The first meeting of the Art Appreciative Color Blind Association will come to order. It was great to learn that not only were Mike and I fans of good beer and music, but we both were asked the crazy color blind questions on the regular. Hearing Mike describe his color choice or lack thereof gave me an insight into reasoning as why I find myself drawn to great black and white work whether in drawing or even photography and the work of Mike Lawrence is high on that list of favorites. It was an absolute pleasure to get to speak with him and see how he brings his designs to life. In the short time since we have spoken with Mike, he has been a part of some of the great efforts from Tired Hands - both in the beers that they put out and also the new mural that he did for the General Store, which will open soon. Excited that he will soon be updating his site to include prints and rumors that some of the label art may even be available soon at the General Store - keeping my fingers crossed.
AJK: All right. So, here we are. I have Mike Lawrence who’s joining us here on the 16Oz Canvas, the Art of Craft Beer. Thanks Mike just for taking the time. I really do appreciate it.
Mike: No problem. Thanks for having me.
AJK: Excellent, excellent. Now where are you based these days Mike?
Mike: I am based in Atlanta.
AJK: Okay, all right. Yeah, you have a Michigan phone number and I believe you’re from South Africa so how did you end up in Atlanta?
Mike: Well, the Michigan phone number is actually my -- from my wife, she’s from Michigan so I just kind of ended up with it that way and then yeah, I’m originally from South Africa and I originally came over to the States to study, basically to go to university and then from there I just kind of ended up at an art school in Savannah, Georgia and then I met my wife, she got a job in Atlanta and then we just kind of came here.
AJK: Yeah, I’ve been to Savannah. It is -- it’s quite toasty down there so --
Mike: Yeah, it’s hot.
AJK: Yeah. It’s like it’s -- it’s a unique kind of hot. People are like oh, I’ve done 90 and you’re like no. You’ve never done Savannah 90, it’s like unique, it just kind of gets under your clothes and --
Mike: Yes, the humidity for sure. It’s like living in a swamp.
AJK: Yeah. It’s -- yeah, I mean there’s some great people down there and some good stuff to do but it’s not -- I couldn’t imagine, you know, that being a long-term destination.
Mike: Yeah, it’s a little much but I’m used to it I guess. I’ve gone from like one hot place to the next so.
AJK: Right, yeah. I was going to say at least yeah, you probably -- at least you’re not going from -- I mean your wife’s, that’s got to be a little bit more of a shock to her family coming from Michigan to visit down in Savannah.
Mike: Yeah, a little bit more, definitely.
AJK: Excellent. Now, if you wouldn’t mind just giving a little, you know, background about yourself, you obviously -- you studied, you said you studied art so, you know, how did that -- were you always an artist, was that a passion growing up or is it just something that, you know, came to you later?
Mike: Well, it’s -- I mean throughout my life I’ve pretty much always been drawing. My mother is actually a print maker so her whole like life revolves around art and now she’s retired now but then she became an art teacher for a while too so I’ve always just been surrounded by it. And then just as a kid I always really liked drawing and, you know, coming up with all kinds of crazy stuff and just because my mom was artistically inclined she, you know, encouraged me to pursue that and I think besides, you know, other random things like throughout my life like the one thing I would -- like always wanted to actually do professionally is artwork.
So, it’s kind of always been like a lifelong goal of mine I guess even before I really knew, you know, what I was aiming for. So, just going through there I didn’t really to me I didn’t really see like another path in my life that I would kind of enjoy as much so I just kind of did everything I could to make it happen pretty much. So, my first -- like my freshman year of college I was actually at the University of South Carolina just for various reasons but their art program kind of sucks. I think my major was drawing so it was like really non-specific and then I -- through some friends of mine I just found out about the Savannah College of Art and Design or SCAD as most people call it and then I transferred there and took up illustration and pretty much that’s it. Just been going since then.
AJK: So, that was a big, you know, big turning point going to SCAD, did you -- that’s kind of when you found your -- that you said illustration versus just kind of the general study of drawing so is that how you really, you know, the black and white or the pen and ink style was that where you developed that or is that always kind of your go-to?
Mike: Well, it’s always kind of been my go-to and I didn’t really know why until I was -- I think it was my first year at SCAD so I was 19 and I -- we did like a test in this one class, a color theory class and I actually found out that I’m color blind but, you know, I don’t see everything in black and white but I see like a bunch of different colors differently. So, for me working with color like I’ve always found it really difficult to try and figure out which colors like blend with each other or work well with each other even as like a little kid I always just kind of stuck to drawing with just plain pencils or, you know, just pens or something.
Mike: So, on the black and white I feel like it’s kind of -- it was almost built into me and then I’ve just embraced it and kind of decided that that’s the path I wanted to take. But as far as going to SCAD that was definitely a turning point because I kind of was exposed to what you could do with illustration as oppose to, you know, when you say drawing you think of still lives or something just like drawing an object but when it’s illustration it’s far more graphic. A lot of times you’re trying to like convey something with an image so -- but like going to SCAD it just kind of opened up the door to seeing kind of what -- how many different things I could actually do with an illustration degree.
AJK: Well, that’s -- yeah, Mike I am a fellow color blinder so I totally understand and I think --
AJK: -- yeah, I always -- and it’s weird. I mean I’m always really drawn I think to black and white artists and photography and I think it’s -- I don’t know if it’s because of that but I’ve always found myself drawn towards that and I think it’s just helped me. Like at least I know in that moment that I’m in the right color palette like, so it’s only two colors.
AJK: It’s easy to kind of go from there and when you tell people you’re color blind you get the; what color is this, what color is that?
AJK: And it’s like I’m not a dog, I don’t see in black and white, you know, it just kind of --
AJK: -- yeah. My take has always been that I -- I have a theory that we see better colors and that we’re just not as constricted or, you know, restricted by the color norms that everyone else has so I try to flip it on its head.
Mike: Yeah, that’s a good way to think about it. I just kind of eliminate it.
