Interviewed in April of 2013
Hometown: Tewksbury, MA
Current town: Somerville, MA
Website: Click Here
Email: Click Here
1.) Michael, tell us a little bit about where you’re from or where you grew up… and how that influences the type of art you’ve found yourself making?
I was born in Lowell, MA. The once great 1800’s textile mill town turned into a burned out skate park run by giant spiders. I loved it. I was raised in Tewksbury, MA but found myself working and playing in Lowell quite often. The juxtaposition of the suburbian, forest landscape of Tewksbury and the crumbling city ruins of Lowell may have influenced the way I handle my career in art. I tend to slide from one scale to the other with the projects and styles I tackle.
2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that have had a profound meaning to you and your art? i.e.; Your schooling? A place of major inspiration or childhood memory?
I would say New England itself, once I was able to explore it, has inspired me and it’s folk aesthetic influences the work I make today. In fact, to be more specific, the history of New England makes it way into my work quite frequently in the form of old handwritten letters, photos and other ephemera found in local antique shops and flea markets. The musicians of the area, the people I’ve met over the years that are forged from this multi seasonal area of the country and the distinct differences of the landscape constantly affect the direction of my life and art; both of which, I see as the same thing.
3.) You hit the ground running as a professional artist after graduating from Montserrat College of Art. Everything and anything ranging from sign making, gallery exhibitions, corporate branding, private commissions, various album covers and even published work in comic books. What’s been the most rewarding part about such an ever evolving & changing life of a professional artist?
It’s been amazing. After graduating with a BFA I decided to go right back to school and take night courses in graphic design and publishing. The computer was a foreign object to me at the time (1997). I had been able to play with one at Montserrat but at that time the school was primarily foundation arts… illustration, painting, drawing, photography and sculpture. I focused primarily on photography, printmaking and drawing. After college I learned the Adobe programs and found that my artwork could be used for just about anything. It didn’t hurt that my strength was in drawing and I could draw in many different styles, such as comic and commercial illustration. I can approach any job with the knowledge of a fine artist, illustrator and designer. I must admit, that I am the type of artist that is never satisfied with what I know how to do. I’m always exploring and never settled on a particular style. That decision was difficult early on as I struggled to understand what my style was, but later on in my career it certainly has helped me be able to approach anything.
3.) Knowing your work is such a variety of media from acrylics, pen & ink and layer upon layer of torn paper…What medium is your absolute sweet spot?? Even down to the brand name, color, materials, found or purchased?
The sweet spot for me will always be pen and ink. Either India ink and a liner brush or the disposable type, such as Faber castell’s brush pens and mole skin books. I couldn’t live without my 27 inch IMac and my collection of found papers. I’m also fond of technical pencils for my sketches.
4.) A lot of your work combines elements of traditional hand drawn illustration but also involves some sophisticated treatment once these drawings & paintings find their way onto your computer. Does the work start out organically with a pen & sketchbook? Is it important to you to keep a balance once you start combining the two forms of creating?
Always. I never sketch in a computer. I like the way brushes work in the computer, but in general, my work is always hand done first. The sketchbook is one of the most important supplies I have. Ideas come to me when I least expect them to and I must be able to get them down as soon a possible so I don’t loose them in the madness. Even the complex digital work I do came out of learning how to layer and collage with real materials.
6.) Over the years have you found yourself pulling away from drawing & sketching and moving closer to photography & digital media?
I have always been a photographer and I liken the digital collages as another evolution of my photography. I draw everyday, in fact, I draw while large files are saving or downloading. I have a few solo shows scheduled in the near future and one of them will focus on my figure drawings while the other will showcase my handone work and digital work together. I’ll never pull away from drawing, but my digital work is gaining traction and I do find myself practicing that more and more as more projects tend to lean in that direction.
7.) Your workplace or studio; a disaster or super organized?
It’s like this. When I work, I explode. Everything is everywhere; the floor, the walls and my desks get covered in supplies and paint. My clothes and skin get coated in glue and acrylics and I’ve been known to have the same splotch of color on my hands for days, but! I cannot begin a new project until I have organized my workplace.
