Michael Gray pulls from a wide variety of inspiration including culture, art and music, and they all come into play within his work. He graduated from the Miami International University of Art and Design in 2008, and he has continued to work with several galleries and companies in their advertising and graphic design departments. His background in Visual and Entertainment Arts has allowed him to work across several creative fields being inspired by the art of making images.
How did it all start?
Michael Gray: I started making art when I was very young. It began with my interest in fishing, I would buy fishing magazines and try drawing the fish that I liked. I realized then that I was training my eye to inspect details of the fish so that they looked realistic, and it just became something I did every day. I would sit in front of the TV, open up a magazine and start drawing.
Your preferred medium?
Michael: I use a variety of media but everything (for me) always starts with a pencil drawing. I favor using acrylic mediums to seal drawings to canvas and I use oils and graphite on top. For the "The Coldecott Chronicles" Illustrations I used ink and markers for the sickly grey and dull shades.
How is it collaborating with another artist?
Michael: Originally the author of "The Coldecott Chronicles" wanted quick sketches of the scenes written in the books, but I took it way overboard. I couldn't help but really get into the way the dead looked. The author understood and asked that I kept it in black and white ink, and I agreed. I have always been drawn to nature and organic objects so I immediately got detailed with the dead flesh and twisted bodies. In all honesty, it was probably the most fun I have had working on a project. I would read the book and tell him which images stood out in my mind. I would let my imagination run and come back in a few days with a horrific depiction of the scene. The look on his face was always priceless.
How to keep going?
Michael: It is not easy being an artist in this day and age. You really need to be industrious with your craft. I use my imagination and creativity on every new trade I learn. It started with graphic design and now it's moving on to creating websites. I felt like I wanted to learn more and get involved with other modern aspects of art. I have found a way to keep my artistic talent alive and developing within a business stand point.
My advice to artists that may feel like they are not making "personal" art is - you should find a way to connect your career to your talent. Never stop seeing the world in the unique way you do and always apply your skill. I also would suggest to sign up for open drawing sessions or workshops within your community. There is always something happening, get involved! Immerse yourself in the art community. Surrounding yourself with artistic people can generate inspiration.
Michael: Right now I am actually working on my portfolio to get into a Master's program. I would love to go back to school and get back to my roots. I am focusing on the subject of body language. I study the figure, and I am looking to explore symbolism expressed throughout history. I have been using mixed media to allow me to really get creative and develop my own unique look and style.
My long-term goal is to become a working college professor. I need to be in a creative environment to be comfortable with my own career. I have worked in other environments within the last five years and I have found that the regular nine to five is not for me. It puts a huge limit on what I am able to do outside of work. I am looking for a bit more freedom within my schedule to work on my own projects. I think teaching young students about art technique would accomplish that, and it would help me develop as an artist as well.
How to stand out from the crowd in these saturated times?
Michael: Whether we like it or not, we are becoming a very visual society, and we all know what professional standard paintings, drawings, logos, websites, photography, drafting, etc. look like. I think this art overflow we're dealing with is great. It raises the bar for the rest striving to reach their own level of professionalism. We are responsible for a whole lot within society, from logos to websites to layouts to architectural drafts to fine arts. Artists do it all. We do so much more than we are credited for. However, most importantly to me, I feel the need to convey a feeling, weather it be horror, or disgust like in “The Coldecott Chronicles” or it be solemn silence, it must come across strongly in an instant or else I did something wrong.