AJK: Yeah. Well, that’s -- yeah, that’s good. I mean I think that and I always -- like I said always black and white is really or just things with like thick lines and, you know, simple colors because a lot -- yeah, and my wardrobe you’d notice it’s very simple, you know, it’s very -- I think there’s certain blues I can see and certain other ones and then I’m not taking any chances there.
Mike: Yeah, neither am I. Just keep it simple.
AJK: Yeah, yeah excellent, great well good, there’s a -- there should be a club for that. I always find it interesting. Now your process is that you’re -- it’s pen and ink and I -- one thing I’ve noticed recently in kind of researching is there -- the live drawings that you’ve been doing on Instagram which I think are great, I think it’s amazing to see that and it just kind of, you know, how you’re able to interact with, you know, with the people watching it. I think the first one I saw was the tiny sickle which I thought was sick so that was awesome.
Mike: Oh yeah. That was the first one I actually -- that was just like a test one I did but it worked out really well.
AJK: Yeah. How did you decide to do that, were you just like oh, I’ve been getting a lot of, you know, good feedback on Instagram and now there’s this new feature let’s give it a shot and see what happens?
Mike: Yeah, pretty much. I mean literally just updated my phone and saw Instagram had like a live streaming thing so -- and then I saw like a few -- just a couple of other people were doing some -- like doing stuff with it so I just thought it would be a cool way to kind of interact with people because a lot of time, you know, I’m just like sitting at home behind a desk by myself drawing for hours on end in the day and if all I need to do is just kind of -- I’ve got like a little -- I basically got a piece of Velcro on the back of my phone and one on my -- and some on my drawing lamp so I just like stick my phone onto my lamp and then just kind of hit stream and it’s right in front of my -- like right in front of me so I could actually see, you know, see people commenting and respond to them and have actually ended up kind of having some pretty fun conversations with people over like the hour I think that Instagram actually streams.
So, it was just kind of a nice way for me to like share more with people and also kind of break up my day if I’m kind of bored, you know, I will just like do a live stream or something and hopefully if I can kind of chat with people a little bit. But I thought it was a good way to just kind of use the time that I’m -- like already using to just sit and home and draw and try and make a little bit more out of it and people seem to enjoy it. I know that it can be like really tedious just watching someone do dots for like an hour but -- and I didn’t really think that people would actually want to watch it but there have been quite a few people who stayed through for almost the whole hour and stuff so it’s turned into something pretty cool.
AJK: Yeah. It wasn’t a live one but I think on, you know, the Instagram which I think is really a great tool, a lot of artists, it’s kind of been -- it’s been helping me to find them but I think there’s one where you do like a time lapse so it’s like, you know, I think you mentioned you worked on it for a couple of hours and then it’s like condensed into like a minute so it’s just like, it’s crazy that it’s like, you know, all the dots just to see everything and then, you know, a minute later but it’s really working them out for hours, it’s -- that was pretty crazy to me.
Mike: Yeah. The time lapses are pretty fun. It’s kind of -- yeah, I know what you mean that you put in all the hours and you watch it over like 30 seconds, you know, and feel sometimes -- sometimes I’m like, you know, is that it? Like I just get 30 seconds out of those hours?
AJK: Right, you get a couple -- yeah, people like oh, that was great and you’re like yeah, you know, it’s like okay but yeah I think as an artist I think that you’ve really used that medium really well. I think it’s a great tool for what you’re doing.
Mike: Yeah, it’s worked out. It’s pretty -- it’s worked out well. I mean I just remember from, I don’t know, a few years ago watching some of my favorite artists, they would do -- a few of them would do kind of time lapses on and just kind of put it on YouTube and stuff so I remember kind of seeing that and then by chance I actually saw that there was like a time lapse like app for an iPhone so I just kind of downloaded it and then just kind of played around with it and I think like the -- like the technology and cell phones is everything -- and everything, it’s just made it so, you know, so easy to do stuff because before when I first started doing time lapse videos I’d have to set up like a whole DSLR camera and it would get like just really complicated but now it comes down to like me just sticking my phone on my lamp and opening an app and it’s, you know, I can either stream or do a pretty cool time lapse video. So, just finding those tools has made a really, really big difference and as you say with Instagram it just kind of works out really well if you can do that kind of consistently, people already seem to enjoy watching like a video as opposed to just like a still image.
AJK: Yeah, I think it’s really nice because it’s not the -- it’s not all the videos so it’s kind of nice like you see all these finished products and it’s really interesting and people comment on what they like and then they kind of get a little, you know, view behind the curtain so to speak. I think that’s really -- I think it’s really interesting but also it’s kind of -- that’d be nerve wrecking for me, you know, just like even if somebody right now was watching me, I mean I used to do radio but for the most part we were in a closed studio so no one was really watching what I was doing so like that to me is interesting too like if you, you know, if you flub or kind of the, the line goes, you know, and you’re trying to talk to somebody about music while you’re doing it so that’s impressive enough itself.
Mike: Yeah, definitely. The first few times I was like doing a stream I found, you know, I found myself being like really nervous while I was drawing so it just kind of took a bit of getting used to, you know, but generally I’ll only do a stream when I kind of have all the framework of the image down so it’s pretty much shading and then that’s something that’s like a little bit more autonomous for me, you know. I kind of pick what I’ll stream. The time lapse stuff is different because that’s just like a photo so I’m not interacting with people but I have had people ask me to do like a live stream in more like crucial parts of the drawing like when I’m actually penciling it out in the beginning and all of that stuff but that’s just -- I just can’t do that because I have to like actually think, you know, about the drawing and where things are going so I can’t kind of like have an internal conversation with myself and an external one with multiple people on a live stream so I definitely like pick and choose -- kind of what --
AJK: I think it’s smart. I mean, obviously the sketching part, I mean art is not a flawless, you know, medium, you’re not just everything you draw, you know, a 100% of the time becomes what you’re ending up with so I think that -- yeah, I think that how you’re handling it, I think -- yeah, I think it’s great. I mean and hopefully some other artists are checking out for some inspiration.