I need a clean environment to begin or I’ll see some element of another project and it will enter my mind and distract me. My computer needs to be organized, not only for workflow purposes, but for memory and processing power. If I have a cluttered computer I have a sluggish computer. I also keep my computer out of my studio. The two cannot be near each other due to the massive explosions.
8.) What’s more important to a successful night of creativity…coffee or music?
I need background noise. A movie playing in the background will help me stay focused on my job at hand. I like having a movie on because it’s much longer between changes and has so many different levels to it. It keeps me in my world longer. Music does help. I find myself either listening to a favorite song over and over to get motivated or all of my music on shuffle while I paint. Coffee is for my morning routine. I’m hyper active and coffee doesn’t help me focus after hours.
9.) When was your first discovery that you were indeed meant to be an artist? Was there a moment or age when you knew?
I’m one of those people that always did it. In 3rd grade I made art for the gym teacher who wanted me to draw vegetables for her healthy eating handouts she mimeographed in the library. Oh the smell of those mimeographs! There wasn’t a time I didn’t think I would be an artist. It just was with me.
10.) What’s been the most challenging part of building a career as an artist?? i.e.; family, $$$, time, inspiration, networking, etc.….
The hardest part is adjusting to the times. One year it seems like I can’t fail, then another year the economy tanks and I’m looking on Craig’s list for freelancing, ugg, I can’t stand that. Luckily I have a full time job for over 7 years as a sign maker for a popular health food store in Boston. It’s a good gig that gives me plenty of freedom to create and allows me to afford the long shots I take with my gallery career. It can be very expensive to travel and create work for shows out of state. My full time artist position has given me the cushion to plan ahead and feel comfortable about taking chances on my future.
11.) Who was/is the most important person in your life guiding your direction as an artist?
My parents absolute confidence in me as an artist and their supportive nature, while I took every chance I could to find my voice. My high school art teacher Dan Rogaki, who pushed me and made sure I applied myself at a young age to achieve the goals I set my mind on. My girlfriend Meghann Brideau who’s own art inspires me everyday and her amazing ability to make sure I don’t beat myself up to much or fall asleep in my chair.
12.) Knowing you’re obsession with vinyl records…. what’s your greatest find? Is there one record you simply couldn’t part with?
I recently found Weird Al’s first record “Weird Al in 3D” at a good will for 25 cents along with a Doctor Dimento radio show record that has Weird Al’s “My bologna” on it. It brought me back to my childhood instantly. I’m also a local music collector, so when a friends band goes that extra step to make vinyl, I’m sure to have them all sign it. I like to know the collection I have has as many local bands as it has international. I did spend a small fortune on a limited 1st pressing of Graveyard’s newest record that I’ll never open. I bought a regular copy just to listen to. I’m fascinated with the the way a record not only sounds, but how it’s graphics are so much more a part of the package. I designed 3 vinyl records last year that only made my obsession grow.
13.) Your work has some strong roots in comic book illustration, any particular artists or books that inspired you as a kid? Or even as an adult?
Bill Sienkiewicz sketchbook and his stray toasters books changed the game for me at a young age. Kent Williams Havock vs. Wolverine drove me mad trying to understand how he did it. Dave Mckean’s Sandman covers and cages novel lifted it higher. In High school it was the Vienna Sessionist artists of the early 1900’s like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Today, seeing my friends achieve their goals in art and music is all I need.
14.) Who is the most underrated artist out there right now that’s ready to take over the world? (This is clearly an opportunity to score points with your roommate…)
I feel like the Boston artists I’m associated with are achieving their dreams of maintaining art in their lives. That leads me to believe that if we all put our very best foot forward and work as hard as possible, we can all have the success we desire. As long as I can make art, even just for me. I’m living a dream fulfilled.
15.) Michael, what’s next for you? Any future projects or clients you can tell us about?
My handwriting is taking off. More and more restaurants in Boston ask me to do murals and write out their menus. I’m illustrating a short story for a local author that will be published down the line. I’ve got one solo shows this year as well. I’m also the art director and designer for this very publication. My days are full and I’m very pleased with that.
16.) Hypothetically you finally finish working on bottling your own scent as cologne for today’s man.
What sort of titles have you narrowed it down to?
Who Farted? By Michael Crockett is the top one so far. I’m also partial to “Yesterdays Shirt” the labs are hard at work.**