Interview with artist Michael D. Edens
by Kelly Jones, Jamie Murdock, and Melissa
[KJ] Where are you from?
[MDE] Rochester, Minnesota, USA
[KJ] How old were you when you decided to make a career out of your artwork?
[MDE] Art has always been, and always will be, an important part of my life. I was 12 when I saw Bob Ross painting a landscape on TV, and he introduced art to me as a joyful experience. I have focused on art related careers and creativity ever since.
[JM] How long have you been doing art, and besides Bob Ross who interests you?
[MDE] I have been drawing since I can remember, but it wasn’t until I was 12 or so that I labeled my expressiveness as “art” and myself as an “artist”. In 2008, I turned 28, so my humble interest in “art” has survived for about 16 years. I am interested in many different types of art, but was recently inspired by concept artists Andrew Jones and Justin Kaufman.
[JM] Where did you go to college, and for what?
[MDE] In 1998, I attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York NY, with an intended BFA in Film/Television. After attaining Certification for Film/Television Production one year later in 1999, I successfully tested out of the next 3 years worth of Film/Video classes. So I transferred to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis MN, with an intended BFA in Interactive Design. Then in 2001, I transferred to the University of Minnesota to broaden my educational experience, and graduated in 2003 with a BS in Media Arts & Computer Studies.
[KJ] What inspires you?
[MDE] Originality. I appreciate when people express themselves in a unique way, no matter the art form.
[M] What or Who influences, inspires, and motivates your particular style, in particular your portrait drawings?
[MDE] After learning many “rules” about art in school, I wanted to draw the way I felt like drawing. No expectations, no judgments, no critiques, no financial gain, no commercial success, no concerted artistic development. I wanted to have fun, play, be creative, and see or experience something new. The expressive portrait art was a visual representation of those emotions.
Inspiration was from my life of experiences and a human need for expression. Or sometimes I ask myself “What can I do with this…” both in terms of the reference image and art materials, and then begin…
I like trying new styles, moving paint and ink around the paper in different ways, holding brushes and pens non-traditionally, mixing traditionally un-mixed mediums, using harmonious and dissonant color combinations, and pausing mid-drawing and taking a new direction on a whim.
I used a similar approach with some of my recent abstract portraits and character art. During the Spring season of 2008 I preferred not to work from reference and allow the subject matter to appear and grow organically as I create. I enjoy the quick thinking, and have strived for more physicality in the creation process, mostly by putting as little space as possible between thought and action as I energetically create without stopping. And when I stop, the art is done. Then it’s on to a new drawing.
So in that regard, the portrait drawings, and visual art in general, is a safe and fulfilling activity that allows me to explore the spontaneously creative side of my human nature.
[KJ] Do you have any artist influences in your work at all?
[MDE] Yes. In order to build up a visual vocabulary it was helpful to imitate artists I appreciated. Also, just viewing any other artist’s work affects my own work in some way. Some of the stylistic elements of Franz Kline appear in my abstracts, while Claude Monet and Craig Mullins influenced my impressionistic work. I also drew comics for a while, and the stark black and white pen style and expressive color palettes are a persistent theme.
[KJ] What media do you prefer to work in?
[MDE] My preferences change constantly. Lately I have preferred mixing media such as pen, marker, watercolor, acrylic, colored pencil, and crayon.
[JM] What is your favorite piece of art work, or most passionate piece?
[MDE] I don’t have a favorite. Over time my connection to various types of art or artists changes, whether it’s the work of another artist or my own. I am most passionate about the art I am creating in the moment.
[KJ] What is your theme/concept behind your work?
[MDE] Themes and concepts change constantly as well. I am inspired by many different subjects that I like to express in many different styles. However, I tend to enjoy painting and viewing impressionistic and imaginative art, as it is not so constrained by the rules of the real world in Realism Art nor completely open to the subjectivity of Abstract Art.
[JM] Have you traveled for art, or to do art?
[MDE] After studying classical Renaissance art and architecture in high school and college for years, I decided to see as much of the original art as I could with my own eyes. So I traveled to Italy for 3 weeks, taking in every museum, church, and artwork I could find around Rome, Florence, and the surrounding communities. It was a great experience in many ways, and from an artistic standpoint it helped solidify my understanding of the environment and historical context within which Renaissance art was created.
[KJ] Has your work changed due to other artist influences or things that happened in the world?
[MDE] Yes, all of my experiences influence how I express myself. I often see changes in my style and artwork that I am not always aware of as I am creating, but the changes signify growth, both as an artist and a person. For example, seeing graffiti-style art for the first time inspired bold shapes, vibrant colors, and thick outlining in some of my work.
[KJ] Can you explain what you try to get across from your abstract expressionism paintings? As one who feels most drawn to these, I would like to know and understand more.
[MDE] My abstract art generally expresses an emotion or feeling that is difficult to explain via other forms of communication. Any emotion, or combination of emotions, can be expressed, from wild and energetic, to boring and calm. For example, instead of writing or talking about a unique joy I felt when I started to draw with colored pastels after a long hiatus from color, I drew a series of expressive abstracts with vibrant bursts of color and slight variations in texture. Retrospectively, the drawings were a visual representation of the “Big Bang” of an awaking awareness of color, which has been consistently applied in a more orderly fashion in subsequent artworks. For example, in this colorful drawing of a face or more abstract surreal paintings.