Mike: Yeah, I hope so. I have seen -- I’ve seen a couple of other artists do like some live streams of their drawing and stuff as well. A few comic book artists I know have like started doing it more regularly but yeah, I agree I think if I enjoy watching other artists process just as much as people like, I guess like watching mine so it’s a really -- it’s just such a nice way to get an insight, you know, to someone’s like kind of like their drawing desk essentially.
It’s a really fun tool.
AJK: Yeah. And I think a lot of times it’s this, you know, you’re creating art but there’s not -- it’s not a known who’s enjoying it. Obviously you have a pretty good following, you know, I think that you have over, you know, 20,000 followers which I think is pretty impressive but I think -- so just the actual -- being able to personalize it, have it be a tangible thing of, you know, real people checking you out that’s kind of nice to see too.
Mike: Yeah, definitely. It’s nice to get -- you kind of get immediate feedback, you know, whereas before you just kind of put something on Instagram and hope you have a bunch of people commenting on it. So, I think it also gives people a better -- I haven’t been the best about kind of putting my like personality out there, I’ve just -- like I don’t really like having photos of myself or anything on my Instagram so I think the live stream is a -- has been the best way for me to kind of break that barrier because I can just have conversations with people and I don’t have to worry about, you know, having photos or videos of myself or anything.
And it’s nice that it isn’t, you know, it’s once it’s done like it’s gone and that’s kind of what I like the most about it. So, if I do, you know, make a fuckup or something like that it doesn’t really matter. It’s not something that’s permanently on the internet forever so.
AJK: Yeah, I think it’s --
Mike: I think that kind of makes it --
AJK: -- yeah and I’ve noticed a lot of folks don’t really like to have their picture on, the artist, it’s probably -- other folks I have talked to it’s probably like, I don’t know 70% don’t really have much on there. I’m like hey, do you have like a photo I can have, you know, for the article so I can, you know, have a picture of you and it’s like you don’t have to do that. I’m like okay, I’m like but if you had one I’d appreciate it, you know, it’s like -- because like I’ll scroll through like, you know, all these photos, you know, and it’s like there’s nothing so it’s like okay, I get what you’re doing.
Mike: Yeah. I think a lot of people have a pretty similar mindset as me you know. I mean I think there’s a lot of people out there doing -- well, at least for me if I’m trying to make a, you know, like a professional kind of page essentially on Instagram I don’t really want to -- I just want to have my work up there. You know I’ll post about -- I kind of use -- I use like the Instagram stories kind of thing as more of a personable stuff like music and just other kind of random stuff but when it comes to like my main Instagram feed I definitely try and curate it, you know, so people have like a good page to kind of scroll through when they come and visit my profile, you know, instead of every like third or fourth image being like a photo of myself, you know. I’d rather it just not be essentially about me.
You know but have it more about like the imagery and stuff so -- and there’s a lot of people with a similar kind of mindset as you’ve seen.
AJK: Yeah, and I think it’s smart and I think, you know, like it has a theme, an overall theme to it which I really like, you know, even when it’s, you know, a personal picture it’s black and white so it’s -- that’s -- it just kind of subtly reinforces that that’s your go-to, that’s your medium and, you know, obviously, you know, taking a picture of the concert or you’re taking a picture of, you know, one of the final products, you know, and it’s still black and white. So, I really like that, I noticed that it’s subtle but it kind of -- it keeps with the branding so to speak.
Mike: Yeah, it’s -- it does make it a little bit easier; sometimes easier, sometimes not because, you know, sometimes like I’ll be at a concert and I’m trying to take a black and white photo of a band in like a really dark setting and it just like looks like shit so it’s good and bad but I know what you mean. It definitely helps keep it all kind of on theme even if it’s not like a cinematic photo itself.
AJK: Yeah, it reinforces even when it’s not your artwork. It reinforces that your artwork are your aesthetic, is black and white so.
AJK: Yeah. Now this is the one question I cringe when I have to ask, you know, artists but how would you describe your aesthetic like how would you kind of dumb it down for the audience?
Mike: I don’t know. I think I would try -- I try and -- most of the time I try and create an image that I see as fun like a lot of the time, like if it’s personal stuff. Yeah, yeah, I don’t know. You’re putting me on the spot. I’m trying to think of how to like describe my artwork now.
AJK: Come on Mike, summarize your life in like, you know, in a quick sound byte - come on, go.
Mike: I’d say probably like humorous and dark.
AJK: Okay, I think that’s fine.
Mike: Is what I would say. You know there’s definitely -- when it’s personal stuff of mine I like funny stuff so -- but I also like kind of twisted stuff so it would probably be like dark, humorous and a bit twisted I think.
AJK: Yeah, I think that’s good. Yeah, because it’s like, you know, smashing someone’s skull in, you know, literally and then like it’s -- but it’s done with like, you know, pretty tongue and cheek,
Mike: Exactly. It’s not that serious. I don’t really think of my like work as really serious work which is what I like because I like to be able to look at a drawing -- for me if I look at a drawing and it makes me laugh then like for me it’s a good drawing, you know, it’s kind of a weird way to gauge things but for me it’s some things like humorous, it means that they’ve conveyed like an image, like a feeling really well so it just resonates with me.
AJK: Yeah, that’s a good explanation. Yeah, it’s the one question, I think I was really proud of myself when I drew up the original questions I would ask in -- but I every time I ask it I’m like oh, because I’m not as arty and so it was like -- it’s like the one question I’m not 100% sure of myself but I’m like that sounds like a good like art word so about their aesthetic and I’m like -- and every time I ask it there’s always like these pauses and I’m like oh, I’m like I’m just going to keep asking it for people. Well, at least it will -- I think it’ll be good for a laugh if we can preface it with it being such a terrible question to have to ask.
Mike: Yeah, but sometimes it’s good to ask the difficult questions, you know. I mean I haven’t thought about that in quite a while and I think a lot of other artists don’t either. You just get so caught up in your work that you don’t always even like think about that.
AJK: Yeah, it’s a very like sterile like university question. Like okay, you need to have your own aesthetic now when you go out there.
Mike: For sure. It’s like your thesis.
