Interview: Mike Perry
Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, artist Mike Perry's creative journey started at the age of 13 when his grandfather gave him a tackle box full of paint.
Mike went on to study Graphic Design at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and his first design job was for Urban Outfitters where he worked for 3 years.
Since then he has used pen, ink, paper, collage, paint and pencil to create magical illustrations, sculptures, animations, prints and everything in between, popping up in a number of magazines as well as publishing several of his own books and zines. He has been commissioned by the likes of Nike, Apple and The New York Times, won a number of accolades and awards and has recently travelled to Antwerp, Belgium as the latest artist to take part in The Jaunt.
A concept that fuses art and travel, The Jaunt carefully selects artists to travel to a new city to soak up culture, get inspired and produced 50 limited edition prints which are pre-sold ‘unseen’ to fund the trip. Mike chose to produce his prints prior to travelling to Antwerp, packing them with his pens to customise individually whilst on location – the first time The Jaunt has invited an artist to make something hand made. To coincide with the trip, a collection of his sketchbook drawings will be exhibited in Amsterdam this weekend alongside finished artworks adding a new dimension to the project.
We caught up with Mike at his hotel in Amsterdam as he prepares to set up the show, to find out more about his working process and adventures in Antwerp.
Hi Mike, Are you enjoying life these days?
Greatly. Work is good, life is good. I am being productive and still relaxing.
We understand you’re incredibly prolific in your approach to making work – churning out hundreds of drawings in a week. Just how many projects do you have on the go at any given time? Can you describe a typical day – what time you normally get up and how long your days are?
I do like to make a lot. Im always working on about 10 ideas. Some are slow building. Others are quick to be crossed off the to-do list. Over the years I have become better at letting things incubate in the studio, even if I think they are done something might sit for months before I share it with the public. A typical day for me is up early and out the door. A 10 minute walk to my studio. I make a pot of coffee and jump in. I look at the morning as my time (unless I am working with a European or Japanese client) so I stay off my email and just work.
Some days it will be paintings, other will be animations, I have the luxury of exploration.
I try new materials, I paint then paint over then paint over again. I screen print random layers on top of other layers. Just to see what might happen. As the years go on I have started to look at my studio as a “Science Lab” where anything is possible. So we let the ideas rule and don’t feel afraid of new forms. Then around 10 I start my work day. I work with a lot of clients and serious deadlines where there needs to be a lot of communication. Around 2:30 I walk home and pick up my dog Bass. We take the long route back to the studio where I try and finish up my day around 6:30. Then we walk home and my wife and I make big healthy dinners and I’m in bed by 9pm.
I have discovered the power of the routine so I have embraced this schedule fully.
You have worked in so many different areas of design including book design, print, illustration, character design and animation. Do you have a favourite? Which area grabs your attention more these days?
I have just started to feel like I can draw. I know that sounds crazy.
I am having an epic love affair with drawing right now.
The longer and more complicated the drawing the better. So I have been drawing a ton. And like anything the more you practice the better you get. Well I feel like im staring to understand the way I am supposed to make marks. It feels so effortless yet I am enjoying it so much that I want to push myself. In turn animation is right up my alley. Lots of drawing but then those drawings start to move. Suddenly I can make universes that move and exist in time. Im so stoked.
Is there anyone out there that you would love to collaborate with if you had unlimited time and a killer budget?
If I had a killer budget and unlimited time I would work with all of my friends and creative peers to make the craziest shit ever. That’s what i’m working towards. As for collaboration the best thing is you don’t need unlimited time and a killer budget to collaborate. You just need to connect with someone that feels the same about what you do. So I do this all the time. If I meet someone and love what they do and who they are I try and figure out how we can combine our individuality to make something new.
Along side your art career you’ve published a number of books – we particularly like Pulled and Hand Job. Why did you choose to focus on these areas of design in particular and how did the books come to be? Do you have plans to release more books in future?
All of my books have come about because I have noticed that not only am I into something but my friends and peers are also into a similar thing. So When I published Hand Job it was because I was drawing a lot of type. The more I drew it the more I noticed that a lot of people where also drawing it. There wasn’t a book featuring the work of these folks so I figured I would just try and get a book deal. Then it happened. My next book was about hand drawn patterns. Same circumstances… I was drawing a lot of patterns then I saw the hand drawn patterns where everywhere.
We’ve been keeping a close eye on The Jaunt over the last few months and love the project. What was it about the idea of a creative retreat that appealed to you? Did you have a choice on the location for the trip or was it a surprise?
I met Jeroen the founder of the Jaunt years ago in Amsterdam and have kept in contact with him over the years. When he approached me about doing a trip he already had Belgium in mind. I had been doing a lot of work with Duvel so going to Belgium seemed like an opportunity to see where they came from. So although I didn’t choose to go to Antwerp it was a pleasant surprise. I always like going to places I have never been and as the trip got closer and I told my friends I was going to Belgium I was shocked by how few people had been there. So Now I am here and I get to go home and share with my friends how fun this place is.
What have you most enjoyed about the experience? When was the last time you were in Europe?
It was August in New York. The city shuts down its hot and the city is restless for the fall to begin. It was perfect timing to escape the end of the New York summer. So when I got here I was so stoked to be able to wear pants and a sweater. Sit out side on a cool afternoon and drink a coffee and draw in my sketchbook. I have been to Europe a few times this year. I went to Dublin for Offset then to Breda to paint a mural and now today I am heading back to Holland to Amsterdam to prepare for an exhibition next Friday.
It’s interesting to read that you’re approaching the project a little differently from previous Jaunt artists – creating screen prints before you go and customising them whilst you’re away. What inspired this idea/approach?
So, where do you like to go in Brooklyn when you need a time out? Do you have a favourite hang out?
My favourite place to clear my head in BK is Prospect Park. Walking around with my dog. On an early morning you can almost forget that you are in a city. There are birds chirping. Giant trees rustling in the wind. Its a sanctuary.
Describe the creative community there – is it growing?
My creative community is amazing and it has changed and grown over the years. My peers have been on their own creative adventures and see where they have traveled is very exciting and inspiring. Knowing that they are all there working away is very comforting. We all support each other and with out that support none of us would be there.
New York is a hard place and being on the journey with friends is very exciting
Studio spaces are fascinating places to be – do you agree? If you could explore the studio of any artist (dead or alive) who would it be & why?
I love studios. If I could choose any studio to walk through as an invisible being I would love to see what was happening in the Eames studio. Seeing the hustle and bustle of productivity. Or maybe see what Calder’s studio was like would be amazing.
And finally, what’s next for Mike Perry?
What is next… All I can say is that I have done a lot but I am just at the beginning of my creative adventure. Over the last 10 years I have grown and changed so much that it thrills me to think about what other life and creative discoveries I will make.