State of Georgia, USA
Mediums: Oil Painting, Mixed Media, Collage
Style: Semi realist, post- modern, political
Favorite Quote: “Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Favorite Book: The Autobiography of Malcom X, Roots
Favorite Movies: Pulp Fiction, Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song
Hello, my name is Michael Owens. I'm a forty nine year old African American contemporary artist. Since childhood social/ political art has been my favorite. As a small child I remember reading an illustrated storybook about the life of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. I have no idea where it came from nor could I locate it now, but I can’t tell you how much that book helped to inspire a love of history and art that survives to this day. In those pages I could feel his thirst for knowledge and his love of freedom, the two things that drive my work today. However politics is not the only thing that inspires me. I find inspiration in my family, my community, people I’ve met and places I’ve been. My artistic heroes include well known contemporary African American artists like Kehinde Wiley, Michael Ray Charles, and Kara Walker as well as historical political artists like David Alfaro Siqueiros, Kerry James Marshall, Jacob Lawrence and Faith Ringgold.
Please tell us about your first experience creating.
My first experience creating was being a little kid drawing pictures of relatives, characters from stories and even houses. My mother said I was destined to be an architect (not true), but I did drop out of architect school as an adult. I was a very imaginative kid, capable of spending hours at a time drawing, coloring and fantasizing about life as an adult. Did my life turn out like I envisioned? Not even close.
What music do you like to have playing while creating art?
I know this is unusual for artists today, but I don’t normally play music while painting. I love music so much it distracts me, especially if it has a catchy tune or any lyrics at all. Playing music just doesn’t help my concentration. However I will sometimes listen to music before painting if I feel the need to get into a certain mood, or just to relax in general.
If you have a job besides being an artist, can you tell us about it?
At the moment art is all I’m doing. However I’ve held several jobs over the years, including a short stint in the U.S. Air Force. I have been in no particular order; a lawn mower assembly line worker, postal clerk, Air Force dental assistant, civil drafter, architectural drafter, loader–unloader, computer-aided designer, farm laborer, chemical packer & forklift driver.
What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?
I think my work is about freedom in various forms, political, social, sexual and physical. I want my viewers to connect to that part of them that places value on the freedoms of all. I guess what I’m really talking about is a form of catharsis or emotional and spiritual release.
Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion:
For me the creative process starts with either an idea or an emotion. Typically I will doodle or jot something down which will later be developed into a drawing that emphasizes shapes, values, and composition. From there I’ll consider color, which I feel is the purely emotional part of painting. You could say I try to work from big to small, from the overall idea or emotion down to the specifics of color and design.
What things inspire you to create art?
I’m inspired by things I see and feel every day, from television and movies to songs on the radio, people talking, things in the news, as well as past artworks including stuff I’ve done. I’m always open for new ideas. Inspiration comes from literally everywhere!
What exhibitions have you had?
I have never had a solo exhibition. The only show I’ve been a part of was a college group show at the end of my career as a student in 2008. It was called Exit 2008 at The Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.
Have you sold any of your artworks?
I have sold 3 original pieces within the last 6 months, one from my website (michaeloart.com), one that was commissioned and one that was sold on the spot after showing it to the purchaser. I‘ve given one large pastel drawing to a local church and sold one oil painting to the same church. I have sold various framed prints of my work on another website (fineartamerica.com) within the last year.
How do you promote your art on the internet?
I write a blog which is updated on Wednesdays. I post my work on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest; I’m also an active member of Fineartamerica.com & Etsy.com. I also have portfolios on Deviantart.com and Flikr.com
Tell us about influences
This is very tough question for me. I don’t think I paint or draw like anyone else, but my favorite artist has always been Van Gogh with Toulouse-Lautrec coming in a close second. I’m also very fond of the work of the classic Mexican muralists and their strong political views.
Please recommend another artist you admire, and tell us a little about them:
Lately I’ve been admiring the work of Barkley L. Hendricks a contemporary African American artist whose subject is primarily black and Latino urban culture. He’s been painting bold, proud, dignified life-sized portraits of urban youth since the early seventies, which is a far cry from how inner city people are normally depicted in art and media. His work is real inspiration for me.
Tell us something interesting in your life
I guess my biggest achievement is graduating from college at the age of 44. As for travel I haven’t done much of that since my days in the U.S. Air Force; which sent me to Okinawa, The Philippines and S. Korea. I’ve always wanted to visit sub-Saharan Africa but have never been.
If you could live your life over again, would there be anything you would do differently?
I would rather live with the mistakes I’ve made and wind up in this very spot, so the answer is no in spite of everything.
What plans do you have for the future of your art?
I’m always studying, looking for ways to become a better artist and expand my skills, especially with color. The battle with color is a career long struggle for any painter.
Do you have any good advice for emerging artists?
Never give up.
State of Georgia, USA
Website: michaeloart | Twitter | Facebook