AJK: Yeah, exactly and we’re not near -- we’re definitely -- there’s no credits being earned here so we’re just having a good time. Now I -- again, the reason we connected with you is the work that you’re doing with Tired Hands and I think that’s one good thing I really have seen with, you know, that social is now -- I think now more than ever I’ve noticed that the breweries and definitely Tired Hands, but, you know, give credit when a new beer comes out or a new, you know, piece of artwork that goes with it, you know, they just -- just that simple by this, you know, but I’m like, you know, and which by the way if you haven’t -- we haven’t mentioned it, it’s mikeillustrated is the Instagram account and then it’s mikelawrenceillustration.com is the website so make sure you check that out but yeah, I think that’s really great. That was early on probably one of my favorite beers from them to this day is Alien Church and that was one of the first ones with that photosynthesis of the taste buds that really was when they went from that standard label to more a custom piece of artwork which I really loved.
Mike: Yeah. That was the -- that Alien Church kind of series of designs was actually the first -- it was the first thing I had actually ever done for them. And I’m not even sure, it was -- it was a really first set of like glasses that they got made. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to actually be used for the Alien Church cans but I do -- I love that concept of that, that was actually Jean, the owner of Tired Hands who came to me with like this -- the concept of like a photo synthesizing tongue which was really cool but yeah, that was the first thing I did for them and it’s kind of grown exponentially from there.
AJK: Yeah. I was trying to keep a list of some of the stuff you’ve done and it was really impressive, you know, Alien Church, Found A Scythe, Pineal, new Extra Knuckle, Big Dream Sympathetic, Space Needle, Alien Baphomet - some of them are always -- their names are always harder to say too, they always have these little --
Mike: Yeah, there was like Alien Baphomet then there’s the one with -- the Eviscerated Pathway of Beauty.
AJK: Right, yeah exactly.
Mike: Which sounds like -- that’s like a mouthful for a beer.
AJK: Yeah, because I used to -- I first would go there, I’m originally from the Philadelphia area so I would kind of tie in a trip home or a business trip and try to get to the café and some of the names, they would be on the chalk board, they’d be two lines long so I got to give them credit just whoever does the chalk at the Fermentaria or at the café to fit all those names, you know, on there I just think it’s -- I find that interesting.
Mike: Yeah, it’s pretty funny. When I was there actually doing a mural they -- I was inside and they were trying to come up with different -- like new names, you know, for their beers because they have come up with so many -- I mean they brew at such -- like a fast rate that it’s pretty funny because they are -- like sometimes battle to kind of think of a new name for a beer because they’ve already used so many and then yeah, trying to fit it on that little chalk board along with like nine other long beer names is quite difficult.
AJK: Yeah, and originally I mean at the café it was kind of one and done for the most part it was, you know, other than I believe HopHands and Saison Hands most of them, you know, it’d be very rare for them to come back again so I think just because of limited space and, you know, what they had equipment wise but now they’ve kind of blown that model out and there it’s really great to see the -- but still I mean the amount of new beers that are coming out of there on a regular basis is pretty amazing.
Mike: Yeah. I think they -- I mean I think that it almost exchange all the taps like every two or three weeks, you know, and if we’re doing like 12 of their own beers that’s a lot. That’s a really high rate of turnover.
AJK: Yeah, I think it’s great and I think it just shows how adventurous they are and unique and I think even just the artwork, you know, they are at the fermentaria and what they’re having you do, I think it fits into what they’re doing. I think they’re not complacent, they’re not trying to do anything, you know, they’re just trying to do what they want and do it their own way and I think that that’s resonated with a lot of people.
Mike: Definitely, yeah. They definitely got their, you know, they have their own path that they’re following and I mean I have a -- it was interesting kind of being with them for -- I’ve been up there for like a total of two weeks now doing murals and stuff and seeing how -- like how hard they actually work it’s really impressive. I mean they’re just non-stop, all day, almost every day.
So, when you see, you know, what goes into it you realize, you know, how it’s taken for them and how much it’s taken to kind of get to the point that they’re at now so it’s good to -- it’s cool to see them getting so much recognition.
AJK: I agree completely. I mean it’s just nice to see because before it was you could only take a limited amount with you home and so that was kind of okay, going to get so many growlers, how many, you know, which should I get and there’ll be all these ones you want to try and so now it’s, you know, I definitely leave there adequately supplied for a while which is great and I think as an artist, you know, to be -- like I said it reminds me kind of like the -- of the metaphor of like the, you know, the duck right. You see the duck on the water and it looks pretty chilled and calm but underneath the water it’s like, you know, busting ass and legs are going and I think that’s -- and that’s what’s nice about that place, you kind of go in there and there’s this beautiful open space, not only that the food's great and there’s all this other stuff that’s going on all the time - new barrels coming in, new equipment and they’re just grinding it out right until the release of that new can or new bottle and then all of a sudden it’s just boom, it comes to the front and there you go.
Mike: Yeah, it’s quite something. It’s really -- it’s amazing to see all those respective pieces come together and how much has to come together just for like one can release and now I think they’ve done like two can releases a week for the past few weeks as well so -- I mean they’re just at an even faster rate now.
AJK: Right. Now how did you -- you said Alien Church was the first one, how did you come to, you know, meet Jean, how did that come together?
Mike: I think Jean actually just e-mailed me. I think he saw -- I’m pretty positive he originally saw my artwork on Instagram. So, you know, once again Instagram kind of coming through but I believe he just saw it there so he just e-mailed me and asked me if I’d like to do some work for them and I said sure. I actually had -- I had done -- so it’s three different Alien Church drawings like the different stages of that decaying like alien skull and then I think I did like two more labels and then I only pretty much like looked up Tired Hands to see who they were because, you know, they were just kind of a client but then they kept coming back to me for more work so I figured how to do a little bit more kind of research and stuff into them and then I found out how popular they are essentially. So, I was quite -- I was really surprised actually but then we’ve just kind of continued working from there and I’ve developed like a really good friendship with Jean and quite a few of the other guys who work there so it’s really great. It feels like I’m part of the Tired Hands family.
