Art Talk with Mike Graves
Conceived in Lakewood, Colo., on July 7, 1977, in the backseat of a blue Ford Pinto, Mike Graves is now based in Denver and has been showing his art at local galleries for years. Recently, he sat down with Rooster to discuss his career, his favorite places to eat and how his travels have helped inspire and develop his signature style.
R: Where did you grow up? Where have you spent the majority of your life?
M.G.: I grew up in Lakewood, just outside of Denver. After high school I moved to Congress Park, then Park Hill for a couple of years. I lived in Hawaii from 2003 to 2006 and I’ve been back in Denver since then.
R: How were you first introduced to art?
M.G.: It had to be early on in elementary school, mainly through comics and skateboarding.
R: Were you instantly hooked on art? When did you feel like you were born to create?
M.G.: I definitely loved drawing right away. It always seemed to come naturally.
R: Which medium were you first introduced to? Have you continued to work with this medium?
M.G.: I started off with pencils and pens. Then got into colored pencils and markers in high school. I still break out the markers every now and then just to make sure I still have it.
R: How has your art matured? Or has it grown younger over time?
M.G.: I think it’s like anything, you just slowly get better and more comfortable the more you practice. I paint a ton, so that definitely helps.
R: How has the environment around you inspired or affected the style of your daily creations?
M.G.: I try to pay attention to little details, facial expressions, gestures, people’s reactions to situations and put those subtleties in my paintings.
R: Do you listen to music while creating? If so, what genre or type of music interests or inspires you the most?
M.G.: Not so much. I usually paint in the living room with bad reality television to distract me. It’s a horrible addiction. My newest favorite is “Duck Dynasty.” I have been watching that a lot, and “Storage Wars” on occasion. My dog Atlas keeps me good company and enjoys them as well.
R: What outside sources of inspiration have influenced your art?
M.G.: The biggest influence has to be traveling. Seeing other cities and the art in them always does the trick.
R: For lunch, a burrito with horchata or a cheeseburger with a coca-cola?
M.G.: Burrito with green chili, no contest.
R: How did you develop your signature character? It seems like it has become a consistent trademark of your style, recognizable to the eyes of fellow artists in the Denver community.
M.G.: It slowly developed over the years. It just comes out that way when I sit down to draw. My drawing style went from being very complicated, to “simplify” over time.
R: What artists do enjoy linking up with to create? Any favorite folks you enjoy working on projects with?
M.G.: There’s a bunch, Denver has no shortage on talented people. Markham Maes, Scot Lefavor, Emit, Jive, Joseph Martinez and Jaime Molina, just to name a few.
R: When did you first generate income from your art?
M.G.: It really wasn’t until I moved to Hawaii, so around 2003.
R: Do you prefer gallery shows over commission-based work?
M.G.: I really like aspects of both. Shows are great because I paint exactly what I what I want to, but on the other hand it’s fun to do the challenge of doing a commission. I love to make art, I’ll do it for whoever or wherever.
R: How many art shows have you participated in to date?
M.G.: I would have to say easily a hundred or so.
R: What’s the lowest amount someone has offered for your art? Highest amount?
M.G.: I’ve had people just want things for free, which always kind of amazes me. I’ve sold pieces for over $1000.00, which is always nice.
R: Bike, car or public transportation?
M.G.: I mainly drive because I need to carry tools for work. I am a carpenter by trade. I do love riding my bike though.
R: Which corporate clients have commissioned your art?
M.G.: I’ve worked for Belvedere, Pabst Blue Ribbon, 944 Magazine (Las Vegas), SoBe and Crest Hardware (New York).
R: Coming up on the 2012 election, if you could paint a portrait of the president, what would it look like?
M.G.: It would be cartoony for sure. I doubt he would be flattered.
Sneaker size: 8
Nationality: English, Irish
Beer: Modelo (for the moment)
Quirk: wears white socks over black
Art tool: brush
Favorite restaurant: Hapa Sushi
Fact: wears glasses and needs them badly
Physical activities: skateboarding and snowboarding
Tattoos: from Think Tank and tattoo artist Jef Kopp
Height: 7’ 1”
Online work: www.roaneindustries.com