With Mike Mitchell’s Mondo gallery show opening in two short weeks, I wanted to sit down and ask him a few questions about the body of work. I hope this gives people a little better idea of what to expect. For more info about the gallery, etc, visit Mondotees.com.
For those that aren’t familiar with your work, can you introduce yourself a bit? Where you’re from, how long you’ve been around the art scene, etc…
Oh man, I’m from all over. I was born in LA, but we left when I was 7 to live in a dairy town in Northern California called Escalon. At 21 I headed to Chicago for art school, which was fairly life altering. After that I lived in Madison, WI for 18 months working at Raven Software. I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 for a job at a small video game studio, and shortly after got into the iam8bit exhibit, which was a huge deal for me. If I remember correctly, that’s where you first saw my work. You asked me to be in a show you were curating at Gallery 1988 and by the time the show arrived, I had quit my salary job (which was sucking the life out of me) and began to really concentrate on gallery shows and freelance.
Can you explain a bit about the new direction you’re trying out for your upcoming Mondo gallery show?
Well I wouldn’t say it’s a new direction. I’ve always enjoyed doing portraits, and I’ve done a few similar ones over the years. It’s definitely a departure from the bulk of what I’ve been doing recently, which was mostly done to take a bit of a break from painting. The itch to do something a little more ambitious and work-intensive was starting to build, plus I felt like mixing it up a bit, and I was able to accomplish that over the past 5 months. When I’m done with this show, I’ll probably try something else completely different. It keeps me interested, engaged and helps me grow as an artist.
How did you pick the subjects? Are these personal favorite film characters?
Definitely. I think people will be surprised. Naturally there’s a few crowd pleasers, but I tried to pick characters that are more under appreciated in pop culture art. It’s important to me that this show feels fresh and unique, and I think my choices are helping to achieve that. The movies I chose from span all genres, but the unifying theme are characters that made a strong impression on me, regardless of their screen time. There are a few characters that aren’t even in their respected movies for more than 5 minutes, but they are a big reason I watch those movies. I get excited when I know their scene is about to begin. Sadly, I still have quite a long list of characters that I wasn’t able to get to.
Were the portraits pretty straight-forward, or did you run into problems with some of your initial choices?
I had to abandon a few of my choices, some of which were complete, but I just wasn’t happy with the result. It’s always a painful process when you invest hours of your time into something and it just doesn’t come together the way you hoped. Then there are some that simply don’t have the proper reference, which is essential to do a good portrait.
Can you talk a little bit about your process with pieces like this, and how it’s different from doing the “Just Like Us” series?
I’m really into the idea of taking a character out of its natural environment and playing around with it. In that way they are the same, but in all other ways they are completely different. With the “Just Like Us” series, I’m taking them out of their environment, but also stripping away a lot their personality and infusing my own. They’re silly, light hearted, funny, and sometimes angry, depressing or sad. They get a reaction out of people, and I like that. It’s my way of trying to make people feel something, and using relatable characters as a vessel to do that.
For the portrait series, I wanted to keep the personalities there, at least how they exist in my own mind. Then apply that to a traditional portrait, something that most of these characters wouldn’t be doing. There’s an ironic sense about them that I like, but I also just really love these dudes for who they are, and I didn’t want to take too much of that away. When I watch a movie and really connect with a character, I often feel a strong urge to draw/paint that person. This show is allowing me to do that, it’s giving me the chance to catch up on years of great characters that I appreciate and admire.
Word is these are primarily going to be 12″ x 16″. What made you choose this size?
I actually had a very difficult time coming to a decision on size. Originally they were going to be 16×20, but that would have raised the prices of the prints too much, and as you’ll see at the show, there are some characters that I just don’t feel would have worked at 16×20. 11×14, was too small, 12×16 ended up being a great compromise. It’s large enough to make an impact, small enough to find a space for, and also it’s a relatively standard frame size which is important to me. Not everyone has the money or time to get something custom framed, myself included.
Mike’s show opens Friday, April 26th at Mondo in Austin, TX.