AJK: Yeah, and I think that the amount that you’ve done is kind of -- just continues to grow I mean and what I said before about your style, it’s pretty memorable or you can definitely tell it’s your work so I’ve noticed that a lot more, you know, since I’ve been researching like your imagery keeps coming out more and more and so I think that’s really -- it’s really great. I mean I think that you’re doing a majority of the work now which is awesome, awesome to see.
Mike: Yeah, I think it’s about -- I think I’m doing roughly half now because Jean does all the other artwork so like he does it himself and I know that he used to kind of take one day a week to do the artwork but now, you know, they’re so busy I mean there’s so much other stuff for him to do that he can’t keep up, you know, with everything else and doing all the artwork so last time he spoke of the -- I spoke about like work and stuff, was a few months ago, and he was just saying that it’s difficult for him to keep up so I think that’s also part of the reason I’ve just been getting more work from them, it’s just because they’re releasing at a higher rate and canning more and are just busier and Jean can’t do as much of the artwork so, you know, he’s just having to delegate more and more but we’ve gotten really good responses from all of the cans and stuff I’ve done so I think for him it was -- at first, you know, it’s kind of tough letting go of another piece of the business that’s yours -- especially as an artist, you know, like you’ve seen that identity on the cans that you’re making but I think with like the positive reactions and stuff we’ve gotten with, you know, them doing the beer and me doing the artwork I think it’s just kind of ended up being a really good relationship.
AJK: Yeah, and I think that while he’s busy I think he also -- argue kind of that, you know, your work is, you know, is complementary to their vision so I think obviously he was doing all the work before and so giving that up I know, you can look at numerous projects, you know, in life or, you know, not just art but just, you know, that delegating that somebody’s got to be hard and I think, you know, you delivering time and time again and it has been really positive feedback. I think it takes the cans to another level, you know, and that was kind of the reason we started this, you know, is beer agnostic but it’s been really, it’s -- I mean selfishly I’ve been reaching out to, you know, breweries whose work I really like, you know, in the can, you know, and outside the can and so I think that’s been great.
Mike: Yeah. It’s really quite something. I’m really fortunate to have like such a cool kind of company giving me a lot of work and it’s nice because as you said like, you know, my artistic vision kind of falls in line with their business vision or company vision I guess so it’s really been such a natural kind of organic process because I am pretty much creating artwork for them that I would normally like that I would make for myself, you know, it’s not something that they’re trying to get me to do work and I’m just really not happy with it or it’s boring. I mean I still pretty much get to draw, you know, exactly what I want to draw except, you know, it’s with like a really good client and I mean I just like love beer and especially theirs too so having it attached on thousands of cans that are being sold weekly is really cool, it’s a really great feeling. So, just having that kind of happen so easily and organically I think just makes it a lot easier to just expand the relationship because, you know, that it all just -- it will work out.
AJK: Right. And when was the first time you had their beer like I assume you probably worked on their stuff a little while before you actually, you know, being where you are and got to taste it?
Mike: They mailed me some, they'll mail me beer occasionally but obviously it’s pretty expensive to ship because it’s heavy and they’ve got to keep it cold and stuff so they don’t do it too often but I think the first -- it was -- it was about three years ago actually when I first worked for them, they sent me -- it was pretty funny because at that point they weren’t actually canning so in fact that Alien Church design I did for them actually -- yeah, I did that before they were even canning at all. So, Jean sent me -- I think he sent me three or four growlers like in the mail so I got these two big boxes with, you know, like the polystyrene packing and these two massive growlers and, you know, the way their growlers are, they’re not like perfectly sealed so you have to drink it within a few days. So, I just ended up with tons of like really, really good beer that I had to drink within two days because it also took a day to like ship so I ended up just kind of getting drunk two nights in a row off this like really, really good beer.
Which was -- which is awesome. There’s nothing quite like receiving like free beer in the mail. It’s pretty cool.
AJK: Yeah. Yeah, I started trading beer probably let’s say four years ago and it’s always crazy to me; my wife not as much but, you know, these boxes come in the mail and yeah, you’d open it up and there’s beer in there from, you know, because there’s different distributions around the country and yeah, it’s always crazy. I used to get some Tired Hands growlers in the mail but now I have -- my family’s in the area so I’ll just usually -- if I know they’re coming up there I’ll just have, you know, head on over but I still haven’t been able to convince them to wait in those huge lines for the cans yet so that’s a next evolution that, yeah.
Mike: Yeah, honestly I wouldn’t either. I’m not a line person like I wouldn’t wait. Like the beer is worth it but me personally, it’s like I couldn’t stand in line for like three or four hours -- you know waiting to get my allocation.
AJK: Right, well you should get and hopefully you have a secret handshake or something, you can kind of get passed the red, you know, like the red tape.
Mike: Yeah, thankfully I know people there so I could sort of just like walk in, now I just need to move to Philly so I can get their beer all the time.
AJK: There you go. Now, before you mentioned you did a pretty massive mural for them, you know, so how did that come to be, is that something you had ever done before?
Mike: No, not that -- I have never done a mural before that so -- and if I had it was when I was, you know, like ten years old painting like a shark on a wall or something like that but not an actual mural and so Jean just kind of e-mailed me and was like hey, we’ve got this massive wall it’d be really -- and I hadn’t been out there in person yet so it was like another reason for me to kind of go out there and meet everybody and become a bit more integrated and then, you know, also paint this really big mural so I hadn’t really ever done one before and then when I go up there I was pretty surprised at how large the wall actually was because they had told me the measurements but, you know, until you’re standing in front of something it’s kind of hard to picture in your head so when I got there and like saw the wall I was kind of worried that I was actually going to be able to pull it off because I had no idea but I was able to like kind of just grid like put the image on like a grid, pattern and then just scale it up onto the wall and luckily I had four days to spend on that mural so I ended up with just enough time to get it all done because I think it was around -- I think it was like 60X40 feet so it was tall.
