Interview with Mike Thompson

Short Term Goals? 
Between the regular clients I have built up over the years and the new ones my agent brings me, I’ve been working non-stop. As far as big plans, I can’t give specifics right now but I am working with a pretty large client that has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Once I am allowed to show what I’ve been up to I think you’ll be surprised at the scale of the collaboration.

How do you describe your Art to people?
I just tell people my style is realistic, and ask them to visit my site if they want to know more. If I tried to explain how manic I am about my work, they would either think I am insane or a jerk. Art is subjective anyway, so why try to explain it to someone when you can just show it and let them decide for themselves?

Who are some people you would like to work with?
I’d like to do more work with Nike. I am a huge fan of the Nike Lab ads and think that my work would fit nicely into that campaign. Also being that I’m such an avid gamer, I would like more Video Game related clients. It’s been a while since I worked with EA on the NFL Street 2, but that was definitely one of my favorite projects. I’m hoping that Capcom will get at me to do the next “Street Fighter” cover art.

How does music influence your work?
Back when I was doing a lot of hip hop portraits, I listened to the artist’s music while painting. This was especially true when I created the Coke portrait. My I pod constantly looped between the Roots, Angie Stone and the others while I worked on the piece. I seemed to have an easier time capturing their likeness that way. That’s the way I’ve been painting since I did the Ecko portraits.
Other than some magazine work, I haven’t been doing a lot of music industry paintings lately. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed painting the Jay Z birthday page in the new Vibe so much.

How is the internet changing your craft?
The internet has changed everything. It seems strange that not long ago if an Art Director wanted to see my work, they would either have to pick up whatever magazine I might be in at the time, or ask me to send them my portfolio. I could spend days sending out promo cards and never even know if they made it out of the envelope. Even if the sample make it past the sea of other work mailed in, it was rare to get a response from anyone.

Now artists can get their work to pretty much anyone anywhere in the world within seconds. Also, an Art Director is far more likely to respond with a quick email rather than stop to pick up the phone and call. They can also forward the work or link to other coworkers that might be interested. Life is better for everyone… that is “until Skynet takes over.”

Do you feel like what you are doing is important?
“Important” is a relative term. I do believe “Art” is important and this would be a much less interesting world without it. I also think it is important to inspire people and spark creativity. If my work causes a kid to want to grow up and become the next great artist, then I guess I did my job.

When you started out did you think it would be a serious business?
To be honest, I didn’t think that far ahead. All I really knew at the beginning was that I just wanted to paint. I had no idea how I would be able to make enough to live. I just figured if I was good enough, it would happen. Aside from my high school art teacher, I didn’t know anyone with a profession as an artist. I had however, heard the term “starving artist” growing up and knew I didn’t want to be him. Although I must admit I did have about 1001 tuna recipes back in the day!

Must art have a relationship to the rest of the world?
Of course. Try to imagine having only one half of your brain. Or more importantly, picture a world where chocolate exists without peanut butter! Yeah, scary isn’t it? Did I just blow your mind?

Lastly, could you talk about any long-term goals you have in mind?
At this point in my career I’ve already been a part of a lot of really interesting projects. That’s not to say I think I’ve done it All by any means. But my only real long-term “art” goal right now is to see my kids grow up to be better artists than I am.