paint 100,000 angels of all shapes, sizes, and colors during his lifetime. "I used to see them as a child, even now I see them in some people," he says. Posnakoff has illustrated two books relating to the subject, Children's Letters to God (a best-seller which has been translated into seven languages) and Ask Your Angels. In 1988, Posnakoff opened the Angel Gallery, gave out free drawings of angels, fed the homeless for free, and kept the doors open 24-hours-a-day—a business decision not enthusiastically embraced by his restaurant partners. Posnakoff eventually returned to Greece, where he continues to make his art and live simply. Having met his goal of making 100,000 angels, he is now busily working to meet his revised goal of one million. He continues to hope for peace and an end to war.