I had like a really big scissor lift that I was kind of like going up and down on and everything so working on that scale was initially extremely stressful for me but then after like a day or two it became really fun because it was nice to be outside and working with like spray paint and big brushes and stuff instead of like, you know, tiny little pens so it was a really nice change. And now I think I’ve done one more, I’ve done another mural for them which was inside at the ferm and then I’m about to do this year -- I think we have a few other murals also planned already so this should be good.
AJK: That’s awesome. Yeah, I was -- I remember I think it was before I had reached out to you I had seen in some of the groups, you know, people were saying that the early stuff you had put -- starting to put up there for this mural and so it was when I later realized, you know, in trying to find out who did the artwork that it was you, it was kind of cool to see that full circle but yeah, that looks -- I mean it looks great, I mean the outcome is great but just, I was really curious how -- from your very, you know, detailed, you know, pen and ink to that how that progression went?
Mike: Yeah, it was kind of tough. It was a definite kind of 180 from my mind, you know, having to switch it out but we, you know, we kind of chose an image that -- well, I kind of designed an image that I knew I’d be able to paint on a large scale, you know, I didn’t set myself up for insane, you know, details and that kind of stuff. Especially because of also -- on like brick, it wasn’t a perfectly flat wall so, you know, and I’m not a graffiti artist so I don’t really -- I’m not like phenomenal with spray paint so I just kind of designed around that and thankfully it worked out really well. In just enough -- just enough time.
AJK: Now what is the concept, it’s, you know, what is the art, how would you describe it?
Mike: The mural?
Mike: Well, it’s like a -- we didn’t really have a hugely strong like concept behind it. Jean pretty much said to me, he was like I want you to do a mural that doesn’t indicate we’re a brewery. So, because I believe if you start saying it’s a brewery or like have their name and stuff on it then it’s advertising so you have to get like a whole bunch of different permits so it was pretty much just -- I was trying to come up with like a dark figure sort of -- me and Jean ended up kind of deciding that it was sort of like light worship, you know, like worshiping the sun almost because it’s like a really dark hooded figure and kneeling down with one, you know, like kind of like a clawed hand out reached, you know, kind of like levitating this glowing ball of light that’s radiating out towards the edges. So, I mean conceptually I think we were just going for -- like I don’t know the concept wasn’t meant to be extremely specific, it was just kind of meant to be something that looked really awesome on a big wall and so when we were talking about it we didn’t really dive too deeply into the concept of it -- but well, just kind of what came out of it, you know, we like -- you can kind of almost pull like a concept from it afterwards almost more so than from before.
AJK: Yeah. I look forward to going to see it in person. Yeah, I think it’s -- yeah, it’s kind of mysterious but yet, you know, the light idea I think is good especially, you know, being at the brewery without saying hey, look folks we’re a brewery or having, you know, hops everywhere or kind of the name so I think that’s, you know, interesting especially you can argue that the light is, you know, that’s while the beer is being brewed so it’s kind of the focal point of the -- of that universe whatever that is.
Mike: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s kind of also, you know, indicative of how Tired Hands like treats their -- like their can art and stuff too, you know, quite a few other labels you see like just have like hops and stuff on them and everything. Like the first few labels for me I was just doing stuff for them that was just way too basically beer related, they didn’t want like pictures that related to brewing on, you know, a can of beer that people are already buying from their brewery so -- you know it becomes like a little much.
So, once I’d kind of gotten that -- like once we have like made that connection or more specifically I had made that connection as to what they were wanting, they were just wanting a design that goes with the name of the beer and like with the style of the beer more than, you know, trying to just show that it’s actually beer. So, I think that it kind of goes along with their mural too, you know, they don’t try too hard to like, you know, they don’t force their product on people. I think they kind of rely on people just knowing who they are, you know, and what their beer tastes like essentially. So, when it comes to like the visual stuff they definitely fly away from just kind of cheesy beer related imagery which is awesome. That’s really nice for me.
AJK: Yeah, I think that’s true. I mean I think that -- and yeah, they’ve come out with some experimental beer, they try new flavors or, you know, new palates that, you know, they don't always hit home runs but they’re willing to take that chance and it’s not just like -- there’s just a -- there’s a feeling when you go there. It’s definitely -- it’s unique which I really like.
Mike: Yeah. I think that’s also what people like about it. They, you know, they don’t always quite know what the beer is going to taste like, because they do so many different styles and flavors and everything as you say but they know that, you know, there’s like a 99% chance it’s going to be really good, you know, and maybe if you don’t like it, it may just be -- may not agree with your palate but actually I think that’s what people kind of enjoy about it too. They don’t always know what they’re getting.
AJK: Yeah. I think because of that almost avant garde nature of it, I’m more willing to try something and not be like ah, that was shit. It’s like ah, that’s not for me but, you know I follow along what they’re doing and that beer sells out and then something new that comes up that’s more, you know, my style so I think that they’re -- yeah, I’m very happy with it so go Tired Hands.
Mike: Yeah, all the way.
AJK: Now, I guess maybe from your mom, you know, being in print were you comfortable with the idea of creating artwork, you know, for that smaller, canvas of the can and that -- and the whole printing of it, that whole aspect of it?
Mike: Well, I think -- I don’t really think that like the stuff -- because my -- honestly my mom would work on pretty like large stuff I think. I probably actually pulled more in terms of like the can design from my time at SCAD when I was studying there because there was quite a bit of stuff that I learned at SCAD that I’ve never used because you had to take like painting classes and water color classes and that kind of stuff but definitely I think one of the main things I learned there was just like a sense of design or a much better sense of graphic design. So, with the cans it’s been -- it was something I had to get used to too kind of having it -- especially at first because we were only doing a round label so I was confined to a smaller round image so I found that the easiest way for me to do that was actually like make the physical drawing smaller so I would essentially physically limit how much detail I could put into it because like those Alien Church ones, they look great on the can but if all three of those were like in that little round label or whatever you just wouldn’t be able to tell what they are because it’s just too much detail. So, initially I just basically made the paper smaller. You know so I would kind of force myself to treat it more of a, you know, more of a graphic design than just like a massive drawing.
Mike: And that would also, you know, stop me spending four or five days on like one label which is just not feasible.
