Artist Profile: Michael McIntosh
Updated: Apr 2
CA: What made you first start drawing?
MM: I drew a lot on the walls when I was little. I remember very vividly being a lefty when I was little but it was trained in me to work with the right. Ever since then and a little to bit into elementary school I was thoroughly ambidextrous. I can do an abstract piece with my left hand. Based on my abstract work, I can say I can be proud of that. I can’t say that for something that needs to be more articulate like figures. There was one moment when I was young where my grandfather had a stack of receipts he didn’t need. He gave me a stack of receipts for me to draw on and I drew Dexter over and over again. I never really been into anything else.
CA: When it came to the time you knew how to draw with both hands did you feel a different when drawing with your left hand from drawing with your right hand? MM: I think that has much more to do with technicalities. When your right hand is connected to the left side of your brain which is more for organization, mathematics, and logical thinking I feel you are a little more conscious of what you are drawing. I feel drawing with the left hand is probably the opposite. I was really young at that time so I wasn’t thinking about it. I am only thinking about it now that you mentioned it. I don’t know if I am the right person to ask because I feel like I am an artist trapped in a businessman.
CA: How so in regards to being an artist trapped in a businessman? MM: A lot of artist, whether they admit it or not, enjoy the romanticism of the “starving artist”. I have never agreed to that a day in my life. I was never actively supported as an artist growing up and I am the only artist in my family. Everyone else is within the blue collar jobs who only know hard work. The energy that I am dealing with on a daily basis is to work hard. I have conditioned myself to want to be full. There is nothing funny or entertaining to me about being hungry. Today, I don’t get why you would go to an expensive college for fine arts. My logic is if you are not motivated enough to do it after work or school then maybe it is a hobby for you. You shouldn’t need a curriculum to make art. It is a very human skill, a very human gift. Personally, I don’t understand why you are not driven to stay up till 3am to work on it. That is why I said I thought like a businessman when I decided to go to school for graphic design because I wanted to eat. I have always recognized there are a whole bunch of other people who like to paint. If I come in there and I say I paint, multi graphics, graphic design, and I do film and edit. You are not going to tell me no. I am not going to be told no. You can feel like someone’s work is better than mine and that is fine. This person doesn’t do as much as me. That is a business decision. Artist make emotional decisions a majority of the time in areas that have no business being decided emotionally. That is not to say I am not emotional in life but in the right pockets. In my career what I do with most of my day that has to be thought about in a calculative way, artists don’t do that. Businessman do.
CA: How do you describe your style? MM: Pop surrealism. It is pop because I realize I have to engage you and that we live in 2015. No matter what it is you only have a certain of attention span and time to get someone interested. That is the pop, you know how the figures are dressed and the motion they are doing. The vehicles in the piece and the animals. Whatever it is, it is something contemporary. Something you might see a comparison to on tumblr, twitter, or instagram.
The surrealism is the nutrition. It is the fruit. It is based on something spiritual or of our human history. It is always educational. Whether I know that it is going to be or not, it makes sense when I stand back from it. It is either going to address the problem with the black family unit or it will discuss us in contemporary times forget that we are apart of a human history that is host to a lot of art and structures. We tear them down to make buildings to trade around green pieces of paper and have a competition with ourselves. We miss the point as humans. It is much bigger than looking at a bowl of fruit or looking at portrait someone painted in a gallery. We are at point at this time in history on Earth, we need to understand who we are and why we are here.
CA: Who have been influential role models or mentors to you?
MM: It has always been a solo journey. I went to Jamaica High School and I have always been a lone soldier. It was up until I decided with some close friends to collaborate.
CA: What do you feel in front of a blank canvas or empty notebook? MM: It depends on the day, it really doesn’t matter how I feel. I don’t gain my motivation from emotion. I am on this planet to do it, it is like my job. I love it. It is not based on emotion. I do it and I love it. If I don’t do it, I am going to die.
CA: Do you have a favorite piece? MM: I would say ancient sorbet. It’s the piece that condenses my brand the quickest. Trippy, educational, pulls from history, very hippy, but still contemporary, cool, still unapologetically colored and passionate.
