This Week from Lisa Congdon: Interview with Artist Michael McConnell


This week I want to introduce you to one of my favorite artists, my friend, San Francisco artist Michael McConnell . Michael just opened an Etsy Shop several months ago, so now we have more access than ever to his beautiful and haunting work. In addition to making art, Michael owns Fayes Video, an awesome video store/coffee shop on 18th Street. I sat down with Michael this month and asked him some of my usual questions about his work (Michael paints, draws and makes sculpture) and his life.

LC: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

MM: I can't specifically say that there was an exact point when I "knew" I wanted to be an artist.  I actually had always wanted to be a veterinarian or marine biologist when I grew up, but found out I was allergic to fur. I was bummed. However I can remember always drawing in my room as a kid.  My mom signed me up for art classes when I was about 10. I would go every Saturday for a 3 hour class and I just really got into it.


LC: Did you study art past high school?

MM: I continued taking art classes through high school, my teacher, Mrs. Darby, suggested that I study art in college. I didn't even know if I was going to go to college, but she go me a scholarship from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. So that's where I ended up.


 LC: How has that helped you?

MM: I think going to CCAD was a great experience. When I was enrolled there it was known for its intense foundation studies. The founder of the school, Joseph Canzani, really believed in a strict methodology of art practice. I remember his welcome speech to our class using words like "trianglarity" and thinking he was a real nut job. But in the end I think it was a really strong program, and by the end of the first semester almost a third of my class had dropped out. I think the tough regiment of the program weeded out the people who were passionate about art. There I learned I had that passion and pushed me to build on all the technical foundation I had been taught.

LC: What didn't you get from art school that you wish you had?

MM: The major  aspect of my studies that I felt was lacking was  the practical and business side of arts. In a way I don't think the school actually prepared its students in all aspects of being a professional artists. I am to this day still frustrated with on knowing how to apply for grants and residencies and sometimes even how to approach galleries or talk about my work without getting flustered.

Etsy_Little Zebra (Balanced Idividual)_36x24_2009

LC: I am wondering how many hours a week do you spend making art or working on your art

MM: I try to get to my studio for at least 3 solid 8 hour days every week. Sometimes its more and sometimes less depending on the week. I used to be really regimented about at least drawing in my sketchbook every day, but have slacked the past few months and am trying to get back to that practice.


LC: Do you wish it were more or less or is it just right?

MM: I think 3 days is the minimum I'd like to be in the studio, but I did wish I used my time on the computer more wisely. Making contacts and researching grants and residencies.


LC: Are you a morning person or night person? How does this effect your creative work?

MM:  I tend to be both a morning and a night person. I can set my alarm at 6 am, pop out of bed, and and just get on with my day. Usually that is when I am working at Fayes, but I love starting the day that early, you can get so much done before noon. I often will also stay up until 1 or 2 at night doing computer work or reading. I find however, that I am pretty useless between 2-4pm, that's my sloth time. When I am working creatively I try to have coffee and be in the studio by 9am (usually ends up being 10) work until 1, then break and then come back at 3 and work until anywhere from 6 or 8pm. I feel like I work fast and can get a lot done in blocks of time.


LC: Describe a body of work you have just finished or on which you are currently working.

MM: Well the two main series that I have been working on currently are the "tree trappings" and "little (animals)". The tree trappings are a series of drawings I have been working on with animals tied to trees, focusing on nature and restraint.


The other series started as smaller drawings (8" x 10") that I have been making into larger (3' x 2') paintings. Each of them is of a boy or girl with an animal head. They are dealing with the characteristics that we associate with animals, in conjunction with how we are raising our children. Or how are children are perceived as emulating the characteristics of the animals. Such as "Little Mountain Lion (Agile Leader)", the cougar family is associated with their balance and light footing as well as their natural ability to lead.

LC: What are your dreams for your art career?

MM: I'd love to have a show in Japan with my good friend Cynthia Ona Innis . Other then that I just love when people make a connection to my work. Personally as an artist I just hope I continue to grow and evolve with my work, and try to be more relaxed at openings.

tree trap 6

LC: What/who are your greatest influences?
Top five:
1. Joseph Cornell- his art was a reflection of his life, beautiful and tragic.
2. Alice in Wonderland- I could read that book a million times and still be fascinated with all the double meanings and amazing imagery. My obsession with that book lead me to the wonders of the rabbit.
3. George McConnell- my brother has always been there for me under the umbrella tree and he has a way with words that is amazing and have worked there way into my titles.
4. Music- it has always been a necessity for me while making art, escaping into the words and images between my ears.
5. Mark Poulin- keeps me in the place with his honesty. He makes "jerk" sincere, I couldn't ask for a better partner.


LC: What are the three most important things you want people to know about you as an artist and/or your work?

1. I make art because I need to, that people like it is just gravy.
2. Sometimes I don't know what it means.
3. Things in mirror may appear calmer then they are.

LC: What do you believe in?

MM: We should at least be having fun.

To learn even more about Michael and what motivates him, I highly recommend reading his statement . I'd like to thank Michael for sharing a little bit about his life and work with us!

Jan Halvarson


Beth said...

Great artist, thanks for sharing, can't wait to check out more of his work!

our little love nest said...

Loving Michael's work and the interview is wonderful. Loved the last 2 questions and answers!

teresa said...

i just found your blog from chairs and buildings blog, and feel like alice!

michael's work is amazing, great interview



Brad Reynolds said...

Michael's work is amazing! His interview was extremely helpful and inspiring as well. I look forward to seeing more of his work.

Rambles with Reese said...

Brilliant artist interview. I really enjoyed reading all of it.

Burk said...

Cheers Michael! Keep up the great work. I went to CCAD too. It's a great school. Are you originally from the Columbus area?

Keep up the great work!