AJK: Yeah. Now how is that process from okay, Jean says we have, you know, beer X, Y, Z we need a label, you know, how quick does that go on average?
Mike: The timeline kind of varies but generally, on average we could probably get like a label done within the space of a week from like absolute beginning, you know, because like I’ll -- sometimes Jean will have a concept, sometimes he would just have the name of the beer and I’ve got to come up with a concept. So, depending on that we’ll do like the first round of sketches which will kind of take me -- take a day because I’ll like sketch for half a day, send him my ideas, hear back from him either that day or the next day and then if there’s not another round of sketches like I can pretty much do a label in two days, like inking it because on average they probably take me around 20 hours to draw.
Like from absolute beginning to end so I mean we have done -- I have done a label in a day before when they contacted me and they -- like basically something went wrong, They didn’t realize they needed artwork for a beer and we kind of did it from like beginning to end from like Sunday evening till like Tuesday morning or something.
Mike: We have done it really compressed before but I’ve been trying to push to get like a little bit more time because, you know, they’re working at such a fast rate they’ll just like throw work at me and sometimes it’s just with when I have other work as well it gets pretty chaotic so. I’ve been pushing to get like a little bit more time which has happened and it works really well but I’d say probably like a week from beginning to end but, you know, that’s with me working on other projects and stuff too but if we just had to go like purely that artwork like beginning to end it would probably be done in a couple of days.
AJK: All right. Now -- so obviously each situation is different but is it a situation where you’re showing -- yeah, you can throw up a couple of sketches and say do you like this or depending or does it vary where you have kind of autonomy to kind of run with it?
Mike: No. We always do sketches and I’ll show them to Jean because generally I mean a lot of the times I really do just get to come up with concepts that’s mainly my idea. Then in certain beers Jean has a really strong image for but he’s definitely -- like I definitely send sketches for approval for every design, you know, because there’s some beers that they just want a different -- they have a different feeling for it or whatever and -- of imagery and I, you know, I haven’t tasted the beer, I don’t necessarily know like all the ingredients of the beer and stuff too so there’s definitely a back and forth and I mean sometimes I’ll do a sketch and send it and Jean will go okay great, love it, like go with it or, you know, other times there’ll be revisions or he wants a totally different idea so it kind of varies label to label but they definitely have the final say of imagery before I go, you know, to creating like the final version of it.
AJK: It makes sense. Now is that process of kind of like ah, that’s not what I was looking for is that something that has gotten easier, I know that that’s, you know, it varies by artist, you know, some folks, you know, it’s their art so they might get personally attached but this is more of a commercial project so I think that it varies but is that something that -- yeah, you -- how do you take the criticism so to speak?
Mike: Well, what’s nice is that because Jean himself draws and really like -- he’s really a fan of art and then two, he has like a really good way of conveying his thoughts on an image so initially, you know, when we were working together and, you know, they said they didn’t really like something I would be like a little bit attached to it or something but now as I’ve, you know, we’ve kind of learnt more from each other now it’s become -- it’s like a really -- it’s a pretty easy process in general.
A lot of times it will just be I’ll send sketches and if they’re not going like if they just don’t seeing it be on a right wavelength Jean is thankfully very good at conveying what he’s thinking into like a, you know, visual terms because there’s a lot of people I deal with who just can’t, you know. They’ll just kind of say we want this and this and this and this and this and this, you know, for a small drawing but they have this huge thing in their head so luckily it’s now at the point where Jean can just give me like really basic feedback and normally it’s -- if it’s not in the first round of sketches we’ll generally get it in the second.
AJK: So, Jean speaks nerd speak so you guys are kind of the same -- yeah, vernacular which is good.
Mike: Yeah. It’s really -- it really helps and I think we both have pretty similar kind of ideas and concepts for it so more often than not it works out pretty smoothly.
AJK: Excellent. Now what are some of the other projects that you’re working on? I saw, you know, some of your recent stuff, is it -- are you working on something for the Adult Swim or is that just how you’re referencing it in your artwork?
Mike: Well, the Adult Swim, that was work for Adult Swim but that’s actually -- that was completed at the end of last year.
I did like 15 little like weekly comic panels for their website so currently on Instagram I’m just sharing all of those like in order because I realized I hadn’t shared all of them and it’s been a while since I like really thought about them so I’m just posting those now but that was a project from last year.
Currently I just got down with some -- quite a few commissions actually. I did like a few posters and then a couple shirt designs and then right now I am actually kind of working on some stuff of my own to release some shirts and prints and products and stuff within a month or two. It was meant to happen earlier but I’ve been so busy with commission stuff and Tired Hands stuff that it was kind of put on hold for a little bit but that’s probably what you’re seeing like if I’m posting the next -- like this past week or the next few days it’s probably all personal work.
AJK: Excellent. Yeah, and I like -- again if you go to Mike’s website mikelawrenceillustration.com and just some of the images is kind of like I had this idea, I needed to get it on paper and I really just -- that resonated with me, I like that idea that you just had something that you really needed to just kind of get it out of your head and onto paper and share with folks so that was really great.
Mike: Yeah. That’s -- more often than not that’s kind of how my personal work starts, you know, because I’m always like thinking -- whether I’m drawing or not I’m always just kind of thinking of stuff or I’ll have a random thought or like be talking with friends or my wife or something and then I’ll just have an idea for an image, you know, and I’ll just jot it down like on my phone or like write it down somewhere and then I just kind of -- I’ll be like thinking about it before I’m even, you know, haven’t even started drawing yet and then by the time I’m done I like have to just get it onto paper.
AJK: Well, thank you for sharing those. I enjoy them and like I said I really, you know, fellow color blinder that the black and white is really crisp and resonates with me.
Mike: So, I’m glad, thank you. I was worried at first, I don’t know, I’ve had like people -- so many people ask me if I do color and stuff but I think now at this point people pretty much accepted that it’s just black and white. The only exception is actually I have been doing some like -- you probably noticed like colored stuff for Tired Hands actually.