CA: Are you the type of person who doesn’t like the dark stuff in art? MM: I feel like it has a place for the people who need to see that. I am just not one of those people. If I went to see a dark movie, it has nothing to do with the level of talent the piece generates. I have enough on my piece already to deal with that. I don’t need any visual deities to attach the stuff I am working on too. I am an emotional person, I just don’t want in my work. It may drive me to do something but there are bigger fish to fry. There is a whole generation of people who need to be reintroduced to the root they came from in a not so intense way. I’m the opposite of that heavy ass black art that shows slaves being hung and all that type of shit. You can get the same sentiment from the dialogue inspired from the piece.
CA: What has been your greatest accomplishment? MM: I guess it would be The Story of Me I did in school. I didn’t even like how it came out. Everyone I spoke to loved it and I took from that I have the elements to make a brand here. When I first told my grandparents I wanted to do art, my grandfather said “black people don’t do art”. That is the first thing you hear in the 40 second piece. It is so accurate and telling of why am I the way I am today.
CA: What do you wish your younger self had known about art that you know today?
MM: You have nothing to prove and be ok doing things your loved ones don’t like. Be even more fearless and work on your patience.
CA: When it comes to art, what sparks a piece for you? MM: The story is telling me, I am like 40% being channeled. Not on some weird shit but I never start a piece and I am aware of what it is going to be. That never happens for me. I usually start drawing a face, donut, or a fish and weird stuff starts happening around it. I do what I know to do and certain things start opening up to allow fluidity. The story starts to make sense to me and then it informs the color choice. It then influences the clothes I want them to wear and it will form the type of music I listen to while making the piece. It will eventually inform where are we in the state of Earth in this piece. What kind of symbolism do I want to use, where am I borrowing it from, and why am I borrowing from it? A lot of the choices I make in art are based on the education I have in design. Everything has to make sense, it has to have a purpose. Otherwise, it is decorative and we don’t need that. It has to be efficient, people have to get it. People have to walk away from that gallery/exhibition and have learned something. If they haven’t, I am a little more concerned than I would be if they had.
CA: How do you want your work/portfolio to be remembered for? MM: I am here to make art cool again. I bet the architect for the pyramids in Egypt got as much love from the ladies as the flute player. Why is that? There was a time where there wasn’t instagram and reality show to distract you from real art. It has to be made for our youth to have an example of a black man from the hood and been through a lot of bullshit. I still kick on a yacht and I got money because I paint.
CA: I feel you are at a point you know you can be really good at art. Do you feel there is any limitation to your talents outside of art (ala Childish Gambino with his array of talents)? MM: I think it would be cliché if I say I will not stop at art. I feel like most people say it but they don’t know why they want to do that. Of course, I don’t limit myself but I am doing things that propel me to my end goal. The end goal being globally recognized like a Leonardo Dicapiro, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, Bill Gates, and Spike Lee in art. I want to make it clear you can do things outside of that. I also want to be happy. My decisions are measured against my life path and what is going to be healthiest for me in this lifetime. All of the decisions I make are toward that end goal. I will never stop doing art. I might stop exhibiting at a certain gallery because they want to stop paying me. I will always produce art. To answer your question, it is not that I don’t see a limit or that I do. Everything is done with my goal in mind. I’m athletic with it like I’m athletic with it *laughs*. If I want to score a basket, why would I want put the ball down to go to the stands to eat popcorn? It doesn’t make any sense. What makes more sense is to drive to the hole, cross whoever is in front of me, put my shoulder down so when he tries to steal it he fails. Then I pass it to my man to make the shot. My goal is to get the ball through the hoop. That is my focus. Every decision I make is based off that. Naturally, that means you do have to expand to be bigger than art to appeal to different kind of people. This helps you get money in different kinds of ways to reinvest in the art. Of course, I will never limit myself but the reason is because of my goal. It is never in reverse. If it were in reverse, then my goal is solely on money.
CA: What is the best advice you can give someone with a strong desire to do art like yourself?
MM: Develop your voice. Develop your taste. Direction is more important than pace. Know what you have to do to accomplish that. A lot of people hear that and say that is a good idea then sit on it. They don’t know how to go about doing that and are too lazy to go about finding out how to do it. They are satisfied with I don’t know and that will have you in the same place.
You can follow Michael on IG @Johninthemiddle