Just because we got speaking honestly like if I was going to do -- the more cans I do for them with -- because it’s such a -- kind of like a limited viewing area on the can initially because it’s a pretty narrow field to view that if all the cans were just, you know, just black and white and like all my style then they would just kind of start blending kind of into each other. It would be hard to make every can, you know, pop out from each other so there was one request that Tired Hands made was that I start doing some color in it and I did resist it for a while, I said no. Initially I like kind of refused to do it but after meeting with them in person and stuff and then just kind of talking about it we decided to give it a shot. So, right now I’ll just ink everything normally and then scan in it and I’ll do all the coloring and Photoshop.
So, you know, I’ll do the coloring and then -- and it’ll be pretty much I’ll handle all of that and then I’ll, you know, send the layered file over to Tired Hands and if they want they can adjust the colors you know.
AJK: Wow, all right. That’s interesting.
Mike: Yeah, so -- yeah, so there’ll be -- because there’ll be times when I do -- because I know that my color work isn’t amazing but I’ll know like where I want color in the image so. Like I don’t know if you saw the last like that Drippy Church one I did.
AJK: Drippy Church yeah, that was the one I was thinking about.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, so that was like the grey background and then just pretty simple yellow, like that one was exactly actually as I did it but, you know, we were playing around with just changing the yellow basically to another color to like an orange or something like that. So, we’ve figured out that system now, we figure out the sketches, I do the drawing and all the design and then the coloring and send it to them and then if need be they can kind of tweak the colors a little bit.
Which has only happened once I think where they changed some of the colors. So, it’s been pretty fun kind of doing it that way and just kind of working with a really basic color palette but otherwise I’m still pretty much sticking to black and white.
AJK: Yeah. I think that -- yeah, and I think your point, I mean originally if you’re only doing a hand full so you have to, you know, mix it up a little bit but I think -- yeah, I think it pops and I think it’s not too oversaturated with the color. I think it’s just enough where, you know, it makes it, you know, stick out and -- it’s a good can, not that …
Mike: Yeah, exactly. It’s just I try and keep the colors pretty low saturation and I’ll use a maximum of two, you know, so even if it’s it is -- yeah, it has been two so far so even if it’s like a really complicated image and stuff but their coloring will be really basic because I still want to keep it, you know, I’ll try and keep like even if I use color essentially I’ll just use like grey sometimes so that’s kind of cheating but, you know, I try and keep it to look like my work at least.
AJK: Right. Now when you’re creating obviously I mean I would assume that you’re -- from the work you’re doing and the band work you’re doing that you’re a metal guy - is there certain music you’re listening to when you’re creating that you’re into or how is that process?
Mike: I’m definitely a metal guy. I don’t know, I’m pretty much always playing music like in my studio generally just depending on, you know, because I’ll range too, you know, I’ll like, like slower stuff or much faster stuff it all just kind of depends on the mood but I’ll generally have music on. Sometimes if I’m like actually really trying to figure out a part of a drawing I won’t have anything on, it will just be quiet but at a certain point in a drawing kind of at the same point where I’ll assume that I can do like a live stream because it’s a little bit more autonomous, I’ll -- a lot of times I’ll listen to audio books too because they’re like a really -- I used to read a lot and now I don’t read a lot because I’m drawing all the time so it’s a nice way to kind of, you know, theoretically read or I’ll listen to books at least while I’m doing illustration so I’ll do that too but probably more often than not it would be music and it would just be kind of whatever I’m listening to at that point.
AJK: Yeah. No, that’s -- I find that interesting. Is there any artists?
Mike: Okay. Well, stuff I’ve been listening to recently has been called Power Trip, I’m not sure if you know who they are? Their latest album is great.
AJK: Yeah. One thing, we won’t be able to rap on it and go back and forth on it is kind of metal music. I interviewed another artist where I would -- I don’t know if you like connect artists together that just sounds weird but David Paul Seymour he’s out at Minnesota and he does work for this brewery in North Carolina called Burial and he’s a big metal guy -- and so -- and looking at his stuff and the work that he’s doing I kind of found that I was -- I enjoyed a lot of the, you know, less mainstream artists that he’s working with so I mean I’m pretty open minded so who knows but going into this project I definitely would have -- wouldn’t have been able to say that.
Mike: Cool. He is a great artist. I love David’s work. I actually did -- I did like a little piece for -- as like a -- it was like an employee gift for the employees of Burial Brewing. Their owner actually got me to do it for them.
AJK: Well, that’s great.
Mike: But yeah -- yeah, I know his work. He did some really, really cool stuff. He’s a big metal guy too. Does little podcasts and stuff like that so it’s -- it was cool to connect with him.
Mike: That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s cool. Well, I’m actually going to like a radio awesome show tonight who’ll be -- the headline is a band called Nails and then there’s Toxic Holocaust and another band called Gate Creeper who are all really amazing so I do like going to these concerts as much as I can. There’s a lot in Atlanta so I used to live like a block away from, you know, like a really big venue so I’d be going to shows weekly, almost a couple of times a week so --
AJK: Hell yeah.
Mike: -- it’s still something I try and do as often as I can but right now I’m like -- we’re like 30 minutes outside of the city so I have to drive in but I’ll still try and catch as many a live shows as I can.
AJK: Awesome. That’s -- we definitely agree on that. Yeah, like I said I did radio and then I managed a couple of bands so yeah, before we procreated we would be at concerts several times a week so it’s slowed a little bit with spawn but, you know, we definitely try to do it.
Mike: Yeah. It happens.
AJK: Yeah, awesome. Well, I wanted to -- Mike thank you so much for making yourself available it was really interesting and I’m a big fan of your work, I really found it insightful to kind of see your process and, you know, and learn, you know, how you came on my radar and, you know -- okay, folks who haven’t got a chance you check out mikeillustrated on Instagram and then mikelawrenceillustration.com. I think that mikeillustrated is probably -- the Instagram is most up to date with things going on, I’ve come to learn.
Mike: Definitely. Thanks very much for having me involved. I’m looking forward to the finished product.
AJK: All right my friend. Keep doing what you’re doing and yeah, thanks for creating